Why You Need an AFCI Tester in Your Tool Kit

AFCI Tester

Electric inspections are part of the job, so anything that makes your job easier is worth thinking about.

If you’ve spent much time at the ICA School website, you’ll already know that you don’t need a lot of equipment to start a home inspection business. But that doesn’t mean some equipment won’t make your life a whole lot easier. Such is the case with an AFCI indicator.

Although the actual function of this device is more like an indicator, you’ll probably hear it referred to as a tester more often than not. Either way, InterNACHI’s “AFCI Testers” article suggests that it’s a tool that you’ll eventually want to invest in.

AFCI tester

AFCI breakers detect when there’s an arc, which triggers the breaker to protect the circuit.

AFCI Indicators Check AFCI Devices

An AFCI circuit breaker is designed to protect the home owner if an arc is detected in a circuit. They’re not usually required protection for every room in a house, but you’ll probably find them servicing bedrooms the way that GFCI devices are found in areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.

An AFCI indicator creates a certain wave pattern that mimics a real arc in the circuit. So in theory, an indicator creates a false arc to see whether the device will react the way that it’s supposed to. If it detects an arc, it’s supposed to trip. So the false arc created by an indicator could produce the same trip. It can also help you determine whether there’s a “nuisance trip” problem.

Indicators Aren’t Always Proof Positive

Unfortunately, the results of an AFCI indicator aren’t always spot-on, says InterNACHI. It doesn’t create an actual arc, so a device might or might not respond to the indicator’s wave pattern. The indicator is plugged into the receptacle the same way that a GFCI tester is used. You’ll have a few different options to choose from, including a rapid, pulsating charge to help encourage the device to trip.

A device that’s working properly might trip when if it detects the false arc created by the indicator. Unfortunately, a device might still be perfectly fine and not react to the indicator at all. For that reason, you shouldn’t rely solely on an indicator to tell you whether an AFCI device is working or not.

AFCI tester

You can perform an inspection without an AFCI indicator, but they’ll help you examine a home’s circuits more thoroughly.

These Tools Help You Provide More Thorough Inspections

If an indicator doesn’t guarantee a result, you probably wonder why they matter at all. Once you see the price tag, you’ll probably wonder even more. They can cost several hundred dollars, but the benefit is in their flexibility. Some models also come as a combination AFCI / GFCI tester, which make them more convenient.

When you check an AFCI breaker using its test button, you’ll test the entire circuit at once. But there’s no way for you to test one receptacle at a time. With an AFCI tester, you can do that. And if the indicator doesn’t cause the AFCI circuit to trip, testing at the breaker can show whether the whole circuit is bad.

AFCI indicators or testers certainly aren’t required equipment, and it might be a while before you think about whether you want to invest in one. Even though their results aren’t as clear as what you get with a GFCI tester, they can help you provide a more thorough inspection. It’s one more tool for your tool belt, and one that really does have a place, even with its finicky nature.

Inspectors have specialized tools and a lot of knowledge to use them. But the only way to learn is through training. Have you decided to enroll in our home inspection course? If you’re still mulling it over, why not get a free demo to see firsthand what our courses are like?

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