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Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 1,457
I have just learned that the Massachusetts amendment requiring arc fault breakers on panel changes or service upgrades will be rescinded. Seems there have been problems with old wiring and listing inconsistencies that have yet to be ironed out.

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,392
listing inconsistencies


Here is quite the interesting bater, it would seem there are those pointing out the king's scanty wardrobe.....
[Linked Image]

[This message has been edited by sparky (edited 04-22-2002).]

Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,056
Do all AFCIs contain GFCI protection, or do they only respond to ground faults that would normally trip a standard CB?

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 160
It is my understanding that the Arc Fault Circiut Breakers have a micro-processor in them that looks at or samples the hot wire current waveform and will trip the breaker if the waveforn shows signs or patterns of arc faulting,either series or parallel arcs.
Ground fault breakers look at the hot wire current and the neutral current makes a comparison and trips the breaker if they are not within 5ma of one another.


Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 35
I posted this on another thread, but it is applicable here as well...

In addition to the Arc Fault sensing circuitry, all 4 manufacturers of AFCI devices have ground fault protection in their design. This is not 5mA personnel protection, but equipment level 30mA protection. By adding ground fault protection, we are able to greatly expand the protection that these devices provide.

In the AFCI, we look for short duration sporadic high-energy spikes of current. I've gone into detail in some previous posts if you are interested in reading how we analyze the current waveform. High-energy parallel arcs (arcs between conductors at different potentials such as line and neutral) conduct an amount of current determined by the available short circuit at the fault and the magnitude of the arc voltage. UL has determined that the minimum available short current at a residential receptacle outlet to be 75-amperes RMS or about 100-amperes peak. When an arcing condition develops instead of a "short circuit" the arcing current can be as low as 50-amperes peak, much lower than the peak inrush current of normal household appliances. The sporadic and small peak arcing current result in an RMS current that can be less than the handle rating of the breaker or fuse and the small peak current is below the magnetic trip level of a circuit breaker. We demonstrate parallel arcs by cutting across an energized SPT (lamp) cord. The result is a dramatic spark and expulsion of molten copper. If done in the presence of a combustible material, the result is ignition of the material and is clearly an unsafe condition.

It should be noted here that a "series arc", defined as current that would jump from a break in only one wire, would only carry the amount of current that the load on that circuit is pulling. This is a normal, safe arcing condition that occurs whenever a switch turns an electrical load such as a light off or on. I’ve had people in the industry tell me that they have "tested" AFCI's by wiring them up, and taking one of the wires and cutting it, and making and breaking that wire repeatedly, noticed an arc, and stated that the breaker did not trip. By making and breaking one wire, all that these folks have done is created a switch in the circuit similar to a light switch. If you were to measure the current and voltage of making and breaking the wire, and do the same with teasing a light switch, they would look the same. Clearly, we do not want circuit breakers to react to the operation of light switches. The amount of current that jumps across this opening is equal to the amount of current drawn by the load. At 120 volts, and 300 watts of load, the amount of current is 2.5 amps, which is not enough to cause a fire. If you want to test this, surround the broken wire with cotton, and do the test...nothing will happen.

Ok, so parallel arcs are dangerous and series arcs are not...but, high resistance series FAULTS are another matter. If you want to create one of these, simply plug a 1500 watt space heater in to a receptacle, loosen the line or neutral terminal at the receptacle and carefully jiggle the wire creating sparks. After five or ten minutes a glow will develop at the copper wire-to-receptacle screw interface then let of the wire. The repeated sparking causes a build-up of copper oxide, which is a semiconductor. Once formed this connection unfortunately is mechanically stable and will remain even if the space heater is turned off. You have now created the hazardous "glowing contact". Due to the characteristics of this connection the result is that all of the current will flow through this very fine strand of material. The resulting high resistance produces a voltage drop of about 2-volts which when multiplied by the current results in a connection power dissipation of over 20-watts causing the wire to glow like a toaster.

The resulting heat generated by this glowing contact will cause melting of the wire insulation, and the plastic material of the receptacle device. Since there is not an increase in current, the standard thermal magnetic device will not recognize this unsafe condition. However, by protecting this circuit with an AFCI with equipment ground fault protection, we can respond by either sensing ground current caused by the melting and shifting of components within the device, or by sensing a parallel arc when one of the damaged conductors comes in contact with another. If you try this with an AFCI device, you will find that it will respond and de-energize the circuit. If you try it with a standard thermal magnetic circuit breaker or fuse, it would be advisable to have a fire extinguisher handy. The bottom line is that AFCI responds to connection issues like loose terminals or loose wire nuts, loose aluminum wire connections, where standard thermal-magnetic breakers or fuses do not. This is next evolution of circuit protection.

Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,148
In the thread on this subject a few months ago, you told us that glowing connections were not possible and therefore were not a fire hazard. Why the change in position?

Joined: Dec 2001
Posts: 35
Don, you are mistaken. I went back to the thread, and reread what I had written back in December. I never said that glowing connections were not possible. Actually, I said the opposite.

"First, our AFCI breakers are not only UL1699, but they are also UL 1053 for equipment ground fault protection, and will prevent the glowing contact phenomena."

For the entire thread, click here:

It is important to understand that a glowing contact is not an arc, but a high resistance fault that causes heating of the terminal and the conductor. We have created glowing contacts in the lab, and the AFCI responds to these when the heat causes either a ground fault, or a parallel arc. As I said, if you want to see how a standard breaker reacts compared to an AFCI, create a glowing contact as outlined, and sit back and observe. We are producing an educational video that will show all of this. When it is done, I'll let you know how you can get one.

Joined: Nov 2001
Posts: 280
To Everyone
Great question and great answers. I see by some of the posts there are some skeptics . As Bill said VT has to use them even on upgrades, not so in Ohio, of course we are not allowed to bond to the gas-line yet either.
I have used two of these afci's so far and have no complaints. We on the other hand are required only to install afci's if it is new construction, revamps/burn jobs they are not required, so go figure.
But the answers are awesome, learn somthing new every day here.

Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 2,148
I have reviewed the old thread and agree that you didn't say what I said you said. I apologize.

The AFCI supporters are pushing them for protection in older systems. How can they protect from a glowing fault on a knob and tube system? There is no EGC for a ground fault and the wires are too far apart to become a parallel arcing fault.


[This message has been edited by resqcapt19 (edited 05-02-2002).]

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 2,527
Brendan and others--Interesting report/discussion. In roughly 1980 the IAEI magazine carried a report on 'glowing electrical connections.' I believe that the article contained a description of how they could be staged [at receptacle terminals] without a lot of effort. At that time I think the gist of the article was just to be aware of the problem and the conditions where it might occur.

Now, is it conceivable that a receptacle-version AFCI may someday be available? Receptacle-type GFCIs were first {1973?} pooh-poohed as dangerous by circuit-breaker manufacturers, but look at their popularity today.

Maybe in the near future there will be a ‘smart’ AFCI with a fiber-optic connection so that we can download time-stamped waveform data at the time of a trip, too.

For extra points: Does anyone remember once seeing UL's Wally Wedekin with his demo of GFCIs at IAEI chapter meetings? Aagh! I'm dating myself, again.

[This message has been edited by Bjarney (edited 05-03-2002).]

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