In the USA, arcing faults kill and injure hundreds of people every year. To safeguard your house from arcing faults, there are two ways: an AFCI outlet or a breaker. In this blog, we’ll compare AFCI outlet vs breaker and let you know which one is better for you. Additionally, we’ll tell you if you can use an AFCI outlet instead of a breaker.
AFCI Outlet vs Breaker: Which One Should You Choose?
You never know when your electrical system may face an arc fault. Hence, it’s always better to have protection for this kind of issue. So, let’s find out thoroughly what is AFCI outlet and what is an AFCI breaker. This way you’ll know between the AFCI outlet vs breaker which one should you choose.
What is AFCI Outlet?
An AFCI outlet is a device designed to detect hazardous arc faults. It can immediately activate as well as cut the current flow when an arc fault occurs. This prevents electrical fire. This device can be used to protect some of your circuits where the AFCI feature is required.
Pros of an AFCI Oulet
- Cheaper than an AFCI breaker.
- Doesn’t need to run through the circuit breaker to reset.
- Easy to install as well as replace.
Cons of an AFCI Outlet
- Doesn’t protect other branch outlets. The exception is just the downstream connections.
- You might need to locate the main outlet before installing this outlet. This is to be able to protect all the branch outlets.
Also Read: AFCI Vs CAFCI: A Summary
What is an AFCI Breaker?
Just like an AFCI outlet, an AFCI breaker also protects the circuits from arc faults. This gadget can be used for a branch circuit alongside other standard breakers in a main panel. For the standard household outlets, it can also provide AFCI protection.
Pros of an AFCI Breaker
- Protects the whole branch circuit as well as other connected devices.
- Easy to install as well as upgrade.
Cons of an AFCI Breaker
- Compared to the AFCI outlet, it’s quite pricey.
- To test and reset the breaker a little effort is necessary. It is because you need to go to the breaker box every time it trips.
How Does an AFCI Work?
The AFCI function detects as well as determines which arc faults are dangerous. An arc fault can be of two types- parallel or series.
A parallel arc fault occurs when two exposed wire touch each other. These faults are quite hazardous. On the other hand, a series fault occurs when a connection is broken. A broken wire caused by aging or damage is an example of this problem.
Mostly, negligence is the main reason behind a parallel arc fault. It frequently occurs when stapling wire, putting a nail into the wall, and more.
Also Read: AFCI Vs GFCI: What are the Differences?
What are the Differences Between AFCI Outlet Vs Breaker?
The AFCI outlet and circuit breaker have the same arc fault function. However, they differ in what lines or circuits they can protect.
An AFCI receptacle only protects devices connected to it and other downstream outlets. The AFCI functions do not protect anything upstream (including other outlets up to the standard circuit breaker).
On the contrary, when an AFCI breaker trips, it cuts off power to all the devices present on its circuit.
Additionally, if you compare the AFCI breaker vs regular breaker, the AFCI breaker gives a higher level of protection than a regular one.
The price of an AFCI outlet is around $20 to $32 per unit. Meanwhile, the cost of an AFCI breaker, such as a Square D AFCI breaker ranges from $30 to $50 per unit. Now, let’s discover if AFCI is a circuit breaker or outlet.
Also See: How to Install AFCI Outlet
Is AFCI a Circuit Breaker or Outlet?
AFCI outlets are wall outlets that include AFCI protection built into the outlet. These are designed to be installed in specific locations, like living rooms, and provide protection for only the devices that are plugged into the outlet.
On the other hand, an AFCI (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter) is a kind of circuit breaker that’s designed to detect as well as respond to arc faults in an electrical circuit. Typically, they are installed in the electrical panels. Their job is to protect the entire circuit.
So to answer your question, AFCI is a circuit breaker and an outlet. You can refer to it as both an outlet and a breaker. However, they serve different purposes and provide specific levels of protection. Now, let’s answer can I use an AFCI outlet instead of a breaker.
Also Read: Can a Power Surge Damage an Outlet?
Can I Use AFCI Outlet Instead of Breaker?
No, you can’t use an AFCI outlet as a replacement for a breaker. AFCI circuit breakers are used to protect the entire circuit from short circuits and overload. However, AFCI outlets only protect the electrical devices that are plugged into them from arc faults.
The circuit breaker is very essential in residential systems as it helps prevent electrical shocks and fires. You should install an AFCI circuit breaker if you want AFCI protection for a circuit. Depending on your needs, choose between an AFCI outlet and a breaker.
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