Just got off the phone with both Leviton and Siemen! Thank you to Peter Duniho for having me file that AFCI Safety form, was super helpful in me getting in touch with Siemen!
I'll put everything I've learned here so everyone else could potentially benefit from this.
What can be the issue?
False Positive: Some appliances have the tendency to produce a sine wave that mimic/triggers the AFCI breaker's detection algorithms. Newer breaker are updated with newer detection algorithms.
Real Arc Faults: Danger! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_fault
How to test if it's an actual Arc Fault vs a False Positive
Was told by my the Siemen AFCI technician, I should plug in a hair dryer to test this. It's a good test appliance because it's portable and it doesn't internally create much noise (sine wave) going back into the breaker. So if running a hair dryer triggers the Arc Fault in the breaker, you likely have a real arc fault (as long as your hair dryer itself is working correctly). Siemen AFCI tech mentioned that you need to pull about 2 or 3 Amps before the Arc Fault detection actually turns on and starts detecting, which is why they recommend using a hair dryer as a test. They recommend keeping the hair dryer running for 3-5 minutes to generate sufficient load to be certain.
@StayOnTarget brings up a good point, this test will only test between the socket and the breaker. The ARC could still be between the socket and appliance, either in the appliance cord or appliance itself.
Plugged in my hair dryer and no AFCI fault was tripped.
To fix a false positive
If you think it could be a false positive, there are a few different approaches you can take. I'll list them below, I'll order them by easiest/cheapest first.
- Buy a Filter (you can diy) $
- Swap existing AFCI breakers you have installed (requires electrician or a savvy DIYer) $$
- Replace the breaker to a newer version (requires electrician) $$
- Upgrade the Load Center to a Smart one (requires electrician) $$$$
Install an EMI/RFI filter between your appliance and the socket
This solution is the cheapest and fastest solution, and doesn't require an electrician to come out. The only downside is you need about an inch of space between your appliance and the outlet, which may not always be possible with all appliance like washer/dryers.
It works by sending all the noise (sine waves) that the appliance generates into the ground wire. The one that Siemen Tech recommended was:
Minuteman MMS110 Surge Protector
I've tried this and it works well so far haven't had any breaker trips.
Swap the breaker from a different circuit (matching the AMPs)
The Siemen tech didn't recommend this in my case since all my other ACFI breakers were not tripping. But mentioned that different combinations of breakers for each circuits could magically work. As Peter mentioned, this is a lot like wack-a-mole, and not something I personally want to do... So not going to go into this solution.
Update the circuit breaker
The Siemen tech mentioned that each AFCI breaker has a specification that it needs to function by, so there is no warranty coverage applicable here. The breaker is functioning to its manufacturing specs. And they are constantly releasing updated version.
My breaker version is 2b. The versions go 2b, 3a, 3b, and 3c. Each version has been updated with new sine wave detection algorithms to work with more appliances, having less false positives.
And when you purchase from amazon you won't know version version you are getting. So you'd need to go to like Home Depot and see the breaker in person, here is how to identify which version you have (which is not documented anywhere lol):
- 2b - No label - 2018 and Pre 2018 era
- 3a - 2 Green Vertical Bars with Black Line between bars. 2019 era
- 3b - White label with Black letter N and Down Arrow. 2019/2020 era
- 3c - Black label with White letter N and Down Arrow. 2020/2021 era
Here is version 3b, see if you can identify the version with the above info:
I absolutely hate that this is even an expected solution for AFCI false positives. How can they expect that when ever you update an appliance, you may also need to update your breaker to be compatible with it?! How is this a sustainable solution? It'll make Siemen a lot of money, but having to call an electrician just to install a new microwave or TV sounds like a flaw in the system!
Get a Leviton Smart Load Center
This is probably the most expensive thing to do, have an electrician come out and replace your entire Load Center. But there are some long term benefits to this solution! (I'll probably do this in a couple more months)
I just spoke with a Leviton Smart Load Center engineer. I put a request in on there website to ask if their Leviton Smart Load Centers would be affected by my Microwave. And somehow my request went to a Leviton engineer, so I had a chat with him about this issue.
He stated that they didn't know about my exact microwave, but something interesting is that Leviton Smart Load Center is able to receive firmware updates to address new false positives for AFCI breakers. And that they are continuously monitoring for all false positives within all homes that have the Smart Load Centers. This allows them to continuously push firmware updated into their breakers without any intervention from the customer. So you get the latest version without having to replace the breaker! Now that sounds like a pretty neat solution to this AFCI nonsense!
After seeing the conversation between Peter and Nate in the comments for whose responsible for these issues (the appliance manufacturer or the AFCI Specs)... It's kind of refreshing that Leviton solution does work long term and is customer friendly. Siemens approach was to buy a 3rd party filter and if that doesn't work, to upgrade your breaker.. I still can't get over how they expect you to continuously buy an upgrade breaker to have the latest firmware for sine wave detection. At least with Leviton, that is done automatically since the breakers are connected to WiFi. Another benefits with Leviton is it's able to detect the difference with a series and parallel arc fault. And you can monitor your electricity for each circuit.