Electrical Fires & Arc Faults
Electrical fires are one of the leading causes of home fires. And while things like faulty wiring, overheating appliances, misuse of extension cords and heating units, and even faulty light fixtures are most often the cause, it's important to note that the underlying cause is most often arc fault conditions. The National Fire Protection Agency and the National Association of State Fire Marshals, estimate that 50 to 75 percent of all electrical home fires in the United States are caused by arc fault conditions. An arc fault is a high power discharge of electricity between two or more conductors. This discharge creates heat, which can break down the insulation covering wires and trigger and electrical fire.
So while it's important to take precautions like not overloading electrical outlets, inspecting appliance cords for damage, keeping combustible materials away from heat sources, and watching for signs of faulty wiring like switches that crackle or lights that dim, it's also a good idea to install arc fault circuit interrupters where appropriate. While conventional circuit breakers respond to short circuits and overloads, arc fault circuit interrupters, detect an electrical arc and break the circuit if one is detected. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters are selective. Normal arcs do not cue them to trip. Their circuitry continuously monitors the electrical current and discriminates between normal and unwanted arcing conditions.