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Arc Fault Breaker Tripping

The electrical system has undergone significant changes in recent years. Consequently, protective equipment must also evolve to meet these requirements and prevent the increasing occurrence of fire hazards caused by arc faults. To address this concern, arc fault circuit breakers are utilized. These devices are specifically designed to protect electrical systems and homes from potential fire hazards resulting from arcs or sparks.

However, users have reported a common issue of frequent tripping of the arc interrupter. Numerous inquiries on the internet express the same concern: why does the breaker keep tripping? In response to these prevalent concerns, this guide thoroughly investigates the causes of these faults and other related aspects. Before delving into the problems and their solutions, the guide provides an overview of arc circuit breakers and their functional principles. Additionally, it explores the possible reasons behind the tripping issue and outlines preventive measures to be routinely followed to anticipate and avoid such situations.

This guide comprehensively covers all facets of arc circuit breakers, addressing the persistent tripping issue faced by users.

What Does an AFCI Do?

The term AFCI refers to an ARC Fault Circuit Breaker or Interrupter. Primarily, it’s a device designed to safeguard your electrical circuits, home, and surrounding areas from the potential fire hazard caused by arcs or sparking, which can lead to electrical fires. However, understanding why this arc forms in the circuit is crucial.

Essentially, an arc fault is an undesired electrical discharge or current flow between the contact points of two or more conductors due to ionization in the surrounding area. This arc occurs due to issues like loose connections between switches or conductors, broken or damaged cables, overheated wires, and other factors that can ionize the surrounding area, leading to sparking.

An Air Circuit Breaker is crafted to detect even the slightest arc formation in the circuit by continuously monitoring the current, waveform, and other electrical parameters. If, unfortunately, the breaker identifies any change or abnormal pattern in the waveform, it instantly interrupts the connection between the circuit, halting the current flow. Consequently, your system is protected from potential hazards, fires, or damage to the equipment. According to the guidelines of the National Electrical Code, it is recommended that users employ an Arc Fault Interrupter in the electrical circuits of bedrooms, living rooms, and dry areas like kitchens and store rooms. This ensures your home is shielded from the risks of electrical fires or hazards.

What are the Reasons For Arc Fault Breakers Keep Tripping?

1. Appliances and Device Incompatibility

As discussed, there could be various reasons for the breaker to keep tripping. One primary reason we’ve observed is the use of conventional and faulty devices or appliances. This can result in the creation of an arc or an instant rise in parameters, which the Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) detects. Since the breaker lacks a smart algorithm or processing unit to differentiate between arc causes, it perceives it as a danger, leading to repeated tripping.

Appliances that may cause this disruptive arc fault include ovens, vacuum cleaners, power tools, fluorescent tubes, and other devices with motors or continuous high-power contact. It is advisable to systematically remove each device one by one and check if the AFCI continues to trip. This method helps in preventing unnecessary tripping of the breaker.

2. Overloaded Circuits

Another potential factor we want to highlight is the overloading of your electrical circuitry. Upon careful examination, you can determine if your home appliance is drawing an excessive current beyond the specified or standard limits of the circuit or its withstanding capacity. In such instances, your conducting wires can become overheated. The sharp increase in temperature causes the surrounding air to ionize, leading to the formation of arcs. To prevent these situations, it is advisable to ensure effective and balanced load distribution. Additionally, issues may arise in certain cases due to differences in AFCI breaker ratings and circuit ratings or incompatibility.

3. Damaged Wiring

Discussing the primary factor that often causes your Air Circuit Breaker to trip, we find that damaged or faulty wiring is the most common culprit. Let’s delve into these issues more closely. A loose connection, uncertain or damaged insulation, or a crack in the conductor can result in an arc fault within your home’s electrical circuit. Due to these loose connections and damaged insulation, a leakage current occurs in the circuit, generating enough heat to ignite nearby materials and create sparks that may lead to a fire.

Because AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) is sensitive to any arc fault or arc formation, it promptly identifies these issues and trips the breaker to prevent potentially dangerous activities. The best solution is to thoroughly inspect the wiring, identifying and replacing any damaged cables within the circuitry.

4. Poor Connections

The formation and tripping of the arc breaker can be attributed to poor connections in the electrical circuit. Common culprits for these issues include outlets, ON-OFF switches, speed regulators, and junction boxes. When there is inadequate connectivity in the circuit, it introduces additional resistance and raises the temperature. This environment is conducive to arc faults. The breaker detects the arc fault, leading to a tripping action in the Arc Fault Interrupter.

