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Arc Fault Breakers – Know the Basics to Prevent Home Fires

Arc Fault Breakers – Preventing Home Fires in Minneapolis St. Paul, MN

An arc fault is a natural phenomenon in electrical distribution systems. These small sparks create brief and harmless flashes of light, but if an arcing fault is left unaddressed, it can lead to overheated equipment, increased risk of fire, and even an outage. Residential homes are at a higher risk than most businesses or institutions because they have smaller and less expensive electrical systems.

You can reduce the risk of arcing faults in your Twin Cities home with some knowledge about the different types of fault breakers and how they work. Keep reading to learn more about arc fault breakers, their benefits, and if you’re in need of a Minneapolis Electrician for a new electric panel, why AFCI breaks are good for your electric panel.

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What is an Arc Fault?

Arc fault breakers are installed in electrical panels to detect and trip when arcing faults occur. Many times AFCI breakers are installed alongside GFCI electrical outlets. Arcing faults happen when high-resistance connections in a circuit cause voltage to drop, forcing the current to jump to a nearby lower-resistance path, causing a small spark. Arcing faults don’t pose an immediate threat of fire, but they can cause short-circuiting and heat build-up in appliances or wiring, which can lead to fires if not addressed quickly.

To protect against arcing faults, many electrical panels include a thermal-magnetic breaker that trips when it reaches a certain temperature. While these breakers are robust, they can’t detect arcing faults. That’s why electrical panels also include a separate breaker that detects and trips when arcing is detected on the line.

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Types of Arc Fault Breakers

There are two main types of arc fault breakers: the detector, and the interrupter. Let’s take a closer look at their differences, and how they work to detect and trip on arcing faults.

Arc Fault Detector

This type of arc fault breaker detects arcing faults but doesn’t trip the circuit. They are installed in conjunction with other types of breakers, and their job is to sense when arcing is occurring and send a signal to the other breakers to trip. When they sense an arcing fault, they trip the breaker that they are installed with.

Arc Fault Interrupter (AFI)

When an AFI trips, it’s because it has detected an arcing fault and has fully interrupted the circuit. You can tell the difference between an AFI and another breaker type by looking at the AFI’s reset button. When an AFI trips it is necessary to manually reset it. Other breakers are reset automatically.

How do Arc Fault breakers work?

Arc fault breakers detect arcing faults by monitoring the electrical circuit for signs of electrical arcs faults. When the breaker detects a fault, it trips the circuit, stopping the arcing fault. Some AFCI breakers have a sensitivity setting that allows you to adjust how loud the sound has to be before it trips the breaker. The setting can be lowered if you want to protect against smaller and more common arcing faults, or raised if you want to protect against larger ones that may cause bigger fires. Arcing faults are most commonly caused by loose connections, such as worn-out wiring or frayed cords. Other causes include loose fuses and a lack of ground fault circuit interrupters in areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Why you should care about Arc Fault breakers

When an arcing fault is left unaddressed, it can cause fires and pose a threat to the health and safety of those who live in your home. Bigger and more dangerous arcing faults can even cause power outages, since the electrical panel that feeds the circuit might trip, shutting off power to the rest of the house. By installing an arc fault breaker in your electrical panel, you’re not only protecting against dangerous arcing faults but also reducing the risk of fires and power outages that can affect your whole neighborhood. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that electrical fires cause $18 billion in damage every year and kill hundreds of people. Many of these fires are caused by arcing faults that could have been prevented with the installation of a breaker.

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Contact Dean’s Minneapolis Electrical Service

Dean’s Twin Cities Electricians specialize in the evaluation of Minneapolis residential electrical systems. Dean’s Minneapolis Electricians are able to complete any electrical project including circuit breaker and electrical panel repair and replacement.

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Learn more about AFCI breakers in your home when you contact Dean’s Home Services Twin Cities professional electricians.

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