What the heck is an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI)?

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI)

The average home has several built-in safety features many of us often overlook.  Increasing innovation in safety technology is often the driving factor for these features to be installed in new homes.  But how does the new safety technology get installed in older homes?

Updating building codes and State/local ordinances is the method used to ensure new life saving technologies is installed in older homes.  The average home exchanges ownership about every 8 years, and is remodeled every 15 years.  By requiring safety upgrades when the home is purchased or remodeled ensures the housing stock in a given community is reasonably up to date with systems which may had not been available when the home was constructed.

Arc fault circuit interrupters are an electrical safety feature which became commercially available in 1997, after the Underwriters Laboratory, National Electrical Manufactures Association and the Consumers Product Safety Commission coordinated efforts and specifications to develop a device to prevent electrical fires in buildings caused by electrical arcs.  They are typically identifiable as a breaker(s) in your service panel with a colored test button.

Initially, AFCI protection has been required since 2002 for the wall outlet in the bedrooms.  Here in California, they are now required in new construction at all wall outlets in family, dining, and living rooms, parlors, dens, bedrooms, closets,  sunrooms, recreation rooms, hallways, or similar rooms.

Your home inspector should, at a minimum, comment on the presence or lack-there-of, of AFCIs in any home being inspected and alert you to areas in which they are missing or not working correctly.  Please be aware, if an older home has not been modified since its original construction, there is no requirement to add additional AFCI’s, other than common sense.  Only when the home is being remodeled and a permit is issued is when upgrades to AFCI’s maybe required.  Additionally, keep in mind that if you desire to upgrade your home, many older electrical distribution panels will not support AFCI breakers requiring a new panel to be installed.

North American Home Services has been providing home inspection services to the greater Sacramento region for over 10 years.  We have completed thousands of inspections on residential and commercial buildings.  Our home inspectors are highly regarded and qualified.  Each is certified through the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors and remains current on all aspects related to providing the best home inspection services.


California Building Code Title 24, Part 3


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