|$ AFCI breaker: $25-$90 (parts only)
|$ $ Parts+Installation: $160-$300
AFCI stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter, and an AFCI breaker is an overcurrent protective device that is capable of cutting the electric power when it detects an “arc fault.”
An arc fault is an arcing condition that can create enough heat to potentially produce an electrical fire.
Standard power breakers are incapable of detecting arc faults and consequently, they are unable of protecting the power circuit from suffering an electrical fire.
Table of Contents
How Does An AFCI Breaker Work?
An AFCI breaker works by detecting and monitoring the current circuit for any type of arcing condition or possible electric arcs, using advanced electronic technology.
Some home equipment like the drier machine can naturally create an arc, which is considered a normal arcing condition that will not produce an electrical fire.
When the AFCI monitors the current, it can sense which arcs are normal and which arcs may potentially produce an electrical fire, and in the case it senses the latest, the AFCI breaker will shut down the current instantaneously to prevent any possible electrical fire to occur.
What’s An Electric Arc?
According to Leviton.com, an arc-fault is an unintentional arcing condition in a circuit, which can create high-intensity heating at one point, resulting in burning particles that can exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and may over time ignite the surrounding material and start an electrical fire.
Arcing faults often occur in damaged or deteriorated wires and cords; these situations can occur when:
- The wire insulation is punctured with nails, screws or staples inadvertently driven into them when hanging a picture or stapling cable.
- There are switches or outlets poorly installed.
- The cords are accidentally caught indoors or under furniture.
- Natural aging and poor maintenance of the cables.
- The exposure of the cables to the wild and are damaged by heat, humidity, or sun rays.
What Types Of AFCI Breakers Exist?
According to Inspectapedia.com, the UL describe seven types of AFCI breakers in January 2002:
- Branch Feeder AFCIs– works on an individual electrical branch circuit.
- Outlet circuit AFCIs– installs in the circuit box and it protects wiring connected “downstream” electrically from the device.
- Combination AFCIs– protects power cords plugged into receptacles protected by the AFCI.
- Outlet Branch Circuit AFCIs– installs as the first outlet in a string of electrical receptacles on a single circuit and it protects the downstream receptacles.
- Portable AFCIs –plugs into a conventional electrical receptacle and provide extra outlets.
- Cord-AFCIs– incorporates into the permanent power cord of a device or appliance.
- Leakage Current Detection and Interruption LDCIs– built into a device or appliance and detect current leakage from the device’s electrical cord.
Standard Breakers Should Be Replaced With AFCI Breakers?
According to the National Electric Code, it is highly recommended to replace standard breakers with AFCI breakers, especially in homes built before 2002, which are the most at risk of suffering from electrical fires if an arc fault happens.
Conventional or standard circuit breakers are capable of responding to overloads and short circuits, but they are in no capacity of responding to an arc fault, making them useless when it comes to protecting your house from an electrical fire caused by arc faults.
What Affects The Price Of An AFCI Breaker?
The final costs for an AFCI breaker will depend on some factors like the type of breaker you choose, the standard prices on your region, the power capacity, and if it includes the installation or not.
An AFCI breaker typically costs between $25 to $90 without professional installation and depending on the aforementioned modifying factors.
Installing an AFCI breaker or replacing an old breaker for a new one can cost from $160 to $300; this price doesn’t include any complications that can arise like an outdated fuse box that needs to be replaced, which will increase the price.
In total, buying and professional installing an AFCI breaker can cost from $200 to $400 or more depending on any extra work professionals need to do to install the AFCI breaker.
You can get an AFCI breaker at national department stores like Home Depot and Lowes, or in online retailers like Amazon and Westside Wholesale
The following price comparison shows the difference between different stores that sell AFCI breakers:
|Leviton and Eaton
|$39.20 – $120
|Eaton and Siemens
|$36.96 – $120.86
|Murrays and Siemens
|$33.95 – $94.79
|Square D and Siemens
|$28.99 – $97.98
Things to consider
- First, take into consideration the year of your house and the breakers you have at home.
- It’s a good idea to test your electrical circuit and how much your electrical consumption is monthly.
- Make a research about the different types of AFCI breakers that exist. There even exist specialized AFCI outlets (although they can only take charge of that outlet and not the entire circuit as an AFCI breaker).
- Be aware that national department stores may offer professional installation along with the AFCI breaker purchase, or you can ask for the service. But, if you buy the breaker online you will have to look separately for a professional to install the AFCI breaker.
- If the professional installation is not included in the final price, buyers with DIY experience may want to install the AFCI breaker themselves. This video made by This Old House shows how to install an AFCI breaker.