How to Install an AFCI Breaker

1-2 hours

Protect your home from electrical fires with one simple addition

How to Install an AFCI Breaker

Arc-fault circuit-interrupter (AFCI) breakers prevent fires by sensing when an electrical arc is about to occur and instantly disconnecting the damaged circuit before the arc builds enough heat to catch fire. 

Standard circuit breakers don’t always trip in these instances because standard breakers are designed to respond to a sustained amount of heat, not a quick surge. 

The 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) requires AFCI breakers in nearly all new construction. They will not interfere with the operation of ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, so it’s safe to install AFCIs on circuits that include GFCI outlets. 

This project guide will show you how to replace a standard circuit breaker with an AFCI breaker. 

Safety: When working within the breaker panel, always shut off the main circuit breaker. Remember that the wires leading into the breaker panel are always energized, even with the main breaker turned off. When working on the breaker panel, wear rubber-soled shoes, use tools with rubber-insulated handles and never stand on a damp floor.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR THIS PROJECT

1
Turn off the main circuit breaker
TURN OFF THE MAIN CIRCUIT BREAKER - Install AFCI Breaker

• Locate the breaker or breakers you plan to replace with AFCI breakers.
• Turn off the main circuit breaker, which will cut power to your entire house. 

2
REMOVE THE PANEL COVER
REMOVE THE PANEL COVER - Install AFCI Breaker

• Unscrew and remove the panel cover. 
• Use your circuit tester to be sure the power is off in the panel.

3
REMOVE OLD CIRCUIT BREAKER
REMOVE OLD CIRCUIT BREAKER - Install AFCI Breaker

• Pull the circuit breaker you want to replace out of its slot. 
• Remove the black wire from the breaker.

4
DISCONNECT WHITE WIRE
DISCONNECT WHITE WIRE - Install AFCI Breaker

• Follow the black wire you just disconnected up to where the cable enters the box. 
• Follow the white wire from the same cable, which means it is part of the same circuit, back to the neutral bus bar, and disconnect it.

5
CONNECT THE AFCI BREAKER
CONNECT THE AFCI BREAKER - Install AFCI Breaker

• Turn the AFCI breaker handle to the off position. 
• Loosen the two breaker terminal screws. 
• Connect the white circuit wire (not the coiled white wire) to the breaker terminal labeled “Panel Neutral” or “white.”
• Connect the black circuit wire to the breaker terminal labeled “Load Power” or “black.”

6
CONNECT THE COILED WHITE WIRE
CONNECT THE COILED WHITE WIRE - Install AFCI Breaker

Connect the AFCI breaker’s coiled white wire to the neutral bus bar in the same position as the white neutral wire you removed in Step 4.

7
INSTALL THE AFCI BREAKER
INSTALL THE AFCI BREAKER - Install AFCI Breaker

Snap the new breaker into the breaker panel and double-check that all connections are tight.

8
PUT THE PANEL COVER ON
PUT THE PANEL COVER ON - Install AFCI Breaker

Screw the breaker panel cover back into place.

9
TURN ON AND TEST AFCI BREAKER
TURN ON AND TEST AFCI BREAKER - Install AFCI Breaker

• Turn on the main breaker followed by the AFCI breaker. 
• Test the arc fault breaker by pressing the test button on the front or per your breaker manufacturer’s instructions. If the breaker is wired correctly, the breaker will trip open.