W H AT I S T H E D I F F E R E N C E B E T W E E N A G R O U N D FA U LT A N D A N A R C FA U LT ? There is a major difference between the functioning of an AFCI as compared to a GFCI N E M A A N D E L E CT R I C A L S A F ET Y (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). The function of the GFCI is to protect people from the For more than 80 years, manufacturers of low deadly effect of electric shock that could voltage distribution equipment have been occur if parts of an electrical appliance or tool working to ensure public safety by standards become energized due to a ground fault. The writing efforts and the dissemination of function of the AFCI is to protect the branch important industry information through the circuit wiring from dangerous arcing faults that National Electrical Manufacturers Association could initiate an electrical fire. (NEMA), one of the most respected standards development organizations in the world. AFCI and GFCI technologies can co-exist Headquartered in Rosslyn, Virginia, NEMA has with each other and are a approximately 400 electroindustry companies, great complement for the including large, medium and small businesses. most complete protection To learn more about NEMA visit arc faults and electrical safety that can be provided on a www.nema.org. circuit. To learn more about AFCIs, visit our AFCI web IT’S ALL ABOUT SAFETY site at www.afcisafety.org. Smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders are all examples of emergency equipment used in homes to take action when a fire occurs. AFCIs are products designed to detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults to help reduce the electrical system from being an ignition source of a fire. Conventional overcurrent protective devices do not detect low level hazardous arcing currents that have the potential to initiate electrical fires. AFCIs are the next generation product in electrical circuit protection. As you evaluate P R OT E CT I N G H O M E S & FA M I L I E S your new home’s construction or consider F R O M E L E CT R I C A L F I R E S upgrading or remodeling your current electrical system, consider enhancing the W I T H A D VA N C E D T E C H N O LO GY protection of your electrical system with AFCI. NATIONAL ELECTRICAL MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION Low Voltage Distribution Equipment Section 1300 North 17th Street, Suite 1752 • Rosslyn, Virginia 22209 NATIONAL ELECTRICAL MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION (703) 841-3200 Fax: (703) 841-5900 Low Voltage Distribution Equipment Section www.nema.org E L E CT R I C A L F I R E S K I L L H O W A R E A R C I N G FA U LTS D ET E CT E D ? W H E R E A R E T H EY R E Q U I R E D TO B E T H O U S A N D S E V E RY Y E A R I N STA L L E D BY T H E N AT I O N A L Traditional overcurrent protective devices E L E CT R I C A L C O D E ? According to the U.S. Fire Administration*, home cannot detect these types of arcs. The electrical problems accounted for an estimated capability now exists to detect many of these The 2005 National Electrical Code states that 67,800 fires and $868 million in arcing conditions and disconnect the problem AFCIs must be placed on bedroom power and property losses in 2003. Electrical circuit through the use of Arc Fault Circuit lighting circuits. The 2008 NEC fires also cause an estimated 485 Interrupters (AFCIs). may expand this requirement to deaths annually and injure almost other areas in the home. As with H O W D O E S A N A R C FA U LT C I R C U I T 2,300 more individuals. all property protection and life I N T E R R U P T E R ( A F C I ) WO R K ? saving devices, the ultimate use, Electrical fires can be caused by a In essence, the detection is accomplished by beyond the Code, rests with the number of failures. Appliance the use of advanced electronic technology to homeowner. Whether new defects or misuse, incorrectly monitor the circuit for construction or retrofit, NEMA installed wiring, or misapplied the presence of supports that extension cords can lead to electrical hazards. “normal” and you utilize the In 1992, the Consumer Product Safety “dangerous” arcing maximum Commission (CPSC) contracted with conditions. Some electrical Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to provide equipment in the protection level research and evaluation of products and home, such as a available to technology that could reduce the likelihood of motor driven vacuum reduce the residential fires. A result of the research, UL cleaner or furnace chance of an identified an electrical hazard called “arcing motor, naturally create electrical fire. faults” that could eventually lead to the ignition arcs. This is considered to be a normal arcing C A N I H AV E of a fire as one possible cause of residential fires. condition. Another normal arcing condition that AFCIs can sometimes be seen is when a light switch W H AT I S A N A R C FA U LT ? I N STA L L E D E V E N I F MY STAT E is turned off and the opening of the contacts O R M U N I C I PA L I T Y D O E S N ’ T Most people are familiar with the creates an arc. REQU I RE TH EM? term arcing. Arcing may be W H Y I S I T I M P O RTA N T TO H AV E A N A F C I intended, such as with an arc Absolutely, do you only place locks on the front B R E A K E R I N STA L L E D I N MY H O M E ? welder or unintended, such as door of the house? Just like placing locks on all when a tree falls on a power line AFCIs were developed in response to an external doors and windows for security during a storm creating a current identified electrical problem causing fires in the reason, it is logical to request AFCI protection discharge between conductors or home as noted by the Consumer Product on all 15 and 20A branch circuits, not just to ground. Safety Commission and other prominent those in the bedroom, to protect the entire organizations. home from an electrical arcing ignition hazard. An arc fault is an unintended arc created by current flowing through an unplanned path. An AFCI provides a higher level of protection AFCIs are available through electrical Arcing creates high intensity heating at the than a standard circuit breaker by detecting distributors and in many home centers and point of the arc resulting in burning particles and removing the hazardous arcing condition hardware stores nationally. The only major that may easily ignite surrounding material, before it becomes a fire hazard. physical requirement is that the AFCI requires such as wood framing or insulation. The directly wired hot and neutral wires on the temperatures of these arcs can exceed 10,000 circuit you’re going to protect. degrees Fahrenheit. *USFA. 2006. “On the Safety Circuit: A Factsheet on Home Electrical Fire Prevention.” U.S. Fire Administration.
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