Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters

The danger of fires from faulty electrical systems or electrical malfunctions is a real and serious problem. One of the major causes is from an electric arc occurring in the wiring. After 2002, building codes were upgraded to require arc fault circuit interrupters in bedrooms of newly constructed homes. After 2008, the rest of the house fell under this requirement, except for those areas already required to have ground fault interruption (gfi) protection. In homes built prior to 2002, retrofitting may be necessary in order to prevent fires from an unintended electrical arc.

How an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter works

At some point, all circuits experience electric arcs, and on the whole they do not pose a threat. However, unintended arcs – that is those outside the normal scope of operation – are a fire hazard. Arc fault circuit interrupters distinguish between normal arcs and unintended arcs, and disconnect power when an unintended arc occurs. Because unintended arcs are one of the leading causes of home fires, taking the necessary step to install these circuit interrupters is a lifesaving measure.

What causes a tripped circuit?

There are essentially five reasons why a circuit may be tripped.

  1. Circuit Overload When a circuit begins to overheat because it cannot safely support the electrical load carried, it will trip causing it to turn off.
  2. Short Circuit This is a result of a flaw in the circuit, resulting in a power surge, and throwing the breaker.
  3. Overheated Breaker If the breaker itself is faulty (there are several causes of this), the circuit will trip to prevent fire.
  4. Ground Faults These are the result of issues with current discharge, and can result in shocks and fire if the circuit is not thrown.
  5. Arc  fault An unintended discharge on the circuits or in appliances or fixtures.

While a standard breaker will handle circuit overloads, shorts, or overheated breakers, the other two require more sophisticated equipment. While any of the above items can trip an arc fault circuit interrupter, and this may seem annoying, the fact that they are tripped by ground or arc faults – undetectable by regular circuit breakers – make them an indispensable safety device.

Arc fault circuit interruption as a sign of trouble

If the reason for the arc fault circuit being tripped is circuit overload, an overheated breaker, or a short, you should be able to reset the circuit. If the cause is a ground fault or an arc fault, resetting will not be possible, and further help is needed, and an electrician should be called to diagnose and correct the problem.  The value of this piece of equipment cannot be overstated.

If you have a home built before 2002, it is in your best interest to have your home’s electrical system inspected and have arc fault circuit interrupters installed. At Gold Medal, we can inspect your system and let you know if you are lacking this item. If so, we can quickly and safely install this low cost piece of equipment, protecting your family, your home, and you from a preventable fire.

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