Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff is participating in voluntary standard and code activities involving AFCIs in support of CPSC’s strategic goal of reducing the rate of death from fire-related causes. Improving the safety of electrical installations is one of the strategies CPSC staff has employed to reduce the fire death rate.


The 2008 National Electrical Code (the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 70), the model code for electrical wiring, requires combination-type AFCIs for 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits that supply outlets in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms. Although this requirement is limited to new residential construction, CPSC staff believes that AFCIs should be considered for added protection in other circuits and for existing homes as well.


During the period 2002 to 2004, there was an estimated annual average of more than 18,200 fires attributed to home electrical wiring. These fires resulted in an average of more than 120 deaths per year. Arcing faults are one of the causes of these fires.


When unwanted arcing occurs, it generates high temperatures that can ignite nearby combustibles such as wood, paper, and carpets. Often this occurs in wiring behind the walls or in places where the arcing cannot be easily detected. Typical household fuses and circuit breakers do not respond to early arcing and sparking conditions in home wiring. By the time a fuse or circuit breaker opens a circuit to defuse these conditions, a fire may already have begun. AFCIs provide protection by detecting the presence of unwanted arcing in a wiring circuit and removing power from the circuit.


Additional Information


Incident Data:

- Residential Fire Loss Estimates



Voluntary Standard and Code Activities:

- Proposal for the 2011 edition of the National Electrical Code: NFPA 70-2011, 550.25

- Letter to Code Making Authorities Considering the Adoption of the 2008 National Electrical Code, May 29 2008

- Proposals for 2008 Edition of the National Electrical Code

- Correspondence to Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
December 15, 1998. Response to Request for Comments on Discussion Items Regarding the Proposed First Edition of the Standard for Arc Fault Interrupters, UL 1699

- Correspondence to Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
November 8, 2001. Response to Ballot for ANSI Recognition of the First Edition of the Standard for Safety for Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupters, UL 1699

- Proposals for 2005 Edition of the National Electrical Code


1 - October 22, 2002 Memorandum regarding CPSC staff proposals for new AFCI requirements in the NEC

2 - New 210.12, Lighting and Appliance Branch Circuits in Dwelling Units

3 - New 230.XX, Replacement of Service Equipment at Dwelling Units

4 - New Article 100, Part 1, Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter, Branch/Feeder Type

5 - Revise 210.12, Dwelling Unit Bedrooms



CPSC Staff Reports, Memoranda and Contracts:

- Letter to Code Making Authorities Considering the Adoption of the 2008 National Electrical Code (March 10, 2008)

- CPSC Staff Report: Considerations for Installation of Smoke Alarms on Residential Branch Circuits - (October, 2005)

- CPSC Staff Forum on AFCIs:Getting the Word Out (September 23, 2003)

- Economic Considerations - AFCI Replacements (March 10, 2003)

- New Technology for Preventing Residential Electrical Fires: AFCIs (Fire Technology, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2000)

- Consumer Product Safety Review : Summer 1999



Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

- For further information concerning UL 1699 Standard for Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters, please contact Brad Schmidt at



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