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Reduce the risk of electrical fires with AFCIs

December, January, and February are the leading months for home fires in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association. One of the causes of these fires is electrical malfunction. The Safe Electricity program shares information on the warning signs of an electrical problem in your home and how adding arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) can help prevent electrical fires.

Overloaded circuits, electrical faults, and faulty wiring can all cause electrical fires. It is a good idea to get an electrical inspection of your home, especially if it is an older home or you never had an inspection. Signs of electrical problems in a home include blown fuses, tripped circuits, flickering lights and warm, cracked, or sparking outlets.

The Chicago Tribune reported on an electrical fire that caused thousands of dollars of damage in June 2016 in Elgin, Ill. The blaze began in the home’s attic due to the incorrectly installed electrical wiring in the home and the smolder began in the insulation.

Electrical arc faults occur when an electric current flows through an unplanned path. AFCIs can reduce the chance of electrical fires by sensing arcing conditions, distinguishing between normal and unintended arcing. When an abnormal or dangerous arc is detected, the AFCI de-energizes the circuit.

Research on arc fault safety precautions began in the late 1980s and early 1990s. AFCIs were first mentioned in the National Electrical Code (NEC) in 1999. The 2014 NEC requires AFCIs be installed in all areas of new residential construction with the exception of bathrooms, garages, and outside areas.

There are different types of AFCIs available. For installation and in order to determine which type is best for your home’s safety, contact a professional electrician.

Branch/feeder AFCIs are designed to primarily handle parallel faults and are installed at the origin of a branch circuit, such as a panel board, and protect the entire circuit.

Combination AFCIs became required, beginning in 2008, for new residential constructions. They are designed to protect against both parallel and series faults. In addition, they are more sensitive to faults, tripping at 5 amps.

Outlet circuit AFCIs protect cords and equipment that are plugged into an outlet. They are installed at a branch circuit outlet and provide both parallel and series arc-fault protection. However, they do not provide arc-fault protection upstream from the device.

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