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Odd thing happened today. My wife plugged a 1700W (clothes) iron into a power strip and tripped the AFCI to the bedroom.

I reckon with the TV and 2 lamps running it peaked over 15A and tripped out. What was odd was the event didn't just trip the AFCI, it killed it (test button fails to work). Not only that, it killed the other 2 AFCI's in the 2 breaker panels on separate branches.

That's odd right? Or is it?

The power strip is suspect, having blown a fuse in another device that was plugged into in earlier in the day - it had never been used before that. So maybe it was O/C from manufacture and sent a huge spike down the wire and fried the AFCI's.

What are people's thoughts?

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    My first thought was, why in the world where you plugging an iron into a power strip? They shouldn't even be plugged into an extension cord because of the power draw they pull. Now the question, did multiple circuits fail when the first did or did you notice that the test didn't work on multiple circuits after the first tripped? – diceless Nov 2 '14 at 5:20
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    Could be that the AFCI's have been bad, the act of testing them simply revealed it. I think most newer AFCI's have self test, or other circuitry that causes them to fail open. Though not all do, especially older models. This is why they should be tested periodically, because the test reveals failures. – Tester101 Nov 2 '14 at 12:24
  • Hi - thanks for the responses! In answer to the questions - I only noticed the one bedroom circuit off at the time, although there could have been others. When attempting to reset the breaker, I noticed that at least one of the other AFCI test buttons worked, but then never worked again after that. – Dan Meacham Nov 2 '14 at 13:18
  • If the power strip shorted out the dead short may have tripped half the main breaker. Do you notice any other circuits out in the house? You can always try to reset the main breaker just in case. – Speedy Petey Nov 2 '14 at 13:27
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    What make and model are these AFCIs? – ThreePhaseEel Jan 31 '17 at 0:21
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I have a newer home, and was having some electrical problems. The problems were scattered all over the house, with tripping AFCI's as well as tripping GFCI's.

It turns out that all of the AFCI's as well as ALL of the GFCI's were cheap chinese knock-offs. As I removed the first GFCI for replacement, I noticed it had no brand name on it, so I looked up the UL number to see who made it... Turns out the number was fake, the unit was a cheap chinese knock off... Later when I pulled the AFCI, I noticed it had the same UL number, along with no name brand on the UL stamp, even though it had a square D logo printed on the front. When I went to look at a square D AFCI at the supply store, I saw it had a completely different UL imprint on it, with the manufacturer name.

The point is that I discovered that the electrical contractor that built my house used many non-certified Chinese knock-offs that resemble name brand devices.

The point is simple, you may also have non-functional chinese knock-offs in your home, and they may trip in non-standard ways.

In my case, they seemed to trip too easily. But it could just as easily go the other way and simply not trip. Federal went out of business because they sold breakers that simply stopped tripping with age... Lots of people died as a result.

Regardless, if I see components like this fail, my instinct is to replace them all. Even if they were good name brands when they were made, they can be bad a few years later. Once electrical starts to act flakey, it is time to consider updating everything. Even outlets need replacement with age. When electricity does something bad, people can die... there are good reasons to update electrical safety components from time to time... say every 10 to 15 years... sooner if they show issues.

Federal went out of business when it was found that 60% of the components they made did not comply with UL listings, despite having UL certifications on everything. They weren't the only company breaking the rules, they just are the one that got caught.

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  • This answer did not really answer the question. Some power strips have MOV's to reduce voltage spikes and they can trip AFCI's. I agree that FPE stab-lock have some problems both when new and worse as they age. As far as I know FPE never sold AFCI's so this information is really not helpful to the OP. – Ed Beal Jan 30 '17 at 20:09
  • @EdBeal: The question is as clear as mud, asking for answers precisely like this one. – Fizz Jul 8 '17 at 19:58
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A power strip, with MOV or not (we hardly know what yours is or has) cannot send "a huge spike down the wire", and by this I mean it cannot generate such a spike, although it can surely pass it along (especially if lacks any surge suppression). As for the rest of your question that gets perennially bumped by the inane system here, it cannot really be answered without knowing a lot more details about those devices... details which you're unlikely to provide given that you haven't been around for 3 years or so.

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