To prevent such tripping problems, regular monitoring is essential. It’s crucial to inspect the circuit for any loose connections.

5. Dampness or Mold

The performance of a circuit breaker can be influenced by its surrounding environment. Moisture is a key factor that may lead to the tripping of the arc fault breaker. This occurs because moisture and humidity can corrode wires, establishing a short circuit path for extra current leakage. Dampness and mold are commonly found in places like electrical boxes, conduit pipes, or cables due to the leakage of charges, wet conditions, and high humidity.

Dampness or moisture can significantly impact the functionality of the AFCI breaker, causing defined issues. The AFCI is crafted to sense the moisture in the circuit, enabling it to trip before any damage occurs. To prevent the detection of an arc fault by the breaker, it is essential to enhance ventilation and maintain a leak-free electrical system.

6. Age and Wear

Over the course of many years, the use of electrical wires and other components in your circuit can impact the lifespan of these components, leading to a decline in their performance due to wear and tear. For example, the frequent use of electrical switches over an extended period can affect their performance, causing leakage current at times due to various reasons. Similarly, other electrical parts may experience issues such as corrosion, insulation degradation from excessive heat, conductor cracks, and loose connections from vibrations. These issues often become noticeable after a significant duration of continuous wear and tear on the components.

As a consequence of this wear and tear, arc faults may occur, prompting the breaker to halt the flow as a preventive measure by tripping. To prevent such problems, it is advisable to replace old components with new ones. Additionally, regular checks on the performance of the AFCI breaker are crucial. Over an extended period, AFCI breakers can sometimes malfunction, so it’s important to ensure their continued effectiveness, especially if they have been in use for a considerable time.

7. Broken Insulation

One significant cause of your Arc circuit breaker tripping unexpectedly is damaged or insufficient insulation on the conductors or cables within the circuits. When this occurs, the conductor comes into direct contact with the surrounding air or is left exposed, which is undesirable. This situation creates a pathway for current flow in the circuit, known as Leakage current. This can lead to an arc fault, detected by the breaker, prompting a tripping action. To prevent such issues, it is advisable to use insulation of the appropriate size according to national standards for cables. Regular inspection and replacement of damaged insulation, cables, or components are essential for an effective solution.

8. Damaged Arc Fault Breaker

At times, the scenario flips. While we search for issues in the electrical circuit and its parts, there are instances where the Arc Fault breaker itself becomes the target or instigator of repeated tripping. The AFCI breaker comprises small components and sensors that gauge various parameters. These components can malfunction and lose their measurement capabilities over prolonged use or excessive wear and tear. Consequently, false readings may be detected, leading to the tripping of the breaker.

Apart from this, high-frequency or power surges can significantly harm the breaker’s functionality. Overheating and the accumulation of moisture also stand out as noteworthy reasons for damaging the breaker. It is advisable to conduct regular preventive testing on the AFCI, and you can utilize the built-in test button for this purpose.

9. Lighting Strikes

Rarely, certain events can occur in a circuit where your breaker persists in tripping due to lightning strikes near your home or on the power lines supplying it. Lightning, with its instantaneous and high-voltage spikes, can impact electrical lines, flowing through the circuit. The AFCI breaker, a sensitive component, can promptly detect such high-arc faults, tripping the breaker to prevent further damage to your electrical system. Considering the substantial voltage associated with lightning, there’s a risk of blowing out or damaging your breaker. To mitigate this, it is advisable to incorporate a lightning arrestor into your electrical system. This precautionary measure helps safeguard your electrical circuitry and other electronic components from potential harm.

10. Other External Factors

External factors influencing your electrical system encompass the utilization of electronic devices like Fluorescent tubes, Vacuum cleaners, and high-power tools. These typically generate minimal arcing current, which the breaker may interpret as a fault. Moreover, a wrongly installed Arc Circuit Interrupter can lead to breaker tripping. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that the breaker is appropriately configured and accurately installed in your electrical system.

How To Fix the Arc Fault Breaker From Tripping?

1. Unplug Everything in the Circuit

The initial action to prevent your Arc Fault circuit breaker from tripping unnecessarily is to disconnect all devices linked to the electrical circuit protected by the Arc circuit breaker. We have explored various reasons for AFCI tripping and discovered that many times, standard components and malfunctioning equipment can cause these issues. Therefore, the recommended diagnostic approach is to unplug everything from the circuit. By doing so, you can, at least, stop the breaker from tripping further since the exact cause or source of the Arc Fault is unknown. The subsequent solution will explain how to pinpoint the Arc Fault source without relying on technical guidance or employing complicated methods. Make sure to reset the AFCI breaker before proceeding to the next step or resolution.

