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Dangers And Causes Of Electrical Arc Faults

An arc is an electrical discharge; an arc fault is an unintended electrical discharge in a circuit. The electrical discharge occurs when electricity jumps between two electrical conductors separated by a short distance of high resistance.

Causes of Arc Faults

An electrical arc usually occurs when something forces electricity to jump to another conductor and flow through a poor conductor. Below are examples of faults that create such situations.

Accidental Cable Damage During Construction

DIY renovations or any activity that punctures the wall can damage hidden electrical wires. For example, you might accidentally nick a hidden wire when hanging wall decorations. If that happens, electricity flowing along the wire might jump across the nicked section, causing an arc.

Overheating of Cables in Confined Places

Electrical cables generate some heat during operation. The heat usually dissipates into the surrounding air. However, that heat won't have anywhere to go if the affected cable is in a confined place. The heating can damage the cable's insulation and expose the conductor to nearby conductors, forcing an arc.

An example is an electrical extension whose cable runs under a rug. The cable might overheat and suffer insulation damage. Electricity flowing along the affected cable might jump to another cable, such as the earth cable, causing an arc.

Loose Outlet Connections

A typical electrical outlet suffers wear and tear when plugging or unplugging something. For example, the outlet screws or contacts loosen bit by bit every time you use the outlet. After some time, the contacts might separate and create a tiny gap through which electricity can jump.

Corrosion or Dirt

Corroded metal has higher electrical resistance than clean metal. Dirt is also a poor electrical conductor. If dirt or corrosion gets between electrical contacts or connections, they create a small gap through which electricity can jump, causing an arc.

Dangers of Arc Faults

Arc faults are dangerous in several ways. Below are some of these dangers.

Electrical Power Interruption

Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) protect circuits from arc faults. The AFCIs cut off electricity whenever they sense arcs in the circuit. Thus, you will be without power in the affected circuits every time an AFCI detects an arc fault.

Electrical Fire and Damage

An arc fault produces intense heat due to the huge resistance between the two conductors or contracts causing the arc. The intense heat can damage the surrounding electrical equipment or cause an electrical fire outbreak.

For more information, contact a residential electrical contractor near you.


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