AFCI Circuit Breaker Usage is Up. Residential Electrical Fires are Down

residential.gifResidential electrical fires dropped nearly 20 percent over the seven-year span of 2002 to 2009, according to a 2012 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report. Instituted in the 1999 National Electrical Code® (NEC), at first, only bedroom circuits required arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) circuit breakers. Since then, the NEC has continued to expand for greater protection throughout the home, and the incidence of fires involving electrical distribution and lighting equipment has declined as well. Unlike a standard circuit breaker, AFCI circuit breakers identify arcs or sparking in wiring and quickly de-energize a system to prevent a fire. As contractors, no one better understands the dangers of electricity and can appreciate the importance of making our homes safer. 

What is the purpose of the AFCI Task Force and what is the group's role?

Tom Domitrovich, Eaton Corporation:

As the current chairman of the AFCI Task Force for the NEMA LVDE Section, I can tell you we are a group of like-minded national manufacturers of AFCIs who share a sincere passion for not only researching, developing, and manufacturing these quality products, but we are also committed to raising awareness about the safety, fire prevention, and life-saving technologies AFCIs bring to the public. We feel very strongly that AFCIs are changing the way the world looks at preventing electrical fires, and our group works to help communicate those successes and raise overall awareness to not only residential home buyers and consumers but to electrical contractors, homebuilders, and others.

We’ve also become an easily accessible portal for factual information on AFCIs through our website, www.AFCIsafety.org, which offers a great deal of information on the product itself, what others are saying, codes and standards information, state information, and much more. While the companies involved in the task force are all competitors, like Eaton Corporation, Siemens, GE, and Schneider Electric, we all understand the important role AFCIs are now playing in the electrical and homebuilding industries. The growing AFCI requirements in the NEC are also proof of the respect our product has garnered since its introduction. Joining together to communicate the safety impact this technology can have in homes and buildings is important to our companies and we are pleased to be doing that with one of the most respected standards development organizations in the world: NEMA.

How have electrical contractors been helpful in broadening the use of AFCIs, and where do you see this technology going in the next few years?

Ashley Haynes, Siemens:

Electrical contractors are in the field every day. They know what does and doesn’t work, and they also take great pride in what they do and want to make sure the wiring and electrical systems they install are the best that they can be. They also put safety as a top priority. That’s where AFCIs come into the picture. The men and women in these positions have to justify even the smallest of costs to people building homes and how that relates to their safety.

Like ground fault circuit interrupters, AFCIs have had an introduction period and have been results driven. Through proven use in the field, many electrical contractors have become firm advocates for AFCIs. They realize the technology’s potential, have seen it in action in warning of arcing wires, and are best at conveying its lifesaving potential to their customers. Recent statistics from NFPA also indicate a drop in the number of electrical fires with the increased use of AFCIs and other fire prevention technology and materials used in homebuilding and renovation. AFCI manufacturers will tell you that while we each have our variations of