An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is an electrical safety device for homes that provides enhanced protection from fires resulting from unsafe home wiring conditions.
Many people are familiar with a “short circuit,” which is a type of fault that occurs when two conductors of an electric circuit touch each other. The current flow caused by a short circuit is usually high and rapid and is quickly detected and halted by conventional circuit protective devices, such as fuses or circuit breakers.
An arc fault, however, is characterized by the low and erratic flow of electricity. Due to these types of characteristics, arc faults occurring in damaged electrical cords or cable can continue undetected by conventional circuit protective devices. This leads to hazardous situations such as igniting of nearby combustible materials.
Some typical causes of dangerous arcing faults:
- Damaged, abused or worn extension cords can pose an arcing situation.
- A nail from a picture hanger can break the insulation and cause arcing.
- When furniture is pushed up against or rests on a cord, the deterioration of the insulation may be greatly increased. These damaged cords then become a potential condition for arcing.
- Cords that get caught in door jambs. The constant action of opening and closing can deteriorate the cable insulation, allowing arcing to occur.
- Arcing to ground can occur in a wall plug or switch that was not properly installed or where connections become loose.
If you are interested in helping protect your home by installing AFCIs, contact a qualified electrician to do so. It is important to note that AFCIs do not provide protection against all the possible circuit faults that can cause fires, but they are a significant step forward in electrical fire safety. Learn more at SafeElectricity.org.