zwave and AFCI tripping issues

I need some perspective or advice. I have a customer who got their basement finished by another electrician. There are 3 rooms; in each room, the lighting and outlets are tied together. The customer is having AFCI tripping issues in all of the three rooms, but one room is worse than the others. Every switch is a zwave and the whole space is automated. I typically troubleshoot arc faults with a Siemens Intelli Arc tester and I have had good results with that tester. My readings fluctuate dramatically when the zwave devices are tied in. If I bypass the zwave, the readings seem to settle down. But there is no one thing on any of the circuits that is the obvious problem. All grounds and neutrals are isolated, overall the installing electrician did a decent job other than not separating the lighting from the outlets. Anyone have issues with zwave and arc faults?
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Your problem is undoubtedly caused by the zwave carrier. It's well known that RF, particularly from 2-way radios or nearby transmitters, can trip a whole panel of arc faults at once. I would keep the zwave as far away from the panel as possible.

Beyond that, about all you can do is make sure you have the latest version of the arc faults. If you can, get rid of them.

By the way, I wouldn't trust that Siemens Intelli Arc tester as far as I could throw it. Ant it looks to be discontinued. Many arc faults have their own diagnostics now (for whatever it's worth).

-Hal
 

synchro

Senior Member
Just a few questions to stir things up a bit and maybe stimulate some other responses:

Did the AFCIs ever trip while you were there?
Did the customer or you ever ever observe a light go out due to an AFCI trip without having touched a zwave device immediately beforehand?
Are the receptacles daisy-chained using back-stabbed connections?
 
I appreciate the input. It appears to be related to zwave for sure, the devices are not near the panel, so I’m still a bit puzzled. As for the tester, I don’t disagree with you, but it’s a tool in the tool box. Any recommendations on a better Afci tracer?


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Synchro, the customer claims it happens when no one is even down there, or all the lights are off while they are watching a movie etc. I did not see it trip while I was there. The outlets are daisy chained, but not backstabbed. I know that I need to separate the lighting from the outlets, the installer put everything on together.


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mopowr steve

Senior Member
You don’t have to separate the lights from the receptacle outlets. Why do you think they have to? Unless they’re SABC circuits.
Still gotta love them afci’s, in the past they’ve nuisance tripped for me on brand new vacuum cleaners, plasma tv’s, fan speed controls which were not even associated with the circuit at hand.
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Any recommendations on a better Afci tracer?
No such thing. Make use of any diagnostics but just keep in mind that 99% of the time, if normal troubleshooting doesn't work you can blame it on the AFCI design.

We had a guy awhile back with AFCI breakers tripping for no reason in both a main panel and sub panel. Gave him everything to try, nothing worked. I don't believe we ever heard back from him. I suspect he ripped them out but didn't want to say so here.

-Hal
 
Do y’all think that separating the lights and outlets may help? It’s almost as if the AFCI is in the verge on tripping with all the zwave and having anything plugged in may be tipping the scales. The breakers have been replaced multiple times and still trip. I hate these breakers, but there’s gotta be a way to get them to hold


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hillbilly1

Senior Member
Not familiar with the Z waves, but do they require a neutral? If not, they probably self power with a very small current to ground. (Similar to the older self powered motion sensors) Enough total leakage may cause the ground fault portion of the afci to trip, especially if there are other unknown leakages.
 

Sierrasparky

Senior Member
I would agree with hillbilly, if these zwave devices do not have neutrals then they are probably using current to ground, too many on a circuit can cause problems with AFCI devices that have ground fault circuits.

Try using a regular beaker and a AFCI receptacle in its place. just temporarily place in panel . The Zwave signal itself should not cause a breaker to trip, very low strength.
 
No such thing. Make use of any diagnostics but just keep in mind that 99% of the time, if normal troubleshooting doesn't work you can blame it on the AFCI design.

We had a guy awhile back with AFCI breakers tripping for no reason in both a main panel and sub panel. Gave him everything to try, nothing worked. I don't believe we ever heard back from him. I suspect he ripped them out but didn't want to say so here.

-Hal
I just came from a place where I had people argue with me to the moon and back about AFCI's and how they DONT help safety in the home, what are your thoughts, I don't want to talk about tripping and all of that I have my opinions on that topic, i'm a huge proponent of these devices, I think they save lives and property
 

Knuckle Dragger

Master Electrician Electrical Contractor 01752
I have installed a lot of afci circuit breakers On remodels with AC wiring circa 1920-30's that I do and have not had any real issues. I saw one function properly on a service call I did.
The homeowner had done the wiring and installed an afci circuit breaker.
But the circuit looped through all the receptacles on the first and second floors that were feeding three AC window units plus general lighting in general purpose receptacles.
The call was at the afci circuit breaker was tripping all the time after it was reset.
when I got there the circuit breaker wasn't tripped anymore but I had found that the circuit open at a receptacle the conductors were burned clear of the terminals.
I guess the AFCI worked but he kept reseting the CB.
 
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