Prevent Holiday Fires

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If you hammer a nail into your wall, you may inadvertently puncture an electrical wire behind the wall. But new technology can help prevent electrical fires from ever starting.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters, or AFCIs, are advanced circuit breakers now required in new residential construction around most of the country. They constantly monitor electrical wiring and will notice an arcing and/or sparking condition that can lead to a fire.

The new arc fault circuit interrupter detects arcing conditions that could go unnoticed by a regular circuit breaker. Arcing can be triggered in a number of ways -- from worn electrical insulation or damaged wire, to a misapplied or damaged plug in appliance cords and equipment.

Available in electrical supply and hardware stores, the device fits right into existing load centers and helps prevent fires sparked by an unintentional electrical discharge. When arcing occurs, the AFCI trips, opening the circuit and mitigating the effects of the arcing.

More than 40,000 homes catch fire each year -- the direct result of electrical wiring problems. These fires cause more than 350 deaths and more than $650 million in damage.