Nuisance Tripping Arc Fault Breaker Findings
16th March 2021 | Industry Trends
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) Findings:
1. All manufactures are experiencing nuisance tripping with their Arc Faults to some degree.
2. This not a “defective” breaker issue. Our Supplier Partner, Siemens, has tested hundreds of breakers returned from the field that have been returned as “defective”; not one breaker has been identified as “defective”.
3. Testing has shown that Arc Fault Breaker tripping is due to the following:
- An actual arc which indicates the breaker is doing its job
- Overcurrent (the appliances drawing more amps than allowed)
- Electronic Noise caused by the loads on the circuits
- It is probable that certain appliances create wave forms similar to arcing as part of normal operation. This causes nuisance tripping.
- It is possible other devices in the home are creating strong enough wave forms, in the panel, that can be picked up by the breaker. These can be perceived as an arc and cause nuisance tripping.
AFCI Breakers vs Standard Breakers
AFCI vs Standard Circuit Breaker: Your new home may differ from your previous home, in that your new home has arc fault breakers. Arc Faults breakers are required in homes built after 2015. Arc Fault breakers will react differently and may cause tripping where they had not caused tripping in your previous home. This new incompatibility is due to the differences in the breakers functionality and the protection they provide.
- Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits, so they do not protect against arcing conditions.
- An Arc Fault Circuit Breaker (AFCI) is a circuit breaker that breaks the circuit when it detects electronic arc signals, the signals are a signature of loose connections or damaged wires in a home. Loose connections, which can develop over time, or damaged wires or cords can sometimes become hot enough to ignite house fires. AFCIs are devices designed to protect against fires caused by arcing faults in the home electrical wiring. The AFCI circuitry continuously monitors the current to detect unwanted arcing conditions. Once detected, the AFCI opens its internal contacts, thus de-energizing the circuit and reducing the potential for a fire to occur.
- Beware that the circuit is not overloaded with an excessive amount of electronics (load or current). The breaker is only able to support a specified amount of wattage, and if exceeded, the breaker will trip.
- All electronics purchased should be CSA listed, or equivalent, and comply with CSA standard C22.2 No. 270, or they may cause unnecessary tripping.
- Make sure furniture is not on or pushing against electrical wires.
- If any blackened plugs, very damaged wires, or noisy circuit breakers are discovered, an electrical problem has occurred and the homeowner should call an electrician.
- Check that all connections between a light socket and a light bulb base are tight including garage door openers. An arc can occur in a loose connection, which will cause the AFCI breaker to trip.
Electrical Contractors Best Practices:
- Ensure wires are secure on receptacles, recommended that wires are secured with the screw, friction fit backstabbing is not recommended.
- 20amp arc faults on Microwave circuits. This reduces nuisance tripping due to microwave overcurrent.
- Separate HRV and Hot water tanks onto separate circuits.
- Separate lighting and switches onto non-arc fault circuits.
- Route wires in strategic areas so homeowners and other trades are less likely to pierce through a wire.
- If possible, perform work after the other trades, i.e. HVAC and plumbing, have completed.
- Ensure properly maintained tools are used, i.e. sharp blades.
Suggested Ways to Handle Recurring Nuisance Tripping:
1. A Dual Function breaker has been proven to hold on circuits where Arc Fault breaker nuisance tripping is occurring
- CAUTION – we do not recommend using the Dual Function breaker on all circuits. It has proven to be an effective alternative on circuits where the current appliances are not compatible with Arc Fault technology and are causing is nuisance tripping.
3. Visit Electro Federation Canada for more information about Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)
Statement regarding Siemens AFCI Breakers:
"Siemens is committed to providing an AFCI breaker that meets the required codes and customer expectations and is continually updating and improving our product. As technology changes and new appliances and equipment are introduced, some appliances may not be compatible with ArcFault technology."
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