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Never Heard of an AFCI? | Print |  Email

Never heard of an AFCI?  It may save your home someday!

“I want the new picture right there, dear.” And with those instructions you begin hanging a large framed picture above the sofa. Because of its size and weight, you use a large nail, find the stud, and begin to pound.

But hidden behind the wallboard was a wire that provided electricity to an outlet behind the sofa. Your nail pierced the wall, clipped the edge of the stud, and poked deep into the wire, tearing the insulation and shorting the electrical circuit to the living room. The wall soon became hot, you smelled smoke, and fire erupted behind the wall. Down fell the new picture you just hung. Never mind the picture and frame were destroyed, your house was on fire!

Hours later the fire inspector finds you sifting through the remains of your home and asks what you might know about the start of the fire. Taking notes, he writes, “hanging picture, nail through the wall,” and he stops to ask if you had an arc fault circuit interrupter. Since you have never heard of one, he says an AFCI would have saved your home. For fewer than 50 dollars, it would have detected the damaged wire behind the wall, cut the power to the circuit, and you would be living in your home, instead of at your in-laws.

The wires in your home keep electricity on a set path. When those wires are damaged or decaying, electricity can veer out of wires and off that designated path. When this happens, an arc fault occurs, and electricity is discharged behind the wall. The electricity heats up, and eventually starts a fire. Arc faults cause many of the 28,000 electrical fires in homes every year. Fortunately, an AFCI can prevent this.   

The AFCI monitors electricity in your home. It can detect if something is wrong, and shut electricity off before it has time to heat up and start a fire. An AFCI costs around $35 and can be installed by a qualified electrician. The cost of installing AFCIs will depend on the size of your home and number of circuits. Just like fire alarms, carbon dioxide detectors and locks, AFCIs are an important investment in the safety of your home.