How to Install an AFCI Breaker
Time Required: Under 2 hours
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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.