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AFCI Vs. GFCI Receptacles

AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interruption) and GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruption) are distinct but equally critical technologies that safeguard your home from the fire and shock dangers posed by electrical faults.

Arc Fault Interruption Receptacles

When electrical components become frayed or damaged, loose parts spark to maintain the current flow, quickly heating the surrounding area. These sparks can ignite nearby wire insulation, causing a fire that spreads quickly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, these faults cause an estimated 45.5 percent of home electrical fires. AFCI receptacles detect the current fluctuations caused by arc faults and shut down the circuit.

Ground Fault Interruption Receptacles

A ground fault occurs when a live circuit contacts "grounded" metal, such as a screw or wiring box, and creates a severe shock hazard. Such faults cause over two-thirds of the 300 electrocutions occurring at home annually. GFCI receptacles cut off the circuit within milliseconds of this type of fault, preventing the stray current from causing any harm.

Availability

You can purchase GFCI receptacles in most stores where normal receptacles are sold.

As of 2010, no company mass-produces AFCI receptacles, but the 2008 National Electrical Code permits their use. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission expects that AFCI receptacles will be available in the near future; until then, AFCI circuit breakers remain a viable alternative.

About the Author

Joseph Salvo began writing professionally in 2010. He is an experienced technical writer with expertise in electrical systems and sustainable design. Salvo is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and a LEED Green Associate. He holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from NYU and a Bachelor of Engineering in electrical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology.