What is a Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter? (AFCI)

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What is a Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter? (AFCI)

Electricity makes our lives easier by powering your home, it’s appliances, and electronics we use for daily living and entertainment but this same electricity also has the potential to destroy homes and take lives. Electrical fires are substantially more destructive than any other type of fire and are twice as fatal.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters or AFCIs are safety devices for homes which provide protection from electrical fires. Electrical fires are twice as deadly as other home fires so these devices are incredibly important. Damaged or deteriorating wires can allow electricity to escape causing a fire behind your home’s walls. An AFCI detects irregular flows in electricity and will shut the flow of electricity off if it detects there is a problem.

Every year, arc faults cause many of the 40,000 electrical fires in homes making them quire common. When arcing occurs, the escaping electricity reaches temperatures high enough to cause combustion to surrounding materials including wood, paper, wallboard, carpet, or any other flammable material. These faults can be caused by deterioration of the insulation on the wire or damage to the circuit. An example of how the circuit may become damaged might be something as simple as hitting a wire inadvertently behind the wall while trying to hang a picture. Improperly installed outlets and switches and environmental conditions are other reasons damage to the wiring may occur.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says, “Presently, AFCIs are designed into conventional circuit breakers combining traditional overload and short-circuit protection with arc fault protection. AFCI circuit breakers (AFCIs) have a test button and look similar to ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) circuit breakers. Some designs combine GFCI and AFCI protection.”

What is the difference between an AFCI and a GFCI?

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are designed to protect against severe or fatal electrocution and electrical code standards require them to be installed in places where the outlet has the potential to come into contact with water. This includes bathrooms, kitchens, near hot tubs or swimming pools, and outdoor electrical outlets. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters monitor the flow of the current and senses unwanted arcing conditions. If an unwanted arcing condition is detected the AFCI will trip the internal contains and interrupts the flow of electricity before a fire can occur. There is a need for both GFCIs and AFCIs in every home to make it safe for you and your family and to keep your home within current electrical code standards.

Electrical fires cause more damage than other fires do. Fortunately, these fires are highly preventable when the proper safety measures are taken. The size of your home and number of circuits will determine how much it will cost to install AFCIs. One of Ampt Over Electric’s expert Electricians can install AFCIs appropriately and inspect your home’s electrical system to make sure your home is protected. You likely have a smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector, and even locks on your doors. Think of AFCIs as an addition measure of safety that is necessary to keep your home safe.

Some safety tips for you to consider to maintain a safe electrical system:

  • If you have never had an electrical inspection or if your home is older, you may consider getting one done to ensure all components are in proper working order.
  • Water should not be used to try and extinguish an electrical fire. Water conducts electricity and electrical shock may occur. Use an extinguisher that is deemed appropriate for use on electrical fires.
  • Signs of electrical issues include flickering lights, and warm, cracked, or sparking outlets. It is advisable to get these inspected immediately.
  • If your home has recurring circuits that trip, fuses that blow, or someone has received a shock, an electrical problem is present. An electrical inspection is necessary to diagnose and fix these problems.
  • Do not use light bulbs that are not rated for the corresponding socket, use extension cords as permanent wiring solutions, or overload your outlets.
  • Contact one of Ampt Over Electric’s certified Electricians to install Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters where appropriate to decrease the risk of an electrical fire.
  • Inspect all electric plugs and cords on an annual basis. Replace any of them if they are frayed, cracked, or damaged in any way. Do not place cords under rugs, or staple or nail them to the wall or ground.
  • If you are ever unsure or worried about the outlets or wiring in your home, get an electrical inspection.

At Ampt Over Electric it is our passion to make sure that you and your family are safe. We take pride in ensuring that any and all electrical issues in your home are resolved and your home’s electrical system is up to code. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your electrical system, do not hesitate to call one of our expert Electricians at (403) 862-1782.

This post is part of our commitment to transparent, helpful, and informative content for our readers and visitors. For more details on our editorial process and how we ensure accuracy and reliability, please visit our Editorial Process page.


Corey Hayes

Corey Hayes is a seasoned marketing professional with two decades of experience in small business marketing, dedicating 15 years of his illustrious career to elevating Ampt Over Electric's brand. His expertise and visionary approach have been pivotal in shaping the company's market presence and success.

Jorden McCullough,

Master Electrician, CEO of Ampt Over Electric.
Jorden, is a highly skilled Red Seal Master Electrician, with over 20 years of experience serving Calgary’s communities in a commercial and residential electrical capacity. AMPT Over Electric was established in Alberta in 2009 and proudly serves Calgary and surrounding areas. Our goal is, and has always been, to build relationships in business on integrity and respect. Our commitment to our community is to provide safe, high-quality electrical service. In order to guarantee that, we only employ competent Calgary electricians who share the same passion that we do.

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