Understanding Arc Fault Breakers

Ensuring the protection and safety of your commercial building and the employees that work in it is of utmost importance. While the electrical devices in your building are helpful, they can be dangerous if not used or installed properly. In 2020, there were over 3,100 fatalities in the United States due to exposure to electric current. Electrical fires are another major problem.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that electrical receptacles are involved in over 5,300 fires annually, causing up to 40 deaths a year and over 100 injuries. Thankfully, arc fault breakers can help bolster workplace safety. Here, we will discuss how they work and how your business can benefit from them.

What is an arc fault breaker?

An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is a type of circuit breaker that stops the circuit when it senses that there are electric arcs that signal loose wiring in a home or commercial building’s wiring. If there are loose connections – which often develop unknowingly over time – they can get hot and cause electrical fires. AFCIs can detect the difference between a harmless arc versus one that is hazardous. When they identify and register an arc that is potentially dangerous, it immediately cuts power, as to avoid fire.

Arc faults often happen when two conductors spark. Some of the most common causes for arc faults include damaged or frayed wires, loose wire connections, static electricity, improperly maintained circuit breakers or exposed, live electrical parts. These arcs generate high levels of heat and in just a moment’s notice, a fire could start, igniting insulation, wood or other things around it.

improperly maintained circuit breakers

A properly installed arc fault breaker contains a unique electronic sensor that detects potential electrical arcs. They are fitted on the branch circuit, which will protect the receptacles on that specific circuit.

Not sure if you have a properly working ACFI? Check the breakers every month to make sure they are operating correctly. Keep the power on, but unplug any devices or machinery that is plugged into the electrical circuit, including computers and phones. Go to the electrical panel and make sure the breaker is turned on. Then press the ‘test’ button, which should trip the breaker and turn the panel to the off position. If it trips when you test it, then things are working correctly. If it does not trip, then the breaker may not be working correctly, and it should be replaced by an experienced commercial electrician. This is not something that you should attempt to do yourself or with someone who does not have the proper tools and training.

old electrical panels

Your electrical panel and ACFI work together to keep your building safe. When was the last time your electrical panel was replaced? If you are not sure, it is highly likely that your electrical panel is old and unsafe. Older panels – especially Zinsco panels and Federal Pacific panels have been known to cause electrical fires in homes and commercial buildings. 

If your commercial building was built between the 1950s and 1980s and the electrical panel has not been replaced, chances are that you have one of these and you will need a panel replacement with proper ACFI installation right away.

You can trust the experienced team at Tapps Electric to ensure your commercial electrical system is operating safely and at peak efficiency. No matter what type of repair, replacement or installation is needed for your commercial building, warehouse, or industrial space, our commercial electricians are trained and equipped to handle it. Call us today to get your project started, so you can ensure your building stays safe all year long. 

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