AFCIs in your home’s electrical panel box. Problems in home wiring, like arcing and
sparking, are associated with more then 40,000 home fires each year. The
Consumer Product Safety Commissions reports that these fires claim over 350
lives and injure 1400 victims annually. An arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI)
is provides enhanced protection from fires resulting from these unsafe home
wiring conditions. They detect abnormal arcing in a circuit (which can cause
overheating and lead to an electrical fire) and de-energize the circuit when an
arc fault is detected. AFCIs are recognized for their effectiveness and now
required by the National Electric Code® for bedroom circuits in new
construction. Older homes with ordinary circuit breakers especially may benefit
from the added protection against the arcing faults that can occur in aging
wire systems. Be certain to have a qualified electrician install AFCIs. This installation
involved working within electrical panel boxes that are usually live; even with
the main circuit breakers turned off.
AFCIs should not be confused with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI).
While both AFCIs and GFCIs are important safety devices, they have different
functions. The popular
GFCI devices are designed to protect people against severe or fatal electric
shock, not fire hazards. GFCIs can protect against some electrical fires by
detecting faults to ground but cannot detect hazardous “across-the-line” arcing faults that can cause
fires. The National Electric Code® requires GFCI protection for receptacles located
outdoors, in bathrooms, garages, kitchens, crawl spaces and unfinished
basements; and at certain locations such as near swimming pools.