Understanding Arc Fault Protection


Understanding Arc Fault Protection

Written By Joseph Farmer, President of GTS Electric Company

Q; What is arc fault protection, and why is it required?

A; Problems in home wiring, like arcing and sparking, are associated with more than 40,000 home fires each year. These fires claim over 350 lives and injure 1,400 victims annually.

A new electrical safety device for homes, called an arc fault circuit interrupter or AFCI, is expected to provide enhanced protection from fires resulting from these unsafe home wiring conditions.

Typical household fuses and circuit breakers do not respond to early arcing and sparking conditions in home wiring. By the time a fuse or circuit breaker opens a circuit to defuse these conditions, a fire may already have begun.

Several years ago, a Consumer Product Safety Commission  study identified arc fault detection as a promising new technology. Since then, CPSC electrical engineers have tested the new AFCIs on the market and found these products to be effective.

Requiring AFCIs

AFCIs are already recognized for their effectiveness in preventing fires. The most recent edition of the National Electrical Code, the widely-adopted model code for electrical wiring, will require AFCIs for all “living space” circuits as shown in the illustration below.

AFCIs vs. GFCIs

AFCIs should not be confused with ground fault circuit interrupters or GFCIs. The popular GFCI devices are designed to provide protection from the serious consequences of electric shock.

While both AFCIs and GFCIs are important safety devices, they have different functions. AFCIs are intended to address fire hazards; GFCIs address shock hazards. Combination devices that include both AFCI and GFCI protection in one unit will become available soon.

AFCIs can be installed in any 15 or 20-ampere branch circuit in homes today and are currently available as circuit breakers with built-in AFCI features. In the near future, other types of devices with AFCI protection will be available.

Should You Install AFCIs?

You may want to consider adding AFCI protection for both new and existing homes. Older homes with ordinary circuit breakers especially may benefit from the added protection against the arcing faults that can occur in aging wiring systems.

For more information about AFCIs, contact an electrical supply store, an electrician, or the manufacturer of the circuit breakers already installed in your home. Sometimes these components can be replaced with AFCIs in the existing electrical panel box.

Be sure to have a qualified electrician install AFCIs; do not attempt this work yourself. The installation involves working within electrical panel boxes that are usually electrically live, even with the main circuit breakers turned off.

Feel free to give us a call at 262 367 2487 and we’ll be happy to discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding electrical safety in your home or place of business!

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Breaker Panel Upgrades-When is it time?


Breaker Panel Upgrades-When is it time?

Written By Joseph Farmer, President of GTS Electric Company

 

Q: We are in the process of selling our home and our realtor wants us to upgrade to a 200 Amp electrical service-is this necessary?

A: Today, Americans use an incredible amount of electricity. The demand for electrical current is a hundred times greater for the average household than it was half a century ago. The way a new home is equipped for electricity has changed drastically since then.

For instance, these days an air conditioning system can use more electricity than the whole house would have fifty years ago. And, because of all the new technology constantly being introduced into the world today, it’s not uncommon for us to have some sort of electronic device, be it a television, computer, printer, or some other electricity-eating gadget, powered on somewhere in the house twenty four hours a day.

And that doesn’t include the items we own that are perpetually turned on and drawing power, even when we’re not using them. All of this electricity running through a home puts a lot of stress on the home wiring, as well as on its electric panel.

Plus, today’s homes have many more “plug-ins” for appliances, electronics, and such, which are in much greater demand today than they were even 20 years ago. The fact is, if your home is over 20 years old, you should definitely look into upgrading your service panel.

And if you’re using extension cords and power strips so you can plug several things into one receptacle, it’s definitely time to look into getting a service panel upgrade. Doing so will allow each circuit to run straight from the distribution panel. It’s simply too much of a fire hazard to have so many things running from one place.

Here are some basic guidelines that will help you decide if upgrading your service panel is something you should do immediately. If your house has less than 200 amps of electricity available with the current service panel, or if it has screw in fuses, you most likely need an upgrade. In fact, most of the time, an insurance company won’t let you buy insurance for a house that still has the “screw-in” type fuses.

Another tell tale sign, and a pretty obvious one, that you need to upgrade your service panel is not being able to use one appliance, such as your microwave, without having to turn off another, like your coffee pot, so that you don’t “trip a breaker”. In this case, it’s likely your circuits are overloaded meaning it’s definitely time for a service panel upgrade.

A Very Important side note: Always consult a licensed professional electrician  to do this work on your home or business. Service upgrades are far too dangerous to be “do it yourself” projects because of the fire hazards they pose, and because of the risk of electrocution.

We would be happy to take care of this for you! Give us a call at 262 367 2487 for a free consultation and estimate!