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Preventing Electrical Fires: The Importance of Arc Fault Detection Devices for UK Homes & Businesses

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) are an important safety feature in modern electrical installations. AFDDs are designed to detect the presence of electrical arcs and can instantly cut off the flow of electricity, preventing fires and other dangerous situations. In this article, we will take a closer look at AFDDs and explore why they are so important in electrical safety.



Introduction to Arc Fault Detection Devices


An arc fault is an unintended electrical discharge or current that flows through an air gap between two conductive materials. This electrical discharge can generate high levels of heat, sparks, and flames, posing a fire hazard that can lead to extensive property damage and serious injury or even death.


Arc faults can occur when there is damage or a break in an electrical wire or cable or when electrical conductors are exposed to air, moisture, or other contaminants that can create an unintended flow of electricity. Arc faults are particularly dangerous because they can occur in hidden areas such as inside a wall, and so may not be detected until it is too late.


AFDDs are devices that can detect and respond to the presence of arc faults. These devices are installed in electrical panels or circuit breakers and are designed to monitor the electrical current flowing through a circuit. If the device senses the presence of an arc fault, it can instantly disconnect the circuit and cut off the flow of electricity, preventing fires and other dangerous situations.


Why Are AFDDs So Important?


AFDDs are an important safety feature in modern electrical installations because they can help prevent electrical fires. In the UK, over 20,000 house fires are caused by electrical faults each year, with many resulting in serious injuries or fatalities. Although not all of these fires are caused by arc faults, they are a significant contributor to electrical fires.



One of the biggest risks of arc faults is that they can occur in hidden areas, such as inside the walls, where they may not be detected until it is too late. For example, an arc fault could occur in a damaged electrical wire, causing the surrounding material to heat up and ignite. If this happens inside a wall, the fire may not be noticed until it has spread throughout the building.


AFDDs can help prevent these kinds of fires by detecting the presence of arc faults and instantly disconnecting the circuit. This can prevent the fire from starting or spreading, potentially saving lives and preventing extensive damage to the property.


In addition to preventing fires, AFDDs can also help protect electrical equipment from damage. Arc faults can cause significant damage to electrical equipment, leading to costly repairs or replacements. By detecting and responding to arc faults, AFDDs can help prevent this damage and prolong the life of electrical equipment.


Types of AFDDs


AFDDs come in several different types, each with its own unique features and benefits. These include:


1. Combination Type AFDDs: Combination type AFDDs are the most common type of AFDD and can detect both series and parallel arc faults. These devices are desig

ned to be used in residential and small commercial installations and can provide reliable protection against arc faults.


2. Parallel Type AFDDs: Parallel type AFDDs are designed to detect parallel arc faults, which are more common in industrial and commercial environments. These devices are more sensitive than combination type AFDDs and can detect smaller arc faults, making them ideal for high-risk installations.


3. Series Type AFDDs: Series type AFDDs are designed to detect series arc faults, which occur when there is a break in the electrical conductor. These devices are typically used in industrial and commercial installations and are less sensitive than parallel type AFDDs.


4. AFCI Outlets: AFCI outlets are a type of combination type AFDD that are designed to be installed in electrical outlets. These devices can provide reliable protection against arc faults in residential and small commercial installations.


Choosing the Right AFDD for Your Installation


When choosing an AFDD for your fuse board, it is important to consider your specific needs and requirements. Factors to consider include the type of installation, the level of risk, and the sensitivity required.


For residential and small commercial installations, a combination type AFDD, such as an AFCI outlet, is typically sufficient. These devices are easy to install and provide reliable protection against arc faults in these types of installations.


For industrial and commercial installations, a parallel type AFDD may be required to provide the necessary sensitivity to detect smaller arc faults. Additionally, series type AFDDs may be used in installations where series arc faults are common.


BS7671: When are AFDDs Required for Electrical Installations?



BS 7671 requires the use of Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) for certain types of electrical installations. Specifically, Regulation 421.1.7 states that AFDDs shall be provided for final circuits supplying luminaires, and for final circuits supplying other specified electrical equipment located in the following locations:

  • Locations containing a sleeping risk, such as bedrooms in residential premises.

  • Locations containing a high concentration of combustible materials, such as woodworking shops, sawmills, and paper mills.

  • Locations containing irreplaceable goods, such as museums and art galleries.

  • Locations containing critical equipment or systems, such as hospitals and data centers.

In addition, Regulation 531.3.3 requires the use of AFDDs for final circuits supplying luminaires in locations containing a sleeping risk, such as hotels, guest houses, and similar establishments.


Conclusion


Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) are an important safety feature in modern electrical installations. These devices can detect the presence of electrical arcs and instantly cut off the flow of electricity, preventing fires and other dangerous situations. AFDDs are particularly important in preventing fires caused by hidden arc faults that may not be detected until it is too late.



When choosing an AFDD for your installation, it is important to consider the specific needs and requirements of the installation. Residential and small commercial installations typically require a combination type AFDD, while industrial and commercial installations may require a parallel or series type AFDD.


Overall, AFDDs are an essential safety feature in modern electrical installations that can protect lives, prevent damage, and provide peace of mind for those responsible for electrical safety.


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