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I recently had my basement remodeled by a general contractor. This included a bathroom, family room, wet bar, and home theater. The electrician added 4 circuits in total, all of them using arc fault breakers from GE. I've had lots of trouble with the breakers tripping, seemingly unrelated to the circuit's load. Replacing one of the AFCI breakers with an older style GFCI breaker makes the problem go away, though this isn't a long term solution since the electrical code where I live says we need AFCI breakers for remodeling work.

My electrician has contacted GE and says they are aware of problems with their AFCI breakers and are working on a revised design. Has anyone else had trouble with GE breakers? These breakers are installed in a GE panel.

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    GFCI and AFCI are completely different things, but the reasoning behind the GFCI is just to check if there is a ground fault instead of an arc fault. Like you said it's not a long term solution. I take it that it is a GE panel these are going in. If not a GE panel, try matching the panel with the breakers. – lqlarry Mar 19 '12 at 1:01
  • @lqlarry yes this is a GE panel. My electrician claims he has not had trouble with other vendor's AFCI breakers such as SquareD. Just problems with these GE breakers. – Sam Miller Mar 19 '12 at 2:29
  • The "official" place to report false tripping is afcisafety.org/report.html – Bryce Feb 16 '15 at 22:19
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Your electrician could add a SquareD sub panel that would have the four SquareD AFCI breakers, fed from the GE panel with a standard two pole breaker.

AFCI breakers can be sensitive to certain loads. I've experienced problems with florescent lighting, power tools, and vacuum cleaners tripping the breaker.

  • In 2yrs I've never had a nuisance trip with Square D AFCI's – Steven Mar 19 '12 at 13:15
  • @Steven - I edited my answer, specifically I have found tripping with vacuum cleaners and florescent lighting. I've seen this with Square D and other brands. I'm not saying Square D is garbage, I still think they are top notch. I believe it is a flaw with all AFCI's . – SteveR Mar 19 '12 at 17:06
  • I guess there is a fine line between "flaw" and "your house is burning down" :) My point was more so that I don't think nuisance trips should be expected frequently regardless of brand. – Steven Mar 19 '12 at 17:16
  • @Steven - I agree, my original answer was to broad:) – SteveR Mar 19 '12 at 17:30
  • @Steven The plural of "anecdote" is not "data." Please don't use a personal experience as evidence of quality or lack thereof. – Carl Witthoft Mar 30 '16 at 13:23
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AFCI devices detect arc faults by listening to the wire (to be more precise, treating the AC power line like a signal and doing acoustical analysis for that crunchy-crackly sound that arcs make on the wires: if you've ever connected a set of speakers with the stereo turned on, you know the sound).

The interesting side-effect of this they can detect arcs not only in their zone of protection downstream... but they can also "hear" arcing upstream somewhat. How far up depends on the ability of the arcing signal to propagate. It may be directly in the feeder to the AFCI device, or branched slightly off of it. .

As such, "random" trips of multiple AFCI breakers may be actually detecting arc faults upstream of the AFCI device. Removing AFCI devices doesn't remove the problem, it removes the detection.

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