The AFCI is an arc fault circuit interrupter breaker and saves lives everyday!
AFCI protection is done by special circuit breakers which should be installed on all the electrical branch circuits that serve bedrooms or sleeping areas.
AFCI protection guards against electrical arcs (electricity moving through the air) and protects against electrical fires.
These have to be installed in bedrooms that have twenty amp, fifteen amp, single phase and 125-volt outlets. This was required starting back in 2002 by the NEC.
There might be more rooms in a home needing these outlets, but for now, it is just required for bedrooms.
If there is a slight arc in the outlet, the AFCI breaker will shut down the outlet in a split second preventing potential fires and/ or death. Other outlets do not shut down when there is a slight arc, which can cause fires.
The GFCI protects you from electrical shock and the AFCI protects you from fire caused by arcing.
You can look forward to a combination of AFCI and GFCI protection in one outlet in the near future. This means the outlet will protect against arcing and possible fire as well as electrical shock.
The causes of an arc fault could be one of many things such as a frayed wire, broken wires, or loose wire connections. An arc fault can also be caused from damaged plugs or cords, worn insulation around the wire, or furniture pressed tightly against the electrical plug.
If any of these conditions existed and you did not have the AFCI outlet, you would see arching from the outlet. If the arcing continued for long periods of time, the wires could reach high temperatures and easily start a fire.
In cases like this, the temperatures get so hot that they can cause insulation or other materials to burn.
You need to properly protect your home and these AFCI outlets. This is why these outlets are now mandatory in bedrooms throughout the United States.