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Old 03-10-2015, 11:06 AM   #1
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


The other day, I saw a story about some guy who had an apple charger that was smoking and close to being on fire. I'm sure we've all heard the stories and such....I even think there is one out there with a teen that fell asleep with her charging smartphone under her pillow and it caught fire.

Is this the type of stuff an arc fault breaker is designed to protect against? FWI, I have arc fault breakers on the bedroom circuits, but that doesn't help on the ones that are in other rooms such as kitchen and living, etc.

I know they say unplug when not in use, but getting the family to do that is another story in and of itself and I really don't want a 6yr old trying to plug a wall wart in when she wants to charge her tablet. So that begs the question are there power strips with this type of protection built in?

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Old 03-10-2015, 11:13 AM   #2
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


Arc fault breakers are much like regular breakers, they do not protect appliances or prevent say an extension cord from over loading. They are designed for other reasons.

The purpose of an arc fault breaker is to trip say if a nail was driven though wiring or a cord was broken with electricity arcing between the gap.

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Old 03-10-2015, 11:45 AM   #3
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


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Arc fault breakers are much like regular breakers, they do not protect appliances or prevent say an extension cord from over loading. They are designed for other reasons.

The purpose of an arc fault breaker is to trip say if a nail was driven though wiring or a cord was broken with electricity arcing between the gap.
So an overheated phone wouldn't be protected, guess that makes sense. What about a shorted out cord? Wouldn't that be an arc fault? My understanding was it helped with things like an electric blanket that broke down, got a short, it'd keep it from catching fire.

I had a light bulb in one of the rooms that kept flickering and thus it tripped the breaker, changed it out and fixed.
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Old 03-10-2015, 11:47 AM   #4
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


As a general rule of thumb, any time you have a voltage converter, the upstream protection is only working on the primary (higher voltage) side of that device. Protection on the secondary (lower voltage) side has to be provided separately.

With many of the wall wart type devices, the output is low enough that there is no protection on the secondary side, or it is just a simple fuse.
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Old 03-10-2015, 12:13 PM   #5
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So an overheated phone wouldn't be protected, guess that makes sense. What about a shorted out cord? Wouldn't that be an arc fault? My understanding was it helped with things like an electric blanket that broke down, got a short, it'd keep it from catching fire.

I had a light bulb in one of the rooms that kept flickering and thus it tripped the breaker, changed it out and fixed.

AFCIs look for at least one thing if not two. The first one is about 80% of AFCI look for current going to the ground wire (EGC). This can be from a fault in a 3 prong appliance or damaged wires within the wall.

The other one is as the name says: an arc. An arc produces a current ripple which the AFCI senses and trips. Of course having an arc take place is key. An over heating charger or loose (glowing) connection will not produce an arc so no protection is offered. However, if you have a cord that is crushed underneath a chair or desk leg the insulation may get damaged causing an arc to take place. An AFCI will catch this and trip .
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Old 03-10-2015, 02:05 PM   #6
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


AFCI protect from arcs. If the fault is such that there is arcing(sparking) then the breaker should trip. If it is only heating up and smoking then no trip unless current overload.
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Old 03-10-2015, 10:05 PM   #7
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


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Originally Posted by Master Brian View Post
The other day,

Is this the type of stuff an arc fault breaker is designed to protect against?


are there power strips with this type of protection built in?

NO ! an arc fault will not protect you from everything and anything.
there are plenty of variables involved.

I have not seen a power strip with a built in arc fault,
But you can plug a regular power strip into a arc fault protected circuit
which gives you the same result.
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Old 03-11-2015, 07:20 AM   #8
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


only thing that can cause a fire with a cell phone is a defective battery, charger output is limited to about 5v 1-2A max, not enough to create sparks
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Old 03-11-2015, 11:20 AM   #9
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


1-2 amps is certainly enough to create sparks.
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Old 03-12-2015, 07:11 AM   #10
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at 5v potential, spark will be very small , unless pillow is filled with gasoline, it won't start a fire
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Old 03-12-2015, 11:29 AM   #11
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Cell Charges and arc fault...


Quote:
only thing that can cause a fire with a cell phone is a defective battery
You are wrong with that one. There are a number of fire risks with the charger/cord. A few of them are:

A shorted cord. It doesn't have to throw sparks, they can over heat.
A high resistance connection between the plug and the phone.
A short internal to the cube.

Any of those can melt insulation and ignite flammable materials. The shorts can happen whether or not a phone is charging, as long as they are plugged into a source.
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Old 03-13-2015, 07:51 AM   #12
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unless the charger is defective, you can short-circuit the output of the charger and it wont do anything, the output will just drop to zero and charger will go to hiccup mode. This is part of their UL testing for security. Arcs that starts fire are usually over 100 amps (when you short 120v circuits briefly) and thats why afci exists. You can try all day long with a usb charger to make big arcs and it wont work. If output cable is bad it may overheat a little, (maybe melt the plastic cord) then it will short-circuit and wont reach a temp high enough to start a fire
Chargers that are dangerous are those cheap chinese copy that may not have current limitations (not UL listed) and those may create bigger fire hazard

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