Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

May 14, 2020

Gurvinder ChopraBy Gurvinder Chopra

This June, Canadians will commemorate Electrical Safety Month; June also marks the fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic national lockdown. For many Canadians, working from home has become the new normal. As confinement continues, the demand for constant power feed to connect to the world we now live, work, and play in at home has grown substantially. Homes are being equipped with new technologies that offer plenty of benefits, but they also place high demand on electrical systems at home, potentially causing serious safety risks. Are today’s homes equipped with devices that keep us safe from electrical hazards? What electrical safety measures should be re-evaluated?

Protecting homes from electrical hazards can include a variety of common knowledge solutions. However, is the average homeowner aware of arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) technology to prevent arc-faults that can cause serious electrical fires in homes? The importance of modernizing their electrical systems to support the power that runs throughout their home will serve as a good reminder this June.

Advancing technology for home safety

Electro-Federation Canada’s (EFC’s) manufacturer and distributor members play an important role in developing and distributing electrical safety products that protect Canadians from unforeseen electrical hazards. Proven technologies such as arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) provide heightened protection by detecting a potentially-hazardous arc-fault and quickly cutting off power before a fire starts.

The increased demand that modernized technology places on today’s electrical systems makes arc-fault protection in homes an essential part of a modernized infrastructure. In fact, the Canadian Electrical Code requires all new home builds to be AFCI code-compliant; arc-fault circuit protection must be installed for 125Vac, 15A and 20A circuits supplying receptacles throughout the home (with a few exceptions). This extends beyond branch circuit wiring by safeguarding all cords that are plugged into the receptacles. AFCIs are designed to protect against both high current (parallel) and low current (series) arcing.

Although, the Code does not mandate existing homes to have arc-fault protection, except when adding a new branch circuit or receptacle(s) to an existing branch circuit. This causes a concern for the safety of Canadians. Arc-faults are known to be a significant cause for electrical fires in homes. In Ontario alone, an estimated 1,500 fires caused by electrical loss[1] were reported over the past five years, resulting in an average of six fatalities per year.[2] The electrical failures or malfunctions are largely attributed to the misuse of devices, wiring, outlets, etc., or to the use of uncertified, refurbished and/or counterfeit products.

With the availability of certified electrical safety devices on the market, ESA notes that there been a steady decline in the number of electrical-caused fires (rate decrease of 12% over the past 10 years in Ontario).[3] This positive downward trend is largely attributed to greater fire safety awareness and response, better construction materials, and new fire prevention technologies like AFCIs.

Industry action is vital

To support this effort, EFC’s Distribution Equipment and Wiring Supplies members formed a task group in August 2018, which led to the development of an online portal with resources and information about AFCI technology: https://www.electrofed.com/products/afci/. This portal provides prevention measures, a tripping report form, and the electrical risks involved if action is not taken.

Next month, Electro-Federation Canada (EFC) is launching a series of campaigns to remind homeowners about the importance of modernizing their electrical systems. Protecting homeowners is a collective effort. The entire electrical community, including manufacturers, distributors, contractors and regulators, must join forces to ensure consumers are aware and protected from possible electrical risks.

As Canadians continue to stay at home and update their homes with the latest smart devices, appliances, and electronics, they must also be reminded to modernize the electrical system that feeds power to various applications. Distributors are encouraged to communicate the use of AFCI technology with their electrical contractors to bring awareness to consumers about the significance of this technology and the range of arc-fault protection available to them.

Gurvinder Chopra is VP, Standards & Regulations for Electro-Federation Canada.

Notes
1. Electrical loss refers to incidences involving some type of electrical failure or malfunction as a factor contributing to ignition.
2. https://www.esasafe.com/assets/files/esasafe/pdf/Safety_Reports/ESA_OESR_2017_Final.pdf
3. Ibid.

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