Should you install AFCIs?

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) urges consumers to install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) to protect circuits throughout the home. Just as ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are installed to prevent electrical shock, arc fault circuit interrupters are electrical safety devices designed to prevent fires caused by dangerous electrical arcs. Arc faults are one of the major causes of the 73,500 residential electrical fires that occur each year. Use of new AFCI technology could prevent between 50 to 75 percent of these fires, saving hundreds of lives, reducing thousands of injuries and nearly $1 billion in property damage annually.

AFCIs recognize the unique signature of harmful arcs—and shut off the circuit to prevent a fire hazard. Arcs can occur along the circuit in residential electrical systems and at outlets and switches behind walls. Hidden electrical fires can spread rapidly, delaying detection by smoke alarms, reducing the chances of survival. Conditions that trigger arc faults include:

  • Damaged wires from nails driven into walls;
  • Cracked insulation on wires due to aging or stress;
  • Frayed wires at stress points;
  • Loose or improper connections, faulty electrical equipment; and overheated electrical wires.

ESFI recommends having AFCIs installed on all general purpose circuits throughout the home, particularly in older homes where arcing hazards could have developed over several years.