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Solve an AFCI tripping problem
If you have a problem with an AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) shutting off in you main electrical panel, you’re not alone. Arc fault circuit interrupters
are prone to “nuisance tripping,”
which is probably what you’re experiencing.
AFCIs are designed to sense an arc,
which is an electrical “leak” caused when a
hot wire touches a neutral or ground but
doesn’t trigger the circuit breaker. Although
current-sensing circuitry enables AFCIs to
detect arcing conditions, unintended trickles
of current may also cause the breaker
to shut off (AFCIs are very sensitive!).
To solve the nuisance tripping problem,
start with things you can do yourself.
Unplug or turn off surge protectors
plugged into bedroom outlets, fluorescent
lights with electronic ballasts, and
lighting controls with LED displays that
are on the AFCI circuit. They sometimes
allow current “leakage” that can trip the
AFCI. Damage or deterioration to wires
or cords (which can happen when furniture
is pushed against plugs in an outlet)
also causes arcing faults and will trip the
circuit. If you identify one of these
sources, you’ll have to replace the
If unplugging electrical and electronic
devices doesn’t solve the problem, hire
an electrician to install a new AFCI
breaker in the electrical panel. There’s no
reliable method for testing AFCIs (the
test button isn’t always accurate). If the
nuisance tripping stops, then the old one
was probably defective.
If the breaker still trips, the electrician
then needs to track down the cause by
going into each switch, receptacle and
light box to look for a wiring problem.
Wires are often folded (jammed) into
boxes quickly, and if the wrong two wires
make contact, they can trip an AFCI.
The National Electrical Code required
AFCIs for receptacle outlets in bedrooms
beginning Jan. 1, 2002 (local jurisdictions
may have additional requirements).
Don’t confuse AFCIs with
ground fault circuit interrupters
(GFCIs), which are designed to protect
against shocks (not arcs).