Understanding Your Home’s Electrical System
There are a myriad of components involved in a home’s electrical system, and any one of them can malfunction, increasing the possibility of fire and shock, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). To minimize risk, consider protecting your home with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and tamper resistant receptacles (TRRs).
AFCIs – One of the major causes of electrical fire is an arc fault, which is caused by damaged, overheated or stressed wiring or devices. The most common AFCI is a branch/feeder, which replaces standard circuit breakers in the home’s electrical service panel and detects hazardous arcing conditions, shutting down electricity before a fire can start.
Other options include outlet AFCIs, which provide protection to power cords plugged into the receptacle, and combination AFCIs, which provide parallel protection for branch circuit wiring, cord sets and power supply cords downstream of the device.
GFCIs – A GFCI is a device designed to protect people from electric shock by constantly monitoring electricity flow in a circuit and quickly switching off power if it senses any loss of current. Typically, they are installed in areas where water and electricity are in close proximity, such as the bathroom, garage, kitchen and basement.
GFCIs can be installed at the main service panel, in place of standard electrical outlets, or can be used as a portable device. While GFCIs should be installed by a licensed electrician, portable GFCIs require no tools to install.
TRRs – TRRs look just like ordinary outlets, but are designed with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the openings or slots. When equal pressure is simultaneously applied to both sides, the receptacle cover plates open to allow the standard plug to make contact with the receptacle contact points.
Without simultaneous pressure, the cover plates remain closed, preventing insertion of foreign objects and protecting children from electrical injuries. TRR technology can be combined with AFCI and GFCI receptacles.
All of these devices have proven so effective that the National Electrical Code® (NEC) requires them to be installed in all new homes. Existing homes with aging electrical systems can also benefit from these advanced technologies, which should be installed by a qualified electrician.