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Are Circuit Breakers Effective for Preventing Fires?

Resetting Circuit Breaker

Resetting Circuit Breaker

House fires caused by electrical malfunctions are common. In fact, the Electrical Safety Foundation International reports that 50,000 home electrical fires occur each year. Circuit breakers are designed to prevent electrical fires. Functional breakers effectively reduce the risk of electrical fires.

While residential electrical fires cause over $1 billion in property damage annually, commercial properties are likewise vulnerable to electrical fires. Statistics from the US Fire Administration reveal that in 2017 alone, 8,200 fires occurred due to electrical malfunctions, with $431 million in losses.

What is a circuit breaker?

Circuit breakers are designed to keep a property safe from the threats of an electrical fire. When a fault develops on a circuit, a functional circuit breaker will detect it. The circuit breaker then automatically shuts off the power to the circuit to prevent an electrical fire or shock.

The shut-off mechanism protects the circuit from damage, as well. A circuit breaker can trip for countless reasons, including power surges and spikes, a ground fault, a short circuit, and an overloaded circuit. A failed circuit breaker can lead to damaged appliances or a fire.

Five universal components make up a circuit breaker. The frame protects the circuit breaker interior from outside interferences. An operating mechanism allows the circuit to be opened and closed. Contacts permit current to flow through the circuit breaker when closed.

The fourth universal part of the circuit breaker is the arc extinguisher. The circuit breaker may interrupt a fault, at which point the arc extinguisher extinguishes the arc. Lastly, in the event of a prolonged overload or short circuit, a trip unit opens the operating mechanism.

The built-in detection system within a circuit breaker allows the device to monitor the level of current that runs through it. When the circuit breaker trips or automatically shuts off, it means that the breaker has detected an imbalance between live and neutral electricity.

Appliances may also cause a circuit breaker to purposely interrupt the flow of electricity. An appliance may have a set maximum of current. When the current overflows, the breaker senses it and trips. High currents flowing through an appliance can start an electrical fire or cause electrocution.

What are the various types of circuit breakers?

An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is a type of circuit breaker that protects against arc faults. Damaged, stressed or overheated electrical wiring can cause electrical hazards known as arc faults. Dangerously high temperatures, and, consequently, fire, can result when outlets are overtaxed, or wires are frayed.

When an AFCI circuit breaker detects dangerous electrical conditions, it interrupts the flow of current. AFCIs are invaluable, as they have the built-in ability to prevent over half of the electrical fires that devastate properties each year, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are built to protect property owners from the shocks caused by ground faults. When an unforeseen electrical path meets a grounded surface, it is known as a ground fault, and the GFCI automatically shuts off the circuit.

The GFCI is built into areas where water is abundant. Bathrooms, garages, outdoor locations, and spa areas inside a property are ideal places for a GFCI. When installed as a circuit breaker inside a panelboard, the GFCI can prevent people from experiencing electrical shocks.

What are signs of a faulty circuit breaker?

A circuit breaker that fails to trip when excessive electricity flows through it is faulty, and an outbreak of fire is possible. One sign of a bad breaker includes frequent tripping, which could point to internal failure or loose connections inside the electrical panel.

Appliances or switches that release sparks or smoky odors may signal a problem with the circuit breaker. When the appliances become damaged or work inefficiently, property owners are advised to check the breaker. Blinking lights in the home could indicate problems with the breaker.

How long do circuit breakers last?

The average lifespan of a modern circuit breaker is 15 to 20 years. The AFCI and GFCI type circuit breakers have a shorter lifespan of 10 to 15 years, which is due to the internal sensors wearing out more quickly than the breaker.

Circuit breakers, like any other devices, are subject to wear and tear. Constant tripping due to overloading will cause the circuit breakers to wear out even sooner than the average lifespan. Ground fault charges and frequent short-circuiting can also lead to shorter lifespans.

A faulty circuit breaker should be replaced immediately to reduce the risk of fire. However, property owners may never need to replace the circuit breaker if it is installed correctly, the breaker is not overloaded, and electrical problems in the area are minimal.

A circuit breaker may need to be replaced within its average lifespan when conditions are less than ideal. An area subject to frequent lightning strikes, power outages, and power surges will necessitate the replacement of circuit breakers sooner rather than later.

Fire Damage Restoration ServicesTechnician Inspecting Fire Damaged Bedroom with Concerned Couple

Functional circuit breakers can help to prevent an electrical fire. Even when the circuit breakers perform optimally, a range of other causes can start a property fire. If your home or business is engulfed in flames, extinguish the fire and call ServiceMaster for fire damage restoration.

Our skilled crews arrive promptly and assess the fire and smoke damage. Cleanup of soot, smoke, and residue begins immediately and is followed by repairing and restoring belongings, furnishings, and structural materials. Advanced cleaning solutions and equipment allow our techs to fully restore the property.

ServiceMaster is your one-stop service after fire and smoke damage. Our comprehensive fire damage restoration services include quality water damage restoration, which may be necessary after the fire officials extinguish the flames with water from fire hoses.

Available 24/7

Fire damage restoration must begin quickly after the fire is extinguished to prevent the spread of destruction. ServiceMaster crews stand by 24/7 to respond to emergency calls from residential homes and businesses in Lincoln, Grand Island and Omaha, Nebraska.