The faults and benefits of Arc-Fault breakers
Hey Rkay fam! I know some of you might have been disappointed last week if you were directed here from one of our social platforms, as the blog wasn't about Arc Faults as we had posted. I can assure you that our electrical game is much stronger than our social game (for now at least).
Last week was actually a dive into some fun facts about power demand, the part about lights flickering due to your Air Conditioner was particularly interesting so if you haven't checked it out yet then I very biasedly recommend it. This week I'm actually going to do my bit on Arc-Fault Breakers.
Sometimes, being an electrician feels like you're hosting a game show called "Why's that breaker tripping?" While there can be many, many reasons why a breaker is tripping, they're very rarely an actual electrical issue. I'm going to stick to Arc-faults for now, as overdrawing, Ground-fault and weakened breakers are a bit off-topic.
So, while arc-fault protected breakers (or even receptacles) are not necessarily a new thing. They have made their way into more and more of a home as code changes have been implemented. Every receptacle in your home is now required to have Arc-Fault protection whether it be at the breaker, or the first plug on a circuit. However, for the sake of the blog (and because I think Arc Fault receptacles are far less appealing than the breakers) we will stick to just discussing the breaker side of things.
What is an Arc-Fault Breaker? Basically, these breakers are made to detect an arc in the circuit which has been proven to prevent house fires. This is why they are required for receptacles, so that if an appliance (heater, lamp, fireplace) overheats from being left on too long it doesn't melt through the cord and start burning your home down.
Basically, an Arc-fault breaker saves lives and your homes. It looks for a surge of electricity and trips the breaker before a fire can even start. It is very important that I tell you that a regular breaker does not do this... an overdraw or overheat are the typical culprits of a regular breaker trip, and an overheat can mean your home is on ablaze before the breaker even warms up enough to trip itself.
But, why are there so many nuisance trips from microwaves and vacuums? The short answer is that there are no such thing as nuisance trips (at least the newest incarnations of the Arc-Fault breakers... some brands had some issues with their product when new codes were introduced, but they seem to have gotten it figured out). What I mean when I say that nuisance trips are non-existent, because I completely understand that each trip IS a nuisance to you, is that a majority of the time the breakers are tripping because they are supposed to. Microwaves and Vacuum motors (most motors really, but vacuums get plugged into receptacles) actually create an arc when they start running, so your breakers are protecting you from a potential hazard and should be appreciated. That being said, there was a couple generations of these breakers from a few brands that were not exactly up to snuff when it came to telling the difference between a true arc and "arc-like" situations.
So if you do have a breaker that is consistently tripping, I always recommend plugging your device into a different outlet (but not the kitchen or bathroom as those likely are not arc-fault protected). If the device trips it's new breaker as well, then that device has an arc-issue and you can sleep soundly knowing your breaker did a good job. If you're still having issues, it's always a good idea to call an electrician in... they can secure the wires around the receptacle screws, check that the ground is secure to the box, the box is mounted securely and replace the breaker for you; at the very least, that will determine whether you need to replace your appliance or not.
I honestly didn't think I'd have that much to say on Arc Fault Breakers alone, but here we are. Thanks for reading! Check us out next week when we will be providing a spotlight on products by Levven Electronics that several of our builders use in their new homes. At it's core, it's a new way of wiring your home using wireless (battery-operated) switches for the same cost as traditional wiring, while being more environmentally conscious. But, when unlocking it's potential, it's giving you a smart home at a regular home's price tag.
If you have any questions, comments, feedback or suggestions for future topics, then definitely send me an email at Blog@rkayelectrical.com! I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time, have yourselves a great weekend!