Today’s PHW Inspections Topic: GFCI vs AFCI

What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI?

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) are two types of electrical safety devices designed to protect against electrical shock and fires respectively.

GFCI protects against electrical shock by sensing any difference between the current flowing into and out of an electrical circuit, and tripping the circuit if it detects a ground fault. Ground faults can occur when electricity escapes the normal path of the circuit and flows through a person or an object, potentially causing injury or death. GFCIs are typically used in areas with water, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor outlets.

AFCI, on the other hand, protects against electrical fires by detecting arcing faults, which can occur when electricity jumps across gaps in wires, cords, or cables, creating a spark or heat that can ignite nearby combustible materials. AFCI monitors the electrical current flow and trips the circuit if it detects an arc fault, thereby preventing electrical fires. AFCIs are typically used in bedrooms, living rooms, and other areas where electrical wiring is hidden behind walls and ceilings.

The specific requirements for AFCI/GFCI protection in SW Florida will depend on the applicable building codes and regulations. Generally, the National Electrical Code (NEC) sets the minimum standards for electrical safety in the United States.

According to the 2020 NEC, AFCI protection is required for all 15- and 20-amp branch circuits that supply outlets or devices in dwelling unit bedrooms, except where the circuit supplies only a closet or bathroom. GFCI protection is required for all 15- and 20-amp 125-volt receptacles installed outdoors, in bathrooms, garages, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, kitchen countertops, and within 6 feet of any sink or wet bar.

It is important to note that local codes and regulations may vary, and it is always recommended to consult with a licensed electrician or building inspector to determine the specific requirements for your location.

In summary, while both AFCIs and GFCIs are important safety devices, they have different functions. AFCIs are intended to address fire hazards; GFCIs address shock hazards. Combination devices include both AFCI and GFCI protection in one unit.

Be sure to have a qualified electrician install AFCIs; do not attempt this work yourself. The installation sometimes involves working within electrical panel boxes that are electrically live, even with the main circuit breakers turned off.

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