2. Connect and Turn on One Device at a Time

Currently, your system remains secure, and safeguarded against undesired AFCI breaker tripping. This is achieved by disconnecting all devices from the system and executing a straightforward reset using the breaker’s reset button. Now, it’s time to adopt a detective’s approach. Connect one device at a time to the electrical circuit and observe if the connected device is the cause of the arc fault, triggering the AFCI breaker. Begin this process with high-power electrical appliances, particularly those prone to arc faults, such as inductive load motors, electric power switches, and electronic components. In the event you identify the specific device causing the breaker to trip upon connection, it is advisable to unplug, repair, or replace it if repair is not feasible. Crucially, even if you identify one device responsible for the problem, continue checking other devices one by one. There could be instances where more than one device contributes to this tripping issue.

3. Check For Loose Connections and Damaged Wires

After a significant period or a specific number of uses, the efficiency of your electric circuit diminishes due to continuous device operation and wear and tear. Consequently, the insulation of your conductors becomes damaged, exposing them to the air. Additionally, cracks in the conductor and loose connections caused by vibrations can lead to the formation of an arc fault, triggering the Arc Fault Interrupter (AFI) to prevent potential fire hazards.

The solution is to inspect the entire electrical wiring of your circuit, starting from the beginning to the end. Look for any exposed, faulty, or damaged cables. If you identify such issues, replace the affected section with a new cable. If replacing the entire circuitry is not economically feasible for you, focus on addressing specific problematic areas. Also, ensure that all switches and wires are tightly connected, as loose connections can significantly contribute to the aforementioned issues. Regular inspections and timely replacements can help maintain the safety and performance of your electrical circuit.

4. Replace Any Outdated or Faulty AFCI Breakers

Thus far, we’ve explored solutions related to the electrical circuitry, but if the issue lies within the Air Circuit Breaker (ACBI) itself, searching for it elsewhere will only consume your valuable time. The ACBI triggers the tripping action because its internal design comprises small electronic components and sensors that measure various electrical parameters to detect arc faults. However, these sensors and components can malfunction due to wear and tear, intense use, or prolonged periods. Consequently, false tripping may occur. Additionally, the AFCI functionality can be affected by sudden power surges, spikes, and overheating.

To address this, it is recommended to test the AFCI through a calibration process or, ideally, by using the testing button provided on the AFCI breaker. If any errors are detected during testing or if the breaker doesn’t perform as expected, it is advisable to contact the AFCI manufacturer’s support or services team. If necessary, replacing the AFCI breaker becomes the optimal solution in such cases.

5. Put Less Strain on the Circuit

The Air circuit interrupter is consistently tripping, and resolving these issues may pose a challenge. To address this, examine the load on your electrical circuit. When numerous devices or appliances are connected, it’s crucial to adhere to specified limits or the circuit’s withstanding capacity. Exceeding these limits leads to overloading, causing the circuit to draw excessive current to meet requirements. Consequently, overheating occurs around the wires, leading to arc faults, especially when the current surpasses standard limits.

In cases of overloaded circuits, AFCI detects arc faults and triggers a trip. Therefore, achieving an appropriate load balance for devices is essential. In such a scenario, consider turning off a few devices and monitor whether the breaker continues to trip. Additionally, ensure that your Arc breaker and circuit rating align or match each other. Employ the correct breaker and circuit in accordance with standard rules and ratings.

6. Reset Circuit Breaker

At times, your Arc circuit breaker might be set to be highly sensitive. As a result, it can trip due to even the slightest arc current or Arc fault. This sensitivity aligns with standard rules and poses no danger of causing a fire hazard, given the minimal fault current. In such situations, a straightforward reset of the Arc breaker serves as an effective solution. This action turns off the breaker, providing a clean slate for its operation. It’s important to note, however, that if the breaker continues to trip after resetting, this approach may not resolve the issue. In such cases, proceed to the next troubleshooting step.

7. Call an Electrician If Needed

If any of the methods mentioned above are not effective for you, we recommend reaching out to technical assistance. In some instances, issues may be too complex or critical, requiring specialized help. It’s noted that regular individuals may lack the technical skills, knowledge, and tools necessary to address such issues. Consequently, to prevent harm to individuals and property from electrical shock or other damage, it is advisable to contact a licensed electrician in your vicinity.

