Our recent experience with Senior Living facilities has shown that the nuisance tripping of arc fault circuit breakers is an ongoing problem for tenants and building personnel. We wanted to share this article with you and hope that you find it helpful when considering the design of your next Senior Living facility or other building types containing dwelling units.
Mark Fratto, P.E., LEED AP
NFPA 70 (the National Electrical Code) requires that dwelling units have arc fault circuit breakers in all areas except the Kitchen, Toilet and Garage. These breakers are not the ground fault breakers that we are all used to. Arc fault breakers are designed to detect electrical arcs in the wiring system served by the breaker. If an arc is sensed, the breaker will trip. The intent is to reduce the number of fires caused by faulty wiring.
Unfortunately, everyday household equipment and appliances create arcs or conditions that look like arcs to these breakers. This includes vacuum cleaners, commonplace electronics like televisions, fluorescent lighting, etc.
The manufacturers of arc fault breakers are continuing to update their designs to accommodate the more troublesome equipment and appliances. However, our clients continue to have problems with nuisance tripping.
Until arc fault breaker design improves, this can be minimized by using RFI/EMI filters on household electronics and training the tenant, maintenance personnel and custodial staff to use receptacles that are not protected by arc fault breakers when possible. For example, use a receptacle in the Kitchen or Toilet when vacuuming the unit or using small hand tools during maintenance.
We recommend that you have conversations with your client early in the design process and help them understand that unfortunately these breakers are required by code and they will experience some level of nuisance tripping. Follow this with a discussion of what their staff and tenants can do to reduce the number of problems.
For more information regarding this issue, please contact us at (817) 461-2337.