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Electrical Wire and Cable

GFCI and AFCI Circuit Breakers

afci-breaker Summary: Electric circuit protection with AFCI provide the extra measure of safety for your family. AFCI's are installed serving required house wiring circuits protecting areas such as the bedrooms. AFCI protects the bedroom circuit devices against the danger of arcing which can lead to fire.
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What are GFCI and AFCI Circuit Breakers?

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The electric circuit breakers serving your home wiring circuits are intended for switching and protection of your home's wiring from high temperatures caused by excess current higher than the rating of the wire.

While thermal magnetic circuit breakers are the key element for overload and short circuit protection of your home electrical system, there are potentially dangerous conditions that do not involve overcurrent.

The following circuit breakers should be utilized to provide further protection with house wiring.

AFCI's can Prevent Sparks That Can Lead to a House Fire

Circuit Breakers

Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)

AFCI Breaker Combination AFCIs protect against all three possible types of arc fault: line to ground, line to neutral arcs, and series arcs and thus significantly reduce the risk of electrical fires. They feature a unique LED trip indicator, providing a valuable analysis tool to help to pinpoint the type of trip and reduce the time spent debugging the home electrical wiring circuits.

Branch Feeder Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)

AFCIs are new electrical safety devices used for some of the home electrical wiring circuits that provide protection against arcing faults. These devices recognize characteristics unique to arcing and de energize the circuit when an arc fault is detected. Arc faults may occur for many reasons such as worn electrical insulation or damaged wire, misapplied or damaged appliance cords and equipment, loose electrical connections, or driving a nail into a wall and having it inadvertently hit a wire. The possibility of arcing grows as a home ages since age and time will contribute to the possibility of these conditions occurring.

Circuit Breakers and Surge Arresters

Circuit Breaker and Surge Arresters One example of a circuit breaker with a built in surge arrestor is this transient voltage surge suppressor (TVSS) module which has a highly effective surge suppressor integrated with two 1-pole circuit breakers. Even the best point-of-entry surge protectors are subject to failure in the event of a catastrophic surge. Good surge protectors are designed to sacrifice themselves and not the connected equipment. Some surge protection devices provide visual indication that the surge protection circuitry is functional and protecting the connected equipment. If the indicator lights are not illuminated the home owner should replace the surge protector promptly.

Common Brands of Home Electrical Circuit Breakers

Siemens / ITE / Murray

Square D

Cutler Hammer

General Electric

Zinsco / Westinghouse



AFCI Circuit Breaker and Wiring

Gary, from New York asks:
I had an addition done on my house a while ago, but the builder never filed for the electrical work. To make a long story short I received a violation from the building department that AFCI protection has not been provided for all bedroom outlets and lighting. Surfing the web it sounds like an easy fix by just changing the circuit breakers. I have had 2 electricians tell me they have to put a loop in the outlets. Not sure what that is really. Does that sound accurate?

Dave's Reply:
Gary, the electricians mat be referring to a loop that may have to be installed between two outlet locations in order to place the outlets on one AFCI circuit. AFCI circuit wiring cannot share the neutral as with multi wire circuits and this may be a condition that needs to be corrected as well.

How to Provide GFCI Protection for a Circuit

Perrie, from Trinidad WI, Other asks:
Can I get protection for a 8 amp 220v motor by wiring one supply hot wire to one 120v gfci and the other supply hot to a second 120v gfci. A common grounded neutral is attached to the neutral of both gfci. Then two hot leads each taken from both gfci is connected to the motor. (Utility supplies electricity by two 120v
hot wires and one neutral.)

The method that is describe in your question is not correct. The way to Provide GFCI Protection for a Motor Circuit would be to install a 15 or 20 amp 220 volt GFCI circuit breaker (with provision for a neutral if it is really needed for the motor). The amperage would depend on the wire size and specifications of the motor.

Questions about GFCI and AFCI Circuit Breakers

Bill in South Carolina asks:
Is a GFCI Outlet Needed for More Fault Protection?

I have Square-D brand Qwik Gard GFCI circuit breakers in the panel box that protect the outlets which are standard type in the bathrooms. Is there any additional protection provided by installing a GFCI outlet in these locations.

Dave’s Reply:
A GFCI Breaker Provides Adequate Fault Protection

It is not necessary to add a GFCI outlet to a circuit which is connected to a GFCI circuit breaker. Adding a GFCI outlet would be redundant.

Joe in Michigan asks:
Ungrounded Panel and a GFCI Breaker

I have a 2 wire branch circuit 120volt. The circuit is going to a garage panel where there is no grounding conductor. The branch circuit needs a GFCI. Can I put a GFCI breaker in the panel without having a ground, or do I need to drive a rod before using a GFCI breaker?

Dave’s Reply:
A GFCI Breaker in a Grounded Panel

The electrical system and the panel needs to be properly grounded. After the approved ground system has been installed a GFCI circuit breaker can be installed.

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