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What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers?
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
All circuit breakers in an electric panel provide overcurrent protection for the circuits they serve. If too much electricity is flowing, beyond the capacity of the wiring, they cut off the circuit. But GFCI and AFCI circuits each provide additional and different types of protection. Also, both have a small “TEST” button on the breaker for verification that the device is functional.
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) breakers are for wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms. A “ground fault” occurs when the electric current leaves the intended route within the wiring and appliance, and the stray current may be traveling through your body. So GFCI is a shock protection device that trips within a fraction of a second when a fault is detected.
AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) breakers trip when any arcing, commonly called sparking, is detected in the circuit. Because arcing is the primary cause of electrical fires in a home, AFCI is a fire prevention device.
There are also circuit breakers available that provide both GFCI and AFCI protection. See our blog post What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)?
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