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Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters VS Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters | Print |  Email

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters vs. Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters

The world of electricity is filled with acronyms and abbreviations— CFL (compact florescent light), kW (kilowatt), AC (alternating current), and POV (peak operating voltage) just to name a few. It can get confusing! Take for example GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) & AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter). They both contain the words fault, circuit and interrupter in the same order - so what is the difference?  While they seem to be similar, both do very different things and can help keep homes and families safe from the dangers of electricity.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters help protect against an unintentional path between the voltage source and the ground.  That means it offers protection from an electrical shock.  A GFCI has sensors inside of it that measure the current going out and the current coming back in to it.  If the current measurements are different, that means current is “leaking” from the circuit and something is providing a path to ground.  It that path to ground is a person; he or she could be injured, burned, severely shocked or electrocuted.  A GFCI can shut a circuit off within milliseconds, “interrupting” the flow of electricity, and hopefully keeping someone from getting shocked.  GFCI’s are installed in places of greater shock risk, like bathrooms, kitchens and outdoors.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters help protect against arcing conditions in electrical wiring that could cause a fire.  AFCI’s have sensors that monitor the arcing conditions.  They can differentiate between normal arcing conditions and dangerous arcing conditions.  Arcing can happen when things like a vacuum cleaner or a furnace motor turns on . . . those types of arcs would be classified as normal.  Dangerous arcing happens when there are conditions like loose wiring in outlets or switches, damaged wiring, aged of wires, overheated or stressed electrical cords and shorted wires.  The electronics in an AFCI senses the arcing and shuts down the circuit.  The 2008 National Electrical Code requires combination AFCIs on circuits for all dwelling unit family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sun rooms, recreation rooms, hallways, closets, finished basements, or other rooms of that nature.

So GFCI’s help protect against shocks and AFCI’s help protect against fires.  If you are interested in making your home safer by installing either of these devices, make sure you contact a qualified electrician to do so.

 

 


 

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