March 22, 2018
An AFCI breaker, on its own, costs anywhere from $30 to $50.
But just asking how much the breaker itself costs is irrelevant unless you’re a licensed electrician. Why? Because the average homeowner shouldn’t be installing AFCI breakers. The job involves working with an electrically live panel and shouldn’t be considered a “DIY” project—ever.
That said, how much will it cost you to have an AFCI breaker installed?
Well, in Denver, the cost to install an AFCI breaker ranges from $160 to $260+ per breaker.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breakers are important because they prevent electrical fires by cutting power to a circuit when it detects an “arc fault” (standard breakers don’t do this).
So, what exactly are “arc faults”? And why are they dangerous? Well, arcing happens when electric current strays from its intended path and travels through damaged insulation.
You see, normally, electric current in your home runs safely along wiring that is enclosed in insulation. If everything is working properly, the insulation acts like a safety “jacket” that keeps current contained and “on track” so that it only travels through the wiring and to your electronics.
But if the insulation is damaged, that live current escapes the confines of its safety jacket. This is called “arcing”. And once an electrical arc is created, it can quickly exceed 10,000°F, which poses a huge risk for an electrical fire.
Causes of electrical arcing include:
The good news is that if you have an AFCI breaker installed, it will detect even very small amounts of electrical arcing and immediately cut power to the circuit to prevent electrical fires.
This is where things get a little tricky. You see, the NEC (National Electric Code) states that:
“...all 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere branch circuits supplying outlets or devices installed in dwelling unit kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, or similar rooms or areas shall be protected by AFCIs.” - 2017 edition of the NEC, Section 210.12
But here’s the thing: NEC codes don’t require “existing systems” to be changed every time a new rule is added.
Translation? If your home was built before 2002 (when AFCIs were first required by the NEC), you’re not required to replace standard breakers with AFCI breakers—it’s just strongly suggested.
So, when are AFCI breaker installations required and when are they just suggested?
If you’re certain that you need an AFCI breaker installed in your home, you’re looking at paying anywhere from $160 to $260+ per breaker.
Whether the electrician runs into any installation “difficulties”
We’ll explain how those two factors determine whether your installation rings in at the low or high end of our estimated price range.
The more skilled the professional, the more they typically charge.
When it comes to your home’s electrical system, you don’t want to skimp on the experience and skill of your electrician. Think of it this way: you’re likely to install an AFCI to protect your family and home but hiring an inexperienced electrician (who is likely to install the breaker incorrectly) would just defeat that purpose, right?
Our suggestion? Don’t say “no” to an electrician just because they provide higher quotes than others. Instead, do some extra research on the electrician to determine whether they are actually worth the higher price (in other words, follow our tips below).
Tips to find a quality electrician:
For the most part, installing AFCI breakers during the construction of a new home won’t present many difficulties. However, any number of challenges could arise if an electrician is installing an AFCI breaker in an existing home/electrical panel.
And the more challenges an electrician faces, the longer the job will take, and the more materials are required, which will increase the overall installation price.
Let’s look at some potential “difficulties” your electrician might face:
For your convenience, you can request an appointment in one of two ways: