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AFCI & GFCI Outlets: Here’s What You Need to Know

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are two types of electrical outlets that can be installed within a home. Each serves a specific purpose, and in many electrical codes around the country, they are a requirement in particular locations.

They exist as a solution to the problem of unwanted electrical shocks and electrocution from outlets. As the name suggests, they are designed to be circuit interrupters. In the case of a power surge or voltage spike, these outlets will safely shut themselves down before any damage happens to electrical devices or human beings in the area.

Understanding GFCIs

GFCI sockets are a required installation in any area where houses are at a high risk of electrocution due to exiting factors, such as water. How a GFCI works is by assessing the current level of electricity in the connected circuit and determining if an electrical imbalance exists. If this happens, the socket shuts itself off before anyone or anything can come to harm. The best way to think of a GFCI socket is like a mini circuit breaker installed into the electrical outlet itself. The areas that GFCIs are required to be installed are:

  • Pools and hot tubs
  • Exterior installations like Decks
  • Unfinished basements
  • Laundry rooms and utility closets
  • Wet bars
  • Garages
  • Bathrooms
  • Kitchens

GFCIs are extremely important as a safety feature for these areas, and these installations are required by code. It is recommended that users don’t use GFCIs with refrigerators or freezers, since these may trip unexpectedly and lead to food spoilage.

What is an AFCI?

AFCIs are another safety measure, but they operate under a different principle. We all know that electricity follows the path of least resistance. When a wire becomes exposed to the air, sometimes the power finds a more natural path to ground than through the intended route.

When the electricity jumps to this new route, it creates an arc that could be potentially dangerous to anyone or anything close to the circuit. AFCIs detect this discharge and shut the entire socket down before any damage can occur. Unlike GFCIs, AFCIs aren’t included in wall receptacles. Instead, they are built into the service panels as unique types of circuit breakers. AFCIs are found in:

  • Sleeping areas
  • Laundry rooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Kitchens

Should You Upgrade Your Outlets?

If the house is one that predates electrical codes, then the apparent answer would be yes. GFCIs and AFCIs exist as safety measures designed to protect both individuals and appliances. Regular circuit breakers and sockets are also intended to protect electrical systems but don’t serve as a safety measure for people. Both these circuit interrupters are inexpensive to acquire and simple to install, so we recommend that homeowners invest in their safety by installing these devices.

You mustn’t try to do these installations yourself. House wiring can be a very complicated system. While amateur electricians may be able to get away with installing a single outlet or an extension, replacement of sockets with circuit interrupter modules require professional handling. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do it yourself. Call LiveWire, and we’ll help you bring some safety to your home in the form of AFCI and GFCI installations that you can trust.