What’s Behind Your Wall?

When we think of electrical safety in the home we typically focus on electrical hazards we can see. A few that come to mind are damaged electrical cords, outlets that are broken, old or give off heat or spark when in use, the absence of tamper-resistant outlets in households with children and visible frayed wiring near load centers or other electrical hubs. Seeing such hazards should prompt immediate action to correct the problem. But what about electrical hazards you can’t see?

The unseen electrical hazards are often hidden behind walls. Do you live in an older home? It’s possible the wiring has NEVER been updated. Homes built in the mid to late 1960’s often have aluminum wiring. Certain conditions associated with aluminum wiring may lead to loose connections, which can cause arcing events and may lead to fire. Have you hung a picture lately? It’s very possible the nail you drove into the wall damaged the electrical wiring behind it. Or perhaps a circuit is constantly tripping, potentially indicating trouble behind the wall.

Now if you’re thinking, “How can I help protect my home and family from an electrical problem I can’t see?”, we have an answer. Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters, or AFCIs, are devices designed to detect hazardous arc-faults and respond by interrupting power, thereby helping to reduce the likelihood of the home’s electrical system being an ignition source of a fire.

What exactly is an arc-fault?

An arc-fault is an unintentional arcing (think sparking) condition in a circuit. Arcing creates high intensity heating at the point of the arc, resulting in burning particles that can exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit and may ignite surrounding material such as wood framing or insulation. Arcing can be caused by damaged, stressed or overheated electrical wiring or devices.

There are two types of potentially dangerous arcs – series arcs and parallel arcs. The images below illustrate the dangerous current flow as it occurs in each event.

Let’s take a look at some of the conditions we mentioned that can lead to dangerous arcing within wiring:

Solution Options

AFCI protection is important to have in every home to help protect against fires that may be caused by arcing conditions. Leviton offers two solutions – AFCI Outlets and AFCI Circuit Breakers.

AFCI Outlets may be used on any wiring system as specified in the National Electrical Code® (NEC®). They are easy to install as replacement devices or in new construction. AFCI protection is now required by the NEC in many areas of the home including kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry rooms and similar areas.

The second solution is Leviton AFCI Circuit Breakers which are designed to be used in the Leviton Load Center. They offer all the same protection as AFCI outlets, just directly from the home’s load center as opposed to each individual outlet.

So, take some time to conduct an electrical audit of your home. You may be surprised to discover areas that may present hazards – seen and unseen. If you are at all uncertain of what you find or how to resolve the issue, contact an electrical professional for guidance.

They say, “There’s no place like home”. At Leviton, we say there’s no place like a safe home.