An Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) is an electronic circuit breaker that trips the circuit when it detects an arc in the wiring of a home. Since the 2014 National Electrical Code, Arc Fault breakers have been required to be installed in new construction homes on receptacle and lighting circuits.
Arc Faults are one of the leading causes of electrical fires in the United States. Arc’s are caused by loose connections at outlets, switches, or light fixtures. Older homes have a higher risk of fire from Arc Faults due to the possibility of having Aluminum wiring or Knob & Tube Wiring.
Aluminum Wiring was popular in the late 60’s to the mid 70’s and is estimated to have been installed in two million homes across the United States. The problem with Aluminum wiring occurs when oxidation forms at splices, outlets, switches, and light fixtures. This oxidation deteriorates the connections causing excessive heat, arcing, and the potential for fires. Installing an Arc Fault Circuit Breaker on any circuits that have aluminum wiring is extremely important along with repairing all connections with AlumiConn Connectors. The Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter will trip when the arcing occurs and should stop fires before they start.
Knob & Tube wiring was the preferred wiring method from the 1880’s to the 1930’s and was a cost effective and safe way to install wiring 100 years ago. This is not the case today. Over the years increased electrical usage and higher power demands have caused the insulation on K&T wiring to become brittle and fall off. Other common issues with Knob and Tube wiring are:
Poor Connections from homeowners splicing into the original wiring.
Damage to the exposed wiring in basements from normal wear and tear or by hanging clothing from it
Rodents chewing the insulation off.
These problems can cause the K&T wiring to overheat or short circuit. The best option for homeowners is to have this wiring replaced, however, it is very expensive.
Arc Fault Breakers when installed on Knob & Tube wiring will trip the circuit in the event any connections arc or short out. This will cost much less than a complete rewire and make the existing wiring much safer.