Will AFCI trip with switch off?

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Old 04-22-14, 01:45 PM
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Will AFCI trip with switch off?

I was replacing a ceiling fan in a bedroom and left wall switch off but power at panel on. When I noticed different things in room had stopped functioning, I went to panel and saw AFCI was tripped. Will touching hot and neutral even with wall switch in off position trip AFCI.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 02:08 PM
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In a nutshell, no. Switch open = no power flowing = nothing for the AFCI to react to.

However if there was something else on the same circuit running through that box unrelated to what you were working on, and say the wirenut didn't have a good bite, your messing around with the wires could've caused the connection to come loose and if there was load on it, there could have been an arc. Same goes if you pulled the nut off a neutral splice that wasn't twisted together, and it fed outlets with things plugged in, and say the wires came apart. That would do it.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 02:09 PM
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Did you see an arc at any time?
 

Last edited by Geochurchi; 04-22-14 at 02:10 PM. Reason: Misspelling
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Old 04-22-14, 02:16 PM
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Some AFCIs also have some limited GFCI so if you touched the neutral to ground it would trip if there was any load elsewhere on the circuit.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 02:17 PM
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No. I saw no arc. In the ceiling fan box are 4 wires. Red for light, black for fan, neutral, and ground. There no other connections in box. The first time I noticed as issue was after old fan was removed. I reset breaker, not thinking it could have been anything I did. It tripped one more time at some point in installation. That is when I thought it might have something to do with my work. Maybe it does have some GFCI properties, and it tripped with neutral and ground? It is a a Cutler Hammer AFCI.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 02:31 PM
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A GFCI only trips if there is more current flowing out on the hot than there is flowing back in the neutral. An imbalance of more than 5mA indicates a potential fatal current leak, and a GFCI will trip. But once again with the switch off, there is nothing flowing, so there is nothing to detect.

The only exception to this is if your switch is electronic (as opposed to a normal on/off toggle or slider/rotary switch).. Like a Leviton pushbutton dimmer/fan control for example. These can leak a tiny amount of current through the hot wires, and it may be enough to be detected by a GFCI.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 02:45 PM
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It is a sliding fan control. 2 paddles"..one for light, one for fan. They have little 3 clicks for 3 different speeds. I think it is solid state.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 02:45 PM
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OP is stating AFCI not GFCI, and if power goes to the fixture first yeah the AFCI will trip out, just like a GFCI if it detects a fault, whether or not the switch is involved or not.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 04:49 PM
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Yes but it was suggested that it could be a AFCI/GFCI combo unit, and that it may have tripped for a ground fault, not an arc fault.
 
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Old 04-22-14, 07:08 PM
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As far as I know, all AFCI breakers also have GFCI capability at about 30 mA built into them. Not enough to satisfy GFCI requirements, but they do have the capability. Therefore, a neutral conductor coming in contact with a ground wire would probably trip an AFCI breaker.
 
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Old 04-23-14, 07:19 AM
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There is a pull chain light in my cabin's MBR that worked fine....Until I brought the bedrooms to that code update during a remodel. The AFCI tripped as soon as I engaged it. The PO had wired that light using the hot from the room switch and the ground as a neutral. Definite no-no. Wired it right and all was well.
 
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