ARC Fault Detection Device (AFDD) - what is it and do you need one?
You have most likely heard of a ‘circuit breaker’ or ‘safety switch’. Perhaps even seen one when looking at your switchboard in the event of a power outage.
But do you know what they actually do?
Well, RCDs (or residual circuit breakers) are essential for commercial and home electrical safety.
This is because they can detect an electrical fault in milliseconds and cut the electricity supply to reduce the risk of harm both to the electrical system and the users.
But, when it comes to electrical protection, there is a new kid on the block.
It is called an AFDD or ‘Arc Fault Detection Device’.
What Is An Arc Fault Detection Device?
The AFDD is the newest exciting development on the market for safety switches.
Arc Fault Detection Devices are a type of circuit breaker that automatically cuts the power when it detects an arc fault in the circuit.
What Is An Arc Fault?
An arc fault occurs when wiring connections become loose, damaged or corroded creating an intermittent contact that causes an electrical current to spark.
This spark can be referred to as an arc due to its shape when occurring between metal contact points.
This arc or spark translates to heat which can not only catch surrounding material alight but can also break down the insulation surrounding wires therefore leaving them exposed and at risk of electrical fires.
Arc faults are so dangerous because of the extreme heat they give off in the surrounding air (in some cases up to 20,000 degrees). It is not surprising they are one of the most common causes of house electrical fires.
Of the approximately 3,000 house fires in Victoria each year, around 300 of them are electrical fires.
Warning Signs of Potential Arc Faults To Look Out For
Corrosion of Wiring Casing/Insulation
Corroded or worn insulation on your electrical wiring is never a good sign. Of course, this can occur naturally if the wiring is not upgraded as often as it should be.
However, it can also be the result of continual small arc faults melting down and damaging the insulation.
Light switch or Power Outlet Buzzing
This sound is indicative that there is minor arcing occuring. It may not mean that there is an immediate risk of electrical fires but you should definitely get this checked by a professional electrician as it is not associated with normal operation.
It is also probably damaging your wiring casing which will increase your risk of electrical fire down the track.
Large amounts of dust surrounding your wiring or switchboard can be a risk for arc faults as it is an indication they have not been checked or maintained in a long time.
It also provides tinder for a fire to start should the arc flash be large enough.
Old and Unmaintained Safety Switches
The electrical industry, like many other technology based industries, is constantly changing. As the industry gradually uncovers new ways to step closer to complete protection from electrical faults, unfortunately much of the old technology becomes obsolete.
For example, when RCBOs came onto the markets they offered what an RCD (Residual Current Device) and MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker) could do in one device. Thus, they became the new choice of installation for most electricians.
While your old residual current circuit breaker (or other protective devices) may still work, it is likely the technology is not up to scratch if it was installed more than 10 years ago.
Furthermore, if your safety switches have not been checked to ensure optimal function in the last five years you may not be receiving the protection you need. In this case you will need to book a professional electrician to come out and perform testing to ensure they are in working order.
No Safety Switches
This is actually illegal in most Victorian properties and leaves your building at a severe risk of fire.
As part of their mandatory safety solutions Victorian Regulations now require every new property to have safety switches installed.
While it does not mandate that all older homes must have one installed yet, it is highly recommended as older electricity systems paired with no protection poses a serious risk.
Any properties without these devices installed have a very high risk of arc faults occurring and going undetected until they become a big problem.
This one is pretty self explanatory – wires that have been chewed by animals and left with exposed live wires or loose connections create a high risk of arc fault fires.
What Makes An AFDD Different From Your Average RCD Safety Switches?
Safety switches, otherwise referred to as ‘Residual Current Devices’, are designed to break an electrical current if they detect an abnormality in the flow of electricity.
This technology is state-of-the-art and the most advanced available for safety switches.
The AFDD doesn’t get tripped by normal, everyday fluctuations in the current. It looks for greater changes and breaks the current if there are any abnormalities.
It also responds much faster than safety switches with electromechanical components (e.g., thermal fuses).
An arc fault detection device is complementary technology meaning it can be installed in conjunction with your RCD or RCBO.
With all of these advancements, what does this mean?
AFDD Safety Switches mean you are protected from severe variations in the current at all times.
They are highly recommended in residential and commercial properties – especially for power outlet circuits due to the potential for arc faults from:
- Arcing extension leads and power boards due to either cheap accessories or the sudden increased load on the single circuit.
- Damage to cables plugged in on angles or squished behind furniture (sofas, beds, etc.)
- Damage to extension leads pulled to reach an appliance or bent around corners.
- Damage to plugged cables from variation in temperature, humidity, rodents or outdoor use.
Indeed, these new safety switches are so advanced that if you have a fault with your electrical equipment, it will only take 0.5 milliseconds for an AFDD to detect and stop the flow of electricity.
This essentially means, if there is a risk of overloading, short-circuiting or electric shock detected, the safety switch will be enacted and stop the flow of electricity within milliseconds.
Basically, the safety switch protects your appliances from damage and you from severe injury or fatality.
A pretty good deal for the price of a small installation I would say.
Do I need to get a safety switch installed at my residence?
Safety switches have been mandatory in all homes built in Victoria since 1991. They are also required with the installation of any new powerpoint or lighting fixture.
If you have an older safety switch installed in your home, it is highly recommended that you upgrade to AFDD technology to ensure complete protection.
With some safety switches on the market being 30 years old, upgrading to new technology will save you from a severe electrical fault and give peace of mind knowing that all members of your family are safe.
Although it is only mandatory to have one safety switch, you could benefit from having more than one.
How do I get a safety switch installed?
Well, if you have more than one safety switch in your house you can have different power circuits running off different safety switches.
This means you can protect specific circuits that are at a higher risk of enacting the safety switch (ie. powerpoints used for hairdryers, toasters, etc.) without cutting power to areas that require a constant power source (ie. fridges, freezers etc.).
Indeed, it is also recommended that your arc fault detection device (AFDD) is installed in conjunction with RCBOs for ultimate protection.
Can I Install A Safety Switch (AFDD) Myself?
No. All safety switches must be installed by a licensed electrician – it is illegal to install one yourself.
Performing your own electrical installation as well as being illegal is also highly dangerous and can result in serious injury or death
Our electricians are skilled in industry standard residential, commercial and industrial installations and will ensure your arc flash detection device is properly connected.
Contact Us Today To Book An Electrical Installation
Do you need to upgrade your electrical protection and get an arc fault detection device installed? What are you waiting for!
The friendly team at 181 Electrical are qualified to complete this important safety upgrade. With qualified electricians experienced in the installation of this new device we can have it installed in a single visit so you can feel confident knowing your building is no longer at risk.
To book an appointment with one of our licensed technicians simply click the button below and submit an enquiry!