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.
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.