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Joined: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,335
Merry Christmas everyone. I was just looking for something unrelated and came a across an ad for circuit tester for AFCI breakers. Has anyone had a chance to play with one of these yet?

"Live Awesome!" - Kevin Carosa
Joined: Nov 2006
Posts: 23
I havent, after reading the instructions I do not see where it will help find a fault if it is inside a wall.

Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 939
I have see few diffrent manufacter verison about the AFCI tester however one thing it bulked me is the cost and how well they will perform as it should designed.

Normally I am pretty much old school person if you supect issue with affected circuit I will just start at basic first like check the switch et receptales once you pass that part then get out the megger tester device and check to see if that pass or not.

{ In France it is mantory we have to run megger test every circuit before it will be engerized }


Pas de problme,il marche n'est-ce pas?"(No problem, it works doesn't it?)

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,350
Likes: 7
I don't know if this is fact, but I was told that AFCI testers are proprietary to a specific brand,

Also, the mfg instructions say to use the 'test' button.

We here in NJ have AFCI now (10/06/2009). Previous jobs that had AFCI by plans/specs brought up the 'test' question, and the answer I received was 'use the mfg directions', which allude to the test button.

Any clues?

Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,390
Likes: 1
Cat Servant
John, I don't blame you for being confused. Discussions about testing AFCI's tend to resemble mideaval theologians debating how many angels can dance on a pinhead.

Let me back things up a bit, and maybe everyone will be able to follow:

When the AFCI technology was introduced, the inventors asserted that there was something that they could see in a chaotic waveform that identified an arc, made an arc distinguishible from other transients. I, personally, could not see whatever it was that they saw, but it appears that many people thought they could see the evidence.

The AFCI technology was made public, and various manufacturers developed their own products, using what they thought the distinguishing waveform was. Naturally, since the spicific waveform has never been defined, it's very possible that every manufacturer uses a slightly different version.

As the various waveforms are considered 'proprietary' information, there's really no legitimate way for (as an example) Ideal to make a tester using the "Square D" waveform. Likewise, Square D and Cutler-Hammer reps are free to assert that each has the better waveform, that their products are better.

Not even UL has a 'standard' waveform for their testing; they rely upon the test button to create the appropriate waveforn to test the device. UL may -and if my experience is still relevant, certainly does- create certain specific arcs, and expect the AFCI's to detect those under test conditions. If they do, I have no specific information as to the exact test conditions.

So, when Ideal, or anyone else, comes out with a tool that 'tests' an AFCI, we have no way of telling if the test uses the same arc as is used in the AFCI factory.

Because of this doubt concerning the arc, UL calles the various test equipment 'indicators,' rather than testers. As far as UL is concerned, the only 'real' test is the one you do using the test button on the device.

The situation is completely different with GFCI's. For those, testers ARE available, and perfectly legitimate. After all, we all know what a 5mA ground fault is, and it's fairly simple to create one if a ground wire is present.

I do wish that the situation were different. As it stands, an unscrupulous manufacturer can simply make the 'test' button an 'off' switch, and none would be the wiser. Indeed, this has already happened with counterfeit GFCI's.

Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 794
Likes: 2
Originally Posted by renosteinke

So, when Ideal, or anyone else, comes out with a tool that 'tests' an AFCI, we have no way of telling if the test uses the same arc as is used in the AFCI factory.

Because of this doubt concerning the arc, UL calles the various test equipment 'indicators,' rather than testers. As far as UL is concerned, the only 'real' test is the one you do using the test button on the device.

As for some of the theory and example waveforms, I looked up one of the patents (# 5,682,101) associated with AFCI's, at
The drawings show some example waveforms, and there's some description of how it tells apart non-hazardous arcing (like in an old electric drill or vacuum cleaner, and a hazardous arcing. In theory, one could create a tester that produces a waveform that looks something like the hazardous condition (you shouldn't have to exactly duplicate the factory waveform, as real world faults won't look exactly like the factor waveform either).

Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 9,827
Likes: 22
I bet this thing does not look at any particular arc wave form. It just had a 60hz notch filter and indicates everything else it sees across some CTs. The ground fault current is the difference between neutral and hot, just like normal and AF is any current that isn't 60hz.
That may not be it at all but that is the guess I want in the office pool. wink

Greg Fretwell
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 853
It's all BS. Drop a hammer on the lamp cord,push the bed frame into the outlet...Etc.
Install a faulty/loose rec and plug the lamp into it several times.
I'm not sold.Just BS.

Same with the TR's etc.

I'm a born skeptic.If installed properly no need for them.
If not that's why we have insurance and a conscience.

Last edited by leland; 12/28/09 11:11 PM.
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,392
well we are a naturally inquisitive profession aren't we?

we regularly discuss and debate and generally pick apart any widget, and parse out new code(s) to the extent of puncuation

for instance, if i posed the argument that a sprig of garlic left in the bottom of panels prevents fires, i'd be held to it here, or in any other forum of my peers, and be summarily dismissed for lack of validating specifics

however, the same does not hold true for manufacturers, who through the beauty of social engineering substitue volume for validation

in fact, anyone who even mentions the man behind the curtain and/or insinuates he might be shill is marginalized as a bad egg

as such, the afci triade trudges on. I've made my stance clear for the deacade i've been using them, and have conceeded to the fact that enough of you simply need to be installing enough garlic spigs for clarity and transparency to rule the day


Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 7,350
Likes: 7
Thank you for your insight, and the rest of you guys for your input, be it good or bad. Soon to be upon us here....


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