Electrical Fires and ArcFault Circuit Interrupter Protection

Protective devices such as circuit breakers (and fuses before them) have long been used in nearly all homes to reduce the risk of electric fires. These devices protect against excessive current, which can cause overheating and damage to the electrical circuit itself, potentially resulting in fire or explosion. Circuit breakers and fuses are designed to interrupt the current flow when it exceeds the limit the circuit was designed for. However, they do not address another common cause of electric circuit fires—those caused by arcing or leakage of electrical currents (i.e., exposure of electrical currents to air) in a circuit that is energized. It is estimated that at least 65% of the almost 50,000 annual home fires result from these arc faults (Hall, 2013) that can reach temperatures of several thousand degrees Celsius and present a serious fire hazard.