While electricity is an absolute necessity in today’s modern home, there are some inherent risks that accompany its usage including electric shock and electrical fires. AFCI and GFCI outlets and breakers are effective safety measures to prevent these dangers in your home. They both play a major role in keeping your home and loved ones safe but in different ways.
GFCI and Preventing Ground Faults
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) devices protect you from ground faults, which is important in guarding against electric shock. When your home’s electrical system operates smoothly, electricity enters a device through a hot wire, goes through the device and exits through a neutral wire. The process repeats continuously until the flow of electricity is stopped. However, when the flow of current from hot to neutral escapes from the circuit and travels to a nearby object, the result is a ground fault. If that nearby object happens to be you or something you touch that has been energized, you’ll receive an electric shock, which could be deadly if the voltage is high enough.
What Causes Ground Faults?
A ground fault can be caused by several reasons including improper, old or faulty wiring, but moisture within the outlet is the most common cause. A GFCI device offers protection against ground faults by detecting anomalies in the flow of electricity – also known as stray electricity – and killing the flow if it senses any danger. The process takes place in milliseconds. These devices mainly prevent electrical shock to people, but they can also protect against electric fires or burns.
Where Do I Need GFCI Outlets?
Because the main cause of ground faults is moisture or water in the outlet, you need GFCI devices in areas prone to moisture. Any area with electricity and the possibility of getting wet requires GFCI outlets.
- Outdoor outlets, like on a porch or deck
- Pool houses
- Laundry rooms
- Unfinished basements
AFCI and Preventing Arc Faults
AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) devices protect against arc faults. Arc faults happen when the metal portion of a live electrical wire touches another metal source, causing sparking that could potentially start a fire if the spark ignites a nearby flammable object. Arc faults do happen, but AFCI protection ensures that they don’t cause damage. Arc faults are so dangerous because they won’t trip the circuit breaker unless they lead to a ground fault or short circuit.
What Causes Arc Faults?
Arc faults often occur in damaged or deteriorated wires and cords. Some common household causes of damaged and deteriorated wiring include cords caught in doors or under furniture, punctured cords, furniture pushed against plugs in an outlet and prolonged cord exposure to heating vents and sunlight.
Some common causes of arc faults include:
- Any sort of damage to electrical wires or their insulation
- Electrical wires attached incorrectly to electrical devices such as lights, outlets or appliances
- Damaged outlets, lights, appliances or electrical branch circuits
- Damaged extension cords that attach to a live electric current and device
- Cords or wires exposed to the sun or other sources of intense heat for prolonged periods
An AFCI device works similarly to a GFCI device by detecting any signatures of arcing or electrical anomalies and immediately stopping the current flow of electricity.
Where Do I Need AFCI Outlets?
AFCI devices were invented around 1999 and quickly became a mainstay in millions of homes worldwide. Today, AFCI protection is often a requirement according to local building codes and the National Electric Code (NEC). AFCI was originally only required in bedrooms since they presented the highest risk of fires starting unnoticed. However, AFCI protection is now mandatory in many rooms throughout the house.
Because AFCI devices are necessary for an entire circuit rather than an individual outlet, they almost always get installed at the electrical box as a circuit breaker. AFCI protection is a good idea for every room in your home, especially the following:
- Living rooms
- Dining rooms
- Family rooms
- Laundry areas
Which is Better, GFCI or AFCI Protection?
Each device protects against different dangers, which means they’re equally important. AFCI protection prevents fires from overheated wires or when a wire touches metal. GFCI protection guards against fatal electrical shock due to a ground fault. Rather than choosing between them, it’s a good idea to have both forms of protection installed in your home. You can get circuit breakers that have the dual function of AFCI and GFCI, which provide protection against both arcing and ground faults.
How Can We Help?
At Shockley Electric, we address important home safety issues such as power surges, faulty electrical wiring and potential fire hazards when we do electrical preventive maintenance in homes or commercial buildings. We are licensed, trained, and skilled in safety-proofing your home, and we are committed to the safety and well-being of our customers.
If you are experiencing electrical problems in your home or aren’t sure if your home is protected from electrical hazards, schedule an in-home estimate or appointment with us today. Fill out our form or call us now for a free estimate!