AFCI: What’s the big deal?
Last week we discussed why GFCI protection is a big deal but also why missing GFCI protection should NEVER be a deal killer. Today we’re going to discuss AFCI protection. Unless your home is brand spanking new or has had a serious electrical makeover in the last couple years, it is highly likely that AFCI protection is missing in certain areas of the home or maybe even completely absent in the home. AFCI protection is provided inside the electrical panel as a special breaker. They replace the old breakers and have little, tiny colored (mostly white) reset buttons on the face of them. AFCI stands for “Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter”. The term arc-fault protection refers to any device that is designed to guard against faulty connections causing arcing or sparking. A detection device senses the electrical arc and breaks the circuit to prevent an electrical fire. Now let’s talk about what it means for the homeowner, and why it’s NOT something to panic about and why you SHOULD still buy that dream house of yours even if it needs AFCI protection.
AFCI: What does it means for the homeowner?
Have you ever been in a home and heard the distracting sound of an outlet or light switch buzzing or hissing? You are hearing arcing in real time. This situation occurs when the connection to the device has become either corroded or loose. Arcing creates heat, which in turn creates the potential for an electrical fire. As a result, the 2017 NEC requires AFCI protection be present in dwelling unit kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, pa
rlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, or similar rooms or areas. Basically, anywhere you could potentially curl up inside a home and take a nap must have AFCI protection. AFCI makes your home safer. The AFCI style breakers will be able to detect if arcing is occurring and once heat gets beyond a certain threshold very quickly (less than one tenth of a second) the breaker will trip removing power from that location.
AFCI: Why it is not something to Panic about and why you SHOULD still move forward with your purchase.
Missing AFCI protection in areas of your new home is not the end of the world. It is very common to see missing AFCI protection on most inspection reports. AFCI protection is an upgrade and should be done if you choose. If you love the house do not pass it up just because AFCI protection is not present. AFCI differs from GFCI as AFCI protection comes from the breaker in the panel whereas GFCI protection can come from either a breaker or device. As a result, it is highly recommended to hire an electrician to install these breakers. If the panel is in good working order, extensive drywall damage or re-wiring will not be necessary. The biggest expense will be the breakers as they cost more money than regular NON AFCI breakers. Depending on the number of breakers and the age of the panel you should be able to get full AFCI protection where required in your new home for between $600 and $1500 by a licensed electrical contractor.