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Can Your Electrical Outlets Protect Against a House Fire?

Can Your Electrical Outlets Protect Against a House Fire?

If you could upgrade your electrical outlets to protect against a house fire, would you? AFCI outlets protect against the leading cause of electrical fires in residential homes by shutting down the electricity to a circuit when an arc-fault is detected. Over 50% of electrical fires in the U.S. each year could be prevented with the installation of arc-fault protection devices, according to an estimate by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

What is an Arc-Fault?

An arc-fault occurs when an electrical current arcs outside the conductor without proper insulation. This flow of electricity can reach 5000 degrees F and ignite surrounding materials, sparking a house fire. Arc-faults are caused by loose electrical connections, damaged electrical cords or internal wiring including:

  • Nails driven through wiring in the walls
  • Furniture pressed up against cords
  • Cords pinched in doorways
  • Frequently bending and unbending chords (wrapping up a computer power cord)
  • Cords damaged by heat, sunlight, or humidity
  • Too many devices plugged into a single circuit

There are two types of arc faults, either of which can happen when there is damage to the wire insulation. Even a small break in insulation can create an arc. As the arc burns the surrounding insulation, the carbon from the burn acts as fuel until the insulation spontaneously combusts and starts a fire. A parallel arc fault occurs when current flows through damaged insulation from one conductor to another, creating a short circuit that is too weak to be detected by the circuit breaker. Series arc faults occur when a single wire is damaged and cannot withstand the current, causing the current to arc from the conductor into the insulation. This leaked current can burn and eventually ignite the insulation.

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Protect Your Home with AFCI Devices

At first, AFCI protection was only available as a specialized circuit breaker and had to be installed by a licensed electrician. Now there’s a much less expensive option; for less than $30 each, you can install AFCI outlets in your home. Replacing just the first outlet in a branch circuit protects all of the downstream outlets, cords, and plugged in devices regardless of the wiring used from the panel board to the AFCI outlet. It also offers upstream protection against series arcs.

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Arc Protection

AFCI Circuit Breaker

AFCI Outlet

Upstream Parallel

Yes

Yes

Upstream Series

Yes

Yes

Downstream Parallel

Yes

No

Downstream Series

Yes

Yes

 

AFCI National Electrical Code Requirements

As of 2014, AFCI protection is required in new homes and some home renovations for all 15‑amp, 20‑amp, 120‑volt branch circuits in the following rooms:

  • Office
  • Parlor
  • Laundry room
  • Recreation room
  • Den / family room
  • Dining room
  • Sun room
  • Library
  • Bedroom
  • Kitchen
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Leviton 20 amp AFCI outlet available at 1000Bulbs.com.
Leviton 20 amp AFCI outlet available at 1000Bulbs.com.

Upgrade  to AFCI outlets to sleep more safely, protect your family and pets, and worry less the next time you hang a picture frame. We have licensed electricians on staff if you have any questions. Contact our sales team at (800) 624-4488 ext. 2534 or leave your questions in the comment section below. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Pintrest for additional information on home lighting safety.

Sources

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
Decker Home Services
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

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