Protecting Your Home From Fires: Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

March 17, 2021

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), home fires are more deadly and costly than ever. While the number of total fires and fire injuries are decreasing, property damage and fire deaths are on the rise. An arc fault is a dangerous electrical problem caused by damaged, overheated, or stressed electrical wiring or devices. Arc faults can occur when older wires become frayed or cracked, when a nail or screw damages a wire behind a wall, or when outlets or circuits are overburdened.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports electrical malfunctions or failures accounted for 13% of home structure fires from 2012-2016, and were the second leading cause of United States home fires.

Fires involving electrical malfunctions or failures accounted for the highest share of direct property damage and civilian deaths.

Each year in the United States, arc-faults caused by worn and inadequate wiring, overburdened circuits, outdated technology, and aging electrical systems, start more than 35,000 home fires causing over 1,130 injuries, 500 deaths, and $1.4 billion in property damage.

The solution to this problem is a combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI). Available as circuit breakers and receptacles, AFCIs protect against electrical fires from malfunctions. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that AFCIs could prevent more than 50% of the electrical fires that occur every year.

Common causes of Arc-Faults:

  • Damaged electrical wiring
  • Wiring damaged by screws or nails
  • Wiring damaged by doors
  • Damaged electrical insulation
  • Overheated cords under carpets or rugs
  • Damaged or loose connections
  • Cords and plugs damaged by furniture

Arc-Fault Protection is required in:

  • Bedrooms
  • Closets
  • Kitchens
  • Laundry areas
  • Living rooms
  • Family rooms
  • Rec rooms
  • Parlors, libraries, or dens

Types of Arc-Fault Protection

  • A listed combination-type Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCIs) circuit breaker
  • A listed outlet branch-circuit-type AFCI receptacle
  • A listed outlet branch-circuit-type AFCI receptacle in combination with a listed branch-circuit overcurrent device

AFCI breakers and receptacles protect all downstream wiring and appliances from arc-faults. ESFI suggests that receptacles should be installed at the first outlet box of a circuit.

Safety advocates maintain that the added cost for AFCI protection is worth the benefits the technology provides to the homeowner. Depending on the size of a given home, the cost impact for installing additional AFCI protection in a home could range from $150 – $350.

For more information on AFCIs and home electrical safety, visit: