As a top Plano electrician, I know better than anyone how powerful and useful electricity is. It also makes me more aware of what most people tend to ignore or forget: electricity is dangerous. Electricians are required by law to carry insurance, and for good reasons. Electric current is capable of starting fires and destroying your property and equipment in a matter of moments. The proper safety precautions really can save lives, and there‘s always something we can do to improve home safety.
One of the most important precautions is located in your electrical panel: the circuit breaker. It is designed to keep you from using more electricity than the wiring or receptacle can handle at one time, what we refer to as overcurrent protection. This protects your wiring from taking on too much current, which can cause the coating around your wiring to melt, the leading cause of electrical fires. Circuit breakers serve another purpose as well; not only to protect from surges coming from outside your home, but from potential hazards within it as well. Current flowing through a failed piece of equipment or appliance can cause sparks, which have the potential to start fires or damage other electrical devices. A properly functioning circuit breaker can shut off the power to this device. It’s very important, however, that you use a circuit breaker of the proper size for the circuit to ensure that your wiring is properly protected.
Circuit breakers come in specialty varieties as well; the most important are ground fault circuit breakers (GFCI), for wet locations, and arc fault circuit breakers (AFCI). AFCI’s, in particular, can help prevent some of the most common dangerous situations in your home.
I’ve dealt with plenty of cases where electrical fires have started because people ran an extension cord under the carpet, so that they can power the lamp in the center of the room. Over time, people walking over the cord stretches out the wiring, making it so thin that the current overloads the thinly stretched wire, creating an arc fault; the electricity “jumps” the wire, completing the circuit in a way the cord can’t handle and generating heat that starts a fire. Arc fault circuit breakers prevent this by shutting the circuit down when the arc fault occurs.
So what do you need to know about arc fault circuit breakers? To start with, by code AFCI’s should be installed on any circuit that isn’t protected by a GFCI or directly wired into an appliance. It’s in your best interest to have your safety devices routinely inspected to maintain their optimum performance and capabilities; in particular, your circuit breakers should be inspected at least once a year. The inspection process is quick and relatively inexpensive, and something that simple really can save the lives of you and your family.
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