What Is an Arc Fault?

There is a very good chance that you have never heard of an arc fault. This mostly unknown event, however, is the cause of several thousand building fires every year. In order to prevent an arc fault, an electrician can install protective devices such as arc fault circuit interrupters. These devices help to stop this dangerous event before it ever happens.

What Is an Arc Fault?

Arc faults occur as a result of high-energy discharge between wires, or other conductors. The transfer of electrical current between the two conductors, which looks like a jump, or arc, marks this. Because of the extreme heat generated by an arc fault, it is very likely that flammable materials nearby could be ignited. Although there are a few exceptions, this is typically caused as a result of damaged electrical cords and cabling. For this reason, you should never use nails, pins or staples to hold extension cords or other electrical cabling in place. Similarly, you should never use extension cords as a permanent power solution.

What Are Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters?

Although they are designed to stop a variety of dangerous electrical situations, your standard circuit breaker is not built to stop an arc fault. A device called an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) is designed to stop this dangerous arcing from happening. An AFCI is also very different from a GFCI circuit breaker. A GFCI is designed to protect someone from the discharge of dangerous electrical current under wet or otherwise dangerous situations. An AFCI is designed to detect any arcing between wires, and make the proper changes to stop the arc from continuing.

Although AFCIs were not installed as a standard feature in the past, many local electrical codes have adopted them in order to bring advanced protection to more homes and commercial buildings. It is fairly standard, for example, for AFCIs to be installed in bedrooms. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for owners of older homes to stay current with changes to electrical code. As a result, older homes and buildings are at a greater risk of electrical arcing. If you live in an older home, contact your local electrician to talk about installing AFCIs to increase your protection.

Although arcing is not often publicized as a danger to most homes and businesses, it can cause serious problems whenever wires have become damaged. Whether the damage was caused by pests, or by a stray nail, an electrical arc can lead to catastrophe if your home does not have the proper protection. In the same way that you would install a carbon monoxide or smoke detector to protect against the possibility of these dangers, the installation of AFCIs can be very important to the overall safety of your home or business. If you have any doubts about whether or not electrical arcing presents a level of risk to you and your home, talk with a local electrician. They will be more than happy to perform an electrical safety assessment, and provide you with a professional recommendation.