Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters, or AFCIs, are relatively new, first entering the National Electrical Code in 1999 in response to demands for better prevention of electrical fires. They are typically found in the form of a circuit breaker, in-wall device, or integrated into a power cord. The AFCI function is to measure current and open the circuit if it detects fluctuations that indicate an arc or spark, disconnecting power BEFORE it has a chance to cause a fire. Residences built after 2002 should have some AFCI protection (usually in bedrooms or living rooms), but they are not required in older residences unless a circuit is added or altered.
AFCI protection has gotten a bad rap for “nuisance tripping,” which can be caused by plug-in appliances like vacuums or refrigeration units. When the motors start up, they can generate tiny sparks that trigger the breakers. Newer AFCIs are able to discern between the sparks that occur when motors or appliances start up, and the sparks or arcs that pose fire risk. Older AFCI’s may need to be replaced to reduce the occasions of nuisance tripping.
This is an ever-evolving technology. Thanks to AFCIs, better construction materials, and other fire prevention methods, the number of electrical fires in the U.S. has dropped more than 20% since 2004. They’re just another of the ways we’re able to help clients create safer property conditions.
If you have issues with nuisance tripping, questions about AFCI protection, or any other fire-safety technology, give us a call!