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A safer home with AFDD

AFDD: The ultimate home electrical protection

When Christchurch homeowner Paul Griggs decided to sell his family’s newly renovated home, he was dismayed to discover he might need to completely replace its assortment of wiring in order to assure buyers of its electrical safety.

But a new solution for home electricity security from PDL by Schneider Electric solved the potentially costly problem quickly and easily.

The answer was Arc Fault Detection RCBO – all-in-one devices combining arc fault detection with overload short circuit breakers and residual current protection. Including these in a new switchboard at the property took care of electrical compliance, was less expensive than full rewiring, and provided the new homeowners with peace of mind, while keeping their insurance company happy too.

switchboard

inside a switchboard

close up of a switchboard

an old switchboard

Wiring through the years

The Woolston house contains what Paul Griggs describes as a “mixed bag” of wiring. Built in 1920, it was extended in the 1960s to double its size. Griggs and his family have lived there since the 1990s, adding a garage and two sleepouts over that time, and then spending the last two years renovating the entire property for sale.

He says the home’s electrics are a mixture of newer, brand new and original wires, some encased in metal conduit. “It would be fair to say we were maximising the old wiring for the modern home’s necessities and the additional outbuilding.”

While the family hadn’t experienced any significant problems, Griggs wanted to ensure the home’s electrical system couldn’t cause insurance issues for potential buyers and impact the sale price. But in order for an Electrical Inspector to sign off on the property’s electrical compliance, he found that the age of the house meant he could be facing a bill for complete rewiring.

Not keen on paying thousands of dollars on top of the recent renovation costs, Griggs did some more research and discovered the newly launched Arc Fault Detection RCBOs from PDL by Schneider Electric.

PDL Switchboard

Ultimate home electrical protection

AFDD-RCBOs are the ultimate solution for electricity malfunction detection and are an investment in protecting a home and its occupants from the risk of electrical fire. They are combination devices that detect arc faults (one of the most common causes of electrical fires) and also feature miniature circuit breakers (MCBs) and residual current devices (RCDs) to protect against short circuits, overloads and fatal electric shocks.

While RCDs and circuit breakers are standard additions to switchboards in New Zealand, arc fault detection devices (AFDDs) are still a relatively new concept here, despite having been mandatory in Canada and the USA for several years.

Arc faults can occur when cables become damaged, often when squashed underneath or behind furniture, or simply through poor connections or old wiring. The insulation inside the damaged cable lets current leak out, generating heat and carbonising the material around it, which then becomes more conductive and generates a bigger arc that is invisible to those in the home until the cable or socket catch fire.

An AFDD installed in a switchboard monitors the electrical arcs that occur as part of daily electricity usage on the circuits throughout a home. If it finds any abnormal or dangerous arcs it will trip to isolate and disconnect the faulty circuit before it can ignite and cause a fire.

AFDDs’ ability to detect these arcs before a fire starts means they have been approved by many insurance companies as a way of mitigating risk. They’re particularly useful for older or wooden homes, properties where the occupants have limited mobility, or in rentals where landlords have no control over how many appliances or devices tenants are plugging in.

The new AFDD-RCBO from PDL by Schneider Electric updates its original AFDD that launched in New Zealand in 2016, now combining the circuit breaker and RCD elements with the early warning system of arc fault detection.

PDL Switchboard

Cost-effective alternative to rewiring

After discussions with his electrician and insurance company, Griggs was assured that his compliance would be signed off if he installed a new mains board with the AFDD-RCBOs as part of it – a very welcome alternative to full rewiring.

“This installation was what we decided to go for, as the AFDD system would identify any issues in any one electrical line, meaning rewiring was always then limited to only problem areas,” he says.

“Further to this, we had the peace of mind that with installing the AFDDs we would have full insurance on the building and that any issues within the electrics would be immediately isolated by the AFDD closing off that individual line.”

Peter Matthews of PPM Electrical Services in Christchurch (an electrician and Electrical Inspector) carried out the installation and says the combination device is a useful tool for homes.

“Arc fault detection is still a relatively new concept for New Zealanders and it’s a good one. They [arc faults] can happen in a newer site too, so it’s a very good idea.”

Peter Matthews was also impressed by how easy the AFDD-RCBOs were to install and the fact they detected an issue straight away. “It ‘red flagged’ it, so as soon as I turned it on it wouldn’t set,” he explains. “Through more investigation I found that particular circuit hadn’t been rewired as I’d been led to believe, and it was tripping on the residual function of the AFDD.”

PDL Switchboard

Simple solution for a successful sale

Paul Griggs says he was delighted with the result the AFDD-RCBO installation provided. “Once this work was completed we had a robust and sound electrical system. If any issues arise in future they’ll be immediately identifiable and repairable.”

The property sold for its asking price and Griggs says the installation of the AFDD-RCBOs gave everyone involved peace of mind and saved his family the significant expense of a full rewire.

“We had a better deal from the electrician due to ease of install, easy compliance sign off and easier dealings with our insurance plus the new owners’ insurance,” he says. “We can all sleep a lot better at night too, knowing this house should never burn down due to old or faulty wiring.”

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