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Arc Fault Circuit Breakers - Oh Boy!!!

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by W2WDX, Sep 21, 2020.

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  1. W2WDX

    W2WDX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi All,

    I had a house fire in June of 2019 and just moved back into my "new" home this past July 2020. Took some time to get the house all refurbished and such, and the long rebuild process was something I was very attentive to. Even went so far as to upgrade my electrical service from the weak 100A I had previously to a 300A service. Even directed the power company how to run the lines from the street. I was on top of most of this very closely watching how things were done.

    Well ... best laid plans, as they say. After a couple of months of wiring in the new home theater, the data network and server, fiber-optic internet, I finally got around to wiring in my sub-panel for the station. I open the main panel (one of two) and low and behold, Arc Fault Breakers. Oh Oh!!!

    Now mind you I had specifically asked they not be used, however I think code required them so they put them in regardless. I mean I had to pass inspection after all. So now I bring down my handi-talkie and key the mic near the panel. Yep ... all the AFB's tripped at the same time, shutting off power to 80% of the house. Not all the circuit are using arc fault breakers, but all that did tripped. Grrr ...

    So I had to go out and and get standard breakers (at some cost mind you) and replace all the arc fault types. Now mind you, they do afford a home owner more safety since they trip by detecting the precursor arc when a line shorts, and trip long before there is a heating issue. That's a good thing. But for us hams, the fact that they detect RF transmitted by the spark to trip the circuit, having these installed makes keeping the power on when transmitting, especially QRO HF, next to impossible.

    Bear this in mind if you update your AC in your home.
    K4RZM, KB0MNM and AD5HR like this.
  2. K3RLD

    K3RLD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hmm, I have 3 or 4 in my box and I know at least two of them haven't tripped in 3 or 4 years of satellite operating (including a steerable array that occasionally points right through the box). Is it a brand issue or do all of them suffer from this problem? I'll go check the brand...

    3 eatons. 2 have no markings other than "eaton" and "test" and the "trip" window. The third says "TYPE CHAF".
  3. KS2G

    KS2G Subscriber QRZ Page

    What brand were they?

    I'm sure there are Arc Fault Circuit Breakers that aren't affected by RF ... same as there are for individual Arc Fault receptacles.
  4. W0KDT

    W0KDT XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I had the opposite experience with a couple of older Square D GFI breakers in my garage sub-panel. When I set up my station I found that they would trip. I switched them out for newer breakers/arc fault and have not had a problem since.
  5. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    If they are Eaton I believe they will swap them out for ones that don't do this.
    N0TZU and KB0MNM like this.
  6. KC3RN

    KC3RN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes, Eaton will replace them under warranty. You need to request the Eaton "HAM" breakers. Yes, they actually say "ham" on them...
  7. KS2G

    KS2G Subscriber QRZ Page

    ARRL Helps Manufacturer to Resolve Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter RFI Problems
    "...hams experiencing unwanted tripping problems with their or their neighbors’ AFCIs should contact the manufacturer as the first step in rectifying the compatibility issue. In the case of Eaton breakers, contact Bob Handick (412-893-3746) or Joe Fello (412-893-3745).
    AG6QR and KB0MNM like this.
  8. KB0MNM

    KB0MNM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think that you may have changed those out 'just in the nick of time'.
    As I stated earlier on a different thread, the State of Texas (see ) is adopting the N.F.P.A. N.E.C. 2020 Codebook as of 1 November, and the majority of other states are also doing likewise.
    You may or may not have any paperwork burdens ( maybe have someone else call the inspector....? ) if you want to ensure that the change is 'grandfathered' in due to a known issue with the one manufacturer.
    On the subject of 'makers', I would also like to suggest to you that some breakers are labelled under a secondary name for the same corporation. This applied to some breakers which needed to be 'split' into physically smaller ( half height ) breakers for separate circuits which I once assisted in procuring. That breaker box can have one name ( lets call it made by 'four' for a common imaginary maker ), and contain breakers labelled 'GeeEyeJoe' as well as 'sargeantHammer'. I am intentionally trying to avoid specific maker's names because there are various breakers which will all fit in a "QueOwe" type of older bus-bar arrangement- and you might think that they came from different factories. It is far more important that they physically fit all of the specifications. The older guys at the hardware stores may be able to advise you regarding who purchased who for older systems.
    For newer ones, there are different type of breakers which fit different boxes. The general categories are 'Standard (thermal)', 'Ground Fault' ( similar to a GFCI receptacle ), and Arc-Fault. That "GFCI Receptacle Tester" eg. Southwire(R) 400205-A may soon be replaced in a lot of electrician's kits by an "Arc-Fault Circuit Interruptor Tester" ( at a cost of around $70.00-$80.00 ). I have no financial interest in Southwire(R), just an example that is handy.
  9. W2WDX

    W2WDX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The inspection is done and I walked the inspector through it myself. He's a friend and he kinda went through the motions, and just checked the basics. He didn't even look inside the panels, so ... there was that. But it was the contractor who put them in probably fearing the inspection. He didn't want to have to come back and change them out later.

    The ones I have (had) are Square-D and they do not have a "ham" version like Eaton. I just replaced them with Eaton & Siemens standard thermal/magnetic trip breakers and was done with it. I have GFI outlets where I need them, but I don't want to play around with anything that senses & trips using RF. I have a small house and I am sure the RF fields from my antennas are strong. I don't have RFI issues, but the antennas are close to the house and I run QRO up to 2m regularly.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
  10. WA1UIL

    WA1UIL Ham Member QRZ Page

    The contractor put in the arc fault breakers because he's required to irregardless whether you wanted them or not, SO HIS JOB IS DONE.The inspector was required to inspect the electricians work to make sure he conformed to the NEC. He signed off on the installation so his job is also done AND his liability stops there.
    So, the ONLY one left with any responsibility is the homeowner. If anything goes wrong, the Electrician will attest the AFCI 's were purchased and installed( we took pics of all our installs when finished.....CYA) The inspector ( friend or not) will swear the breakers were there when he did the thorough inspection. ( you honestly think he's gonna take the rap for a half ass inspection?)
    So the insurance adjuster is now looking at the homeowner.
    But hey, no random false tripping!
    KP4SX likes this.

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