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A 2008 recall issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml08/08151.html) warns buyers of Square D circuit breakers to look closely at their purchases to make certain they are legitimate Square D breakers. A series of counterfeits made in China hit the market between 2003 and 2006; the counterfeits pose a serious fire hazard. Unlike the genuine Square D breakers, the knock-offs will fail to trip when overloads are present.
When the counterfeit breakers fail, electrical fires can result. It is very important to look closely at your Square D breakers for the following signs of authenticity:
AFCI stands for "Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter". Square D circuit breakers designed for AFCI are constructed to detect dangerous low-level arc faults and cut the power when those faults exist. Standard circuit breakers are made to detect overloads and short circuits, but they may not be equipped to break the circuit when an arc fault is detected. AFCI breakers are made to "fill the gap" in safety by detecting all four major potential electrical hazards including ground faults and arc faults.
Square D circuit breakers made to detect arc faults can prevent damage from pre-existing wiring problems and from new damage the wiring system which can happen during remodeling. If you are drilling near a wall socket or breaker box and accidentally damage the wiring, the AFCI square D circuit breakers trip at the first indication of an arc fault. This can save you from a house fire later on due to a condition you might not even realize exists.
An arc fault is caused when there is damage to the wiring in the home is damaged. This type of electrical hazard is likely when there is loose wiring, faulty switches, damaged electrical cords or frayed cords. There are parallel faults where an electrical arc jumps between the live wire and the neutral wire, or when electricity"arcs to ground".
An arc fault can ignite any flammable material including the frayed or damaged electrical cord itself, the wall surrounding a wall socket, even a pile of clothing close to the arc fault. A square D circuit breaker designed to detect arc faults can prevent this situation by cutting the power before the arc fault has a chance to become what firemen call a "source of ignition". Installing an AFCI Square D circuit breaker is an added layer of protection from house fires.