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Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)

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What are Arc Fault Circuit interrupters?

An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is an electrical device that detects arcing faults in household wiring and interrupts power before serious damage can occur.

In what areas do arcs tend to form?

Arcs may result when wires are incorrectly wired or their insulation is damaged. As it grows older, the wire insulation in older homes tends to crystallize, making it fragile and likely to crack or chip. If the insulation is harmed, the wire that carries an electric current is exposed to its surroundings, raising the probability of an arc occurring. Several situations may generate arcs, such as electrical cords that are damaged by vacuums or jammed beneath furniture and doors; nails or screws in walls puncturing wire insulation; heating of appliance cords along with natural aging, bending, impact, and stretching them out too much; fluid seeping out; and loose connections in outlets, light fixtures, and switches.

What is an ARC?

An arc, which is a glistening plasma discharge created by an electric flow that spans from an energized part to a grounded one, can be seen in lightning, a large, vigorous arc that traverses an atmospheric gap from one electrical cloud to either the ground or another cloud. Such arcs that arise out of home wiring may generate intense heat levels strong enough to provoke fires and with it destroy dwellings and life as reported by the National Fire Protection Agency in 2005, referencing 20,900 households being damaged by electrical fires resulting in 500 casualties and causing $862 million worth property damage. Studies expose that arcs are accountable for the majority of these cases; they are inconspicuous to conventional (non-AFCI) circuit breakers.

Do AFCI  breakers Make  Homes Safer?

AFCI's Breakers safety devices
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The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that installing Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) in homes could prevent about 50% of the electrical fires that occur each year. This is an important statistic as electric fires have claimed numerous lives and damaged property worth millions annually. AFCIs are a type of circuit breaker which detect arcing faults and turn off the electric supply in unsafe conditions, preventing catastrophic electrical fires from occurring. Installing these safety devices on any existing power circuits or wiring should be a top priority for any homeowner wishing to protect their family or housing investments.

Why were Arc-Fault-Circuit-interrupters introduced?

In response to Underwriters Laboratories (UL) U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report recognizing an electrical issue in branch circuit wiring systems that generated multiple residential fires, Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) were developed. NEC® declared the utilization of AFCI breakers mandatory in 1999. In comparison to a standard circuit breaker, an AFCI breaker gives a greater level of protection by detecting and terminating a volatile arcing condition prior to it turning into an electrical fire.

How do Arc Faults Circuit breakers work?

When a current-carrying conductor such as a wire or cable is broken, it produces heat that melts the metal into a pool of molten material called an arc. This creates a path of high resistance through the insulation on the wires, which causes the flow of electricity to be interrupted.

AFCIs requirements for Texas

TREC's present assessment regulations stipulate that if a kitchen, family area, dining room, living space, parlor, library, study, bedroom, sunroom, recreational room and corridor are not equipped with AFCI protection then it will be noted as deficiency. Closets or washer-dryer areas must also come with this safety device. Yet, what does that leave you with? Practically nothing! To end on a takeaway note: all living spaces should have their own AFCI coverage This even applies to pre-existing dwellings. Now that this obligation has officially taken effect, multiple homes will appear on inspection reports with deficiencies simply due to the lack of AFCI safety devices.

When did Texas adopt AFCI's

1. On September 1, 2008, Texas began phasing in the requirement for AFCI's in bedrooms.


2. On September 1, 2009, the statewide adoption of AFCIs became effective in all bedrooms.


3. On June 16, 2011, AFCIs were made mandatory in habitable rooms and all kitchen receptacles had to be GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit interrupters).


4. In 2013, Texas required that all new residential dwelling units be equipped with approved circuit breakers and AFCI receptacles.

5. Beginning February 1st 2015 Texas expanded the rule, requiring all receptacle outlets located outside of a dwelling on a 15 or 20-amp circuit to be installed with an AFCI device or dual-function device.


6. In 2018, the State Fire Marshal established a rule requiring AFCI protection for all existing dwelling units where circuit

7. On September 1st, 2020 the adoption of installation of AFCIs in all 120-volt, single-phase 15 and 20-amp branch circuits became code for existing dwelling units in various public building types.


8. As of September 1st, 2021 installation of AFCIs in one-family dwellings that underwent any type of alterations will become mandatory by the state fire marshall regulations as well as on commercial buildings as well.

Pros and cons of AFCIs

AFCIs protect your home from electrical fires by automatically disconnecting power to circuits with faults
They can detect arcs of electricity that occur before the voltage builds up enough for a risk of fire
Can detect arcing and malfunctioning electrical connections, overloaded circuits, and short circuits
Cost more than traditional breakers
Can create false tripping and nuisance trips
More complex maintenance requirements due to their sensitivity

Conclusion

Building codes are made to make residential homes safer and AFCIs have accomplished their task as long as they are not defective and are functioning. In fact, homes equipped with AFCIs are safer here's what CPSC has to say.The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that installing Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) in homes could prevent about 50% of the electrical fires that occur each year. This is an important statistic as electric fires have claimed numerous lives and damaged property worth millions annually. AFCIs are a type of circuit breaker which detect arcing faults and turn off the electric supply in unsafe conditions, preventing catastrophic electrical fires from occurring. Installing these safety devices on any existing power circuits or wiring should be a top priority for any homeowner wishing to protect their family or housing investments.
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