National Electric Manufacturers Association
25th Anniversary of Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters

25th Anniversary of Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters

May 28, 2024
AFCIs emerged in 1990s as a specialized circuit breaker, able to detect and stop dangerous arcing in damaged wiring and electrical cords, effectively preventing electrical fires.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and electrical and fire safety advocates across the globe are celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI).

AFCIs are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) for branch circuits supplying devices and outlets in habitable rooms, closets, hallways, and laundry areas of all residential dwellings, dormitories, hotels, motels, and other occupancies.

Their history started in the late 1990s, when AFCIs emerged as a specialized circuit breaker, able to detect and stop dangerous arcing in damaged wiring and electrical cords, effectively preventing electrical fires before they could start.

“Electrical manufacturers who make AFCIs have a deep sense of pride in what continues to be accomplished by creating this technology," said. Ashley Bryant Kees, Siemens and NEMA Low Voltage Distribution Equipment AFCI Task Force chair, in a statement. "We all worked together to meet the needs of the safety commission, the fire administration, and many others to create a specific device to help prevent and reduce electrical fires." 

In 1980, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimated more than 734,000 house fires occurred, with 75,000 being electrical fires. Electrical manufacturers responded to this spike by creating AFCIs to help reduce electrical fires. The NFPA now estimates that annual residential fires have fallen to less than half of their 1980s numbers. Specifically, electrical house fires involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment have dropped to fewer than 32,000 annually (NFPA survey 2015-2019).

Twenty-five years after AFCIs became an NEC requirement in dwelling units, electrical and fire safety advocates commend the impact of AFCI technology on electrical and fire safety:

The AFCI anniversary also falls during National Electrical Safety Month, an opportunity to advocate and advance the latest in electrical fire safety practices and technologies.

For more information on AFCI ­­devices, visit www.AFCISafety.org.

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