New homes in Ontario will be safer from electrical fires, but what about older homes and apartments as well as residences in other provinces and territories?

Ontario is the first province to make Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) mandatory for all new homes. The new Ontario Electric Code dictates AFCIs, which have been called "the most significant fire safety device since the invention of the smoke detector," a standard requirement in all bedroom receptacle circuits, effective immediately.

Recent statistics indicate that more than 35 per cent of all residential fires are caused by electricity. AFCI technology has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of fire from this source.

Arc faults are the most common source of residential fires that are caused by electricity. When insulation around electrical wiring becomes old or cracked, damaged by nails, ruptured by the settling of a house or chewed by animals, arc faults occur. An AFCI replaces the standard circuit breaker common in almost every home in Canada and costs about CN$ 65.

"This is the next generation of devices that use technology for fire prevention," said Dave Goodyear from the Ontario Fire Marshall's Office. "Arc fault circuit interrupters can prevent electrical fires before they happen. Ontario is the first province to make AFCIs mandatory in bedrooms in new home construction. The Office of the Fire Marshall supports this step in reducing the fire losses in Ontario."

The Electric Safety Authority has rigorously pursued its adoption into the Canadian and provincial electric codes with the assistance of power control manufacturers such as EATON Cutler-Hammer Canada.

"There are good arc faults that regularly occur in your home, such as the start up of electric motors, for example, like refrigerators and power drills," explained Chris Jouppi, General Manager of EATON Cutler-Hammer Canada, based in Burlington, Ontario. "Our AFCI is able to detect these faults, distinguish them from so-called bad arc faults and disregard them. Only arc faults with the potential to start fires are tripped by AFCIs."

Don't expect an electrician to knock on your door and bring your house or apartment up to current electrical safety levels. Contact your electrical installer to obtain information and a cost estimate. AFCIs are available through electrical contractors, distributors, Home Depot stores and other electrical power component retailers.

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