Would you ever consider driving a vehicle without functional brakes? Probably not. Driving such a vehicle is simply too dangerous and yet the majority of Americans do something every day that is potentially more dangerous than driving a car with no brakes. We live with home electrical service that is not nearly as safe as it should be. As a result, thousands are killed or seriously injured by electrical malfunction, electrocution and electrical fires every year. What's even more alarming is that most homeowners are unaware of this sobering fact or assume making their home's electrical service safer is unaffordable. Thankfully a recent breakthrough in residential electrical service technology is making it easier and more affordable than ever for homeowners to protect their families from electrocution, electrical fires and other deadly electrical safety hazards.
The Problem with Your Home's Electrical Service
The majority of homes in the U.S. today are approximately 40 years old and unless they have had their electrical service updated to the latest National Electric Code (NEC), they contain either fuses or traditional circuit breakers in their electrical panels. While fuses and circuit breakers look and function differently, they both serve the same purpose. They interrupt the flow of electricity to a circuit in your home if they sense an overload or electrical short.
For decades fuses and circuit breakers have been the main electrical safety component of most home electrical services. The problem with traditional fuses and circuit breakers that most people are unaware of is that they don't provide protection from some of the most common and most deadly of residential electrical hazards, electrical fires and electrocution.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that in 2011 that nearly 2000 people were killed or injured in home electrical fires alone. This doesn't include the countless others killed or seriously injured as a result of accidental electrocution. What's worse is that most homeowners are unaware that almost all of these deaths and injuries can now be prevented by an inexpensive and revolutionary new type of circuit breaker, known as the AFCI/GFCI or Dual Function circuit breaker.
What are Arc Faults and Ground Faults and why are they so dangerous?
The acronym AFCI stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter and this device is designed to cut the flow of electricity when it senses an arc fault. If you have ever plugged in an extension cord or flipped a light switch and heard a loud popping sound, then you have experienced an arc fault. The sound that you hear is actually electricity jumping from one electrical contact in the plug or switch to another. Though this might seem harmless, an arc fault causes an excessive amount of heat in your home's wiring which, over time, can actually melt the wiring's insulation leaving the wire exposed. This can lead to an electrical fire. Since the majority of your home's wiring is hidden behind its walls, it's almost impossible to know if your home is at risk.
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Much like an AFCI, a GFCI is designed to cut the flow of electricity to a circuit; however a GFCI is triggered not by an electrical arc, but rather a ground fault. This is when electricity travels outside of its intended path as it tries to find the shortest path to ground. An example of this is when a person with a live electrical wire touches the ground or something resting on the ground that can conduct electricity. The electrical current will travel through the person's body as it seeks the shortest path to ground, electrocuting them in the process. It only takes 1/10 of an amp to kill a human being. To give you an idea of just how little power that is, the average 60 watt household light bulb draws 5 times the power needed to kill a person.
Why are these dual function AFCI/GFCI circuit breakers so important?
Prior to the development to the AFCI/GFCI circuit breaker if the NEC called for a specific area in the home to be AFCI and GFCI protected, typically laundry rooms and kitchens, to have both AFCI protection and GFCI protection electricians had to use a GFCI outlet and an AFCI circuit breaker to meet this requirement. The problem was that this was rather inefficient and troublesome, especially when the circuit was tripped because the homeowner had to check both the outlet and the circuit breaker to see which had tripped and then reset it. Not only does the dual function AFCI/GFCI circuit breaker eliminate this problem, it also provides better protection and can be installed on every circuit in your home quickly and easily for ultimate protection. Residential Electrician