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What’s the difference between AFCI and GFCI?

If you have read anything about residential or commercial electrical repair and electrical circuitry, you will have seen the terms AFCI and GFCI outlets. They are important equipment to any property’s electrical system in terms of functionality, and are absolutely essential for safety. But what are they exactly are they, and what do they do?

AFCI & GFCI Differences

The main difference between AFCIs and GFCIs are what they are designed to protect against. GFCIs are outlets designed to prevent electric shock and electrocution. The acronym GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It is designed to “trip” or switch off when it senses that the electrical current is flowing through an unintended source, such as water, or a human body. Because of the increased risk of electric shock and electrocution that occurs when an electric current comes into contact with water, GFCIs are required to be put in rooms, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

The outlet itself looks much like a typical power outlet, except for the addition of two control buttons that say reset and test. The reset button will reactivate the outlet after it has been tripped. The test button does what its name implies: It will test to make sure the GFCI is actually working. If the GFCI outlet is indeed working, pressing the test button will cut power to the outlet, and whatever you have plugged into the outlet, will not turn on. The reset button will return power back to the outlet, after it has been tripped (or after using the test button). So now that we have looked at GFCI outlets, let’s take a look at AFCIs.

What is an AFCI?
AFCI stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. While the GFCI is designed to protect against shock and electrocution, AFCI is designed to protect against fires cause by rapid escalations of electric power known as electrical arcs. Electrical arcs cause overheating and electrical currents to spill out from their intended pathways which can lead to fires. Electrical arcs are one of the main causes of electrical fires, and electrical fires are the main causes of property fires period, so the importance of AFCIs cannot be overstated.

AFCIs may not be always as obvious as GFCIs. While they may have reset and test functions easily accessible through the outlet faceplate, the AFCI device may be under the faceplate. AFCIs are required in all rooms that are primary areas for residential dwelling, such as bedrooms, dens, and areas that will see continuous traffic, such as hallways. The concept of how AFCIs work is similar to how GFCIs work. When the AFCI senses a power arc, it trips to shut off the power in much a similar way that a circuit breaker switches.

As stated before, AFCIs and GFCIs are essential parts to your overall electrical system, and important safety precautions to your home or business. However, they can be subject to recurring issues, such as frequently tripping. The electrical contractors at MM Electric LLC can help with all you AFCI and GFCI needs, whether you are a business that wants to make sure you are up to code in order to avoid costly fines, or simply a homeowner wanting to ensure protection for your family MM Electric can help with a variety of electrical services provided!