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Arc fault circuit breaker during instsallation (C) Daniel FriedmanArc Fault Interrupter AFCI Nuisance Tripping
Definition of nuisance AFCI Tripping or Crosstalk Tripping & Why It's Dangerous

  • AFCIs ARC FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTERS - CONTENTS: Electrical Arc Fault AFCI Advice for Homeowners & Home Inspectors. What is an AFCI or arc fault circuit interrupter? Fire Problem addressed by AFCIs. Types of AFCIs & How AFCIs Work. Where to Use AFCIs & Code requirements for AFCIs. Nuisance Tripping AFCIs. How to Install AFCIs & How to Test AFCIs. AFCIs vs. GFCIs, what's the difference between an arc fault circuit interrupt or and a ground fault circuit interrupt or? AFCI Recall in 2004 & Square-D & Federal Pioneer AFCI Notice. US CPSC Tips for installing & using AFCI's for arc fault protection to reduce fire risk in homes
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about buying, wiring, installing, & using AFCIs and the performance and about possible nuisance tripping of arc fault circuit interrupters
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Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) Nuisance Tripping:

Nuisance tripping of an electrical safety device such as an AFCI refers to annoying and un-necessary shut-downs of an elecrical circuit, device, or appliance that was unnecessary and/or did not represent a condition for which the device was designed and intended to operate. Nuisance tripping of AFCIs may be a more-serious problem than it first appears, as annoying and pereceived-incorrect or unnecessary operation of any safety device may lead a consumer or building occupant or even a licensed electrician to subvert or even remove the device, thus leaving real safety hazards un-protected.

This article series about AFCIs combines electrical code information, studies & reports of AFCI performance, field experience with AFCIs, and information from the U.S. CPSC on AFCIs with additional details and commentary answers most home owner and home inspector questions about installing, testing, and inspecting AFCIs - arc fault protectors in homes.



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Electrical Arc Fault AFCI Nuisance Tipping or Crosstalk Problems

AFCI nuisance tripping (C) Daniel FriedmanThis material was originally prepared by DF for the American Society of Home Inspectors New England Chapter,( ASHI -NE) Educational Seminar, Sept 22-23, 2008. Portions of this text are quoted from the Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) FACT SHEET provided by the US CPSC .

[Click to enlarge any image]

Coffee Maker Demonstrates Early warning about nuisance tripping of AFCI circuit breakers and consumer objections to these devices

AFCIs devices are tested under the UL 1436 standard, and are required to have included in the instructions the following clause (or equivalent):

"CAUTION: AFCIs recognize characteristics unique to arcing, and AFCI indicators produce characteristics that mimic some forms of arcing.

Because of this the indicator may give a false indication that the AFCI is not functioning properly. If this occurs, recheck the operation of the AFCI using the test and reset buttons. The AFCI button test function will demonstrate proper operation."

Watch out: we have heard several reports of excessive "nuisance" tripping of arc fault circuit interrupters, and our own limited testing has confirmed this problem in our laboratory where we installed the coffee maker shown at left.

On a newly-wired AFCI electrical circuit with tight, well-made connections and powering a string of electrical receptacles, we connected a single device: a Keurig™ coffee maker to the circuit (photo at left). The circuit also supports a wall mounted light that uses florescent bulbs. No other devices were connected to the circuit.

The coffee maker was set to turn itself off automatically after one hour of idle time. Yet consistently over 30 days of testing, every day we observed that the 15-A Square D AFCI for this circuit tripped off at least once.

We suspect that electrical properties of the coffee maker may have been the source of noise on the circuit that was causing the AFCI to switch off. Replacing the AFCI with a conventional 15-A Square D circuit breaker completely eliminated the nuisance tripping on this circuit.

Three other AFCIs were installed in the same electrical panel, but only one was connected to an electrical circuit in active use. On that circuit, also supporting a string of electrical receptacles powering lighting and computer equipment during the same 30-day test period, no nuisance trips of the circuit were observed.

Watch out: as with GFCI's discussed at MULTI-WIRE CIRCUITS, installing AFCIs on multi-wire branch circuits using a shared neutral requires installation of a common trip tie, and nevertheless the circuit and this circuit protection device may be subject to further nuisance trips or unexpected behaviors.

Watch out: An installing electrician informed us that many of his customers were complaining about nuisance tripping and that he was asked by those clients to remove the AFCI devices and to replace them with conventional circuit breakers. This raises an issue about national and local electrical code compliance and about building electrical and fire safety - removing a code-required safety device.

Further testing of the nuisance-tripping AFCIs as well as three others installed in the same electrical panel and samples of non AFCI breakers of the same age, rating, and brand is underway and will be reported here.

Also see APPLIANCE DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR

Nuisance tripping refers to a circuit breaker or an AFCI that trips off, turning off electrical power when there was no apparent reason to do so. Some sources assert that what appears to be "nuisance tripping" of AFCI's actually occurs due to wiring practices of some electricians more than for any other reason. These include

The experts also use the term "crosstalk" in discussing nuisance tripping on AFCI circuits. Our first citation (Engel 2012) is discussed in more detail in the article above where readers will also find a link to the full-text of the article. The other citations are examples of research papers discussing crosstalk and nuisance tripping in AFCI breakers.

How to Report an AFCI or other Electrical or Product Failures or Incidents to the U.S. CPSC

Please use the CPSC form found at https://www.saferproducts.gov/CPSRMSPublic/Incidents/ReportIncident.aspx

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Article Series Contents

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Continue reading at HOW TO INSTALL & TEST AFCIs or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see AFCIs ARC FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTERS - home

Or see AFCI GFCI TESTING & SAFETY

Or see GFCI PROTECTION, GFCI CODES

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