Licensed electricians possess advanced and professional tools for measuring and identifying the root cause of such issues. These tools include short circuit current measuring devices, damage cable detectors that measure leakage current, and more. This approach ensures that the resolution aligns with safety rules and standards, mitigating potential problems that may arise in the future.

How To Prevent Arc Fault Breaker Tripping?

It is a common scenario for your Arc fault breaker to continuously trip, and we have addressed various potential causes and solutions for this issue. However, relying on resolving the problem as it occurs is not the most optimal approach. Therefore, it is advisable to take preventive measures in advance to avoid facing such arc breaker tripping problems. To help you avoid these troublesome situations, we have outlined a few preventive measures.

1. Utilize Standardized and High-Quality Arc Breakers

The quality of the arc breaker and the reputation of the equipment manufacturers play a crucial role. A breaker that does not adhere to standardized requirements and employs low-quality materials is prone to experiencing such issues after a certain period. Choosing a standardized and quality arc breaker is essential in preventing frequent tripping.

2. Frequent Maintenance

Regularly monitor and inspect your electrical system to detect damaged wires, loose connections, and signs of excessive wear and tear. This practice ensures that your system remains free from potential issues.

3. Professional and Proper Installation

Ensure the correct installation of your Arc circuit breaker following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Additionally, configure the arc breaker with high sensitivity settings to detect even the slightest arc fault within an acceptable range of danger.

4. Use Distinct Supply Circuit

Given the variety of sensitive and non-sensitive equipment in your home, it’s crucial to run all sensitive devices on dedicated circuits. This setup facilitates easy identification of arc faults.

5. Test Arc Breaker Frequently

For peace of mind, regularly test the Arc breaker daily or at intervals of 2 to 3 days. Manufacturers provide a built-in testing facility; a simple click on the button allows you to assess the Arc breaker’s performance.

Arc Fault Breaker Tripping – FAQs

1. Can weather conditions impact arc fault breakers?

Ans: Certainly, yes. Significant weather shifts and incidents such as lightning strikes or power surges can cause arc fault breakers to trip. It is recommended to employ a lightning arrester or surge protector to prevent sudden high-frequency power spikes in the waveform caused by lightning.

2. Does a faulty circuit breaker lead to repeated tripping?

Ans: The arc fault breaker consists of electronic components and sensors that may be affected by wear and tear over an extended period. Power surges can harm the circuit breaker, leading to nuisance tripping issues.

3. Are there specific areas in a house more prone to arc fault breaker trips?

Ans: In homes, arc faults can occur in various locations. The basic concept is that arc faults are identified in areas where high electrical power is utilized, such as kitchens, halls, and bedrooms. Additionally, equipment that requires a significant amount of power for its functioning can also contribute to or cause arc faults

4. Can using extension cords contribute to arc fault breaker trips?

Ans: It has been noticed that extension cords tend to overload a circuit more than an electric circuit without an extension. This can lead to the circuit breaker frequently tripping. Therefore, it is advisable to refrain from using extensions and, instead, consider installing an extra socket in your home.

5. Can moisture or water exposure cause arc fault breaker problems?

Ans: Yeah, water and moisture can significantly affect the performance of the arc fault circuit breaker. Not only in the breaker, but the presence of water and moisture in electrical components and switches directly contributes to the occurrence of arc faults in the electrical system.


Before concluding this guide, we want to summarize that this article has primarily covered the basics of the Arc fault circuit breaker and emphasized the significance of this device. If you haven’t installed these protective devices at home yet to prevent potential fire hazards from electric sparks and other risky events, it’s crucial to carefully consider doing so.

Users may encounter persistent tripping or arc breaker issues. For a clearer understanding, we explored various causes behind these issues, such as overloaded circuits, damaged cables, loose connections, and wear and tear of the breaker and equipment.

In addition to outlining the causes, the guide extensively discussed fixes for tripping issues. All these fixes are worth trying to address your breaker-tripping problem. The suggested solutions include unplugging all connected equipment to prevent further tripping and identifying the source of the arc fault by connecting equipment one by one. Other effective methods, such as checking for loose connections, damaged insulation and wires, and testing the arc breaker, serve as valuable resolutions for arc breaker tripping problems.

We trust that this guide has comprehensively covered all aspects of the Arc Circuit breaker and the tripping issues that users commonly face. Our aim is to assist you in resolving these concerns at your home.

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