You know when you trip the circuit breaker and you have to go to your fuse box and flip a switch to get the power back on? It trips when too much current is being pulled through the wiring (meaning, you’ve got too much stuff turned on or a malfunction) to protect the house from fires.
See our blog on why circuit breakers trip.
The arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is basically an upgraded version of a circuit breaker that protects against arc faults as well as high levels of current. An arc fault is when there is a degraded connection, usually due to damage, degradation, or overheating, and the electricity sparks or arcs. This will translate into heat and could trigger an electrical fire. Basic circuit breakers can’t always catch arcing and since most of it occurs behind the drywall of your house, you won’t know until it’s too late.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Healthy Homes Report listed the absence of AFCIs among the primary residential hazards associated with burns and fire-related injuries. The 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code now requires that they be used to protect almost every circuit in the home.