Electricity can be a powerful tool, but it also poses serious risks. That’s why AFCI and GFCI are here to save the day! These are designed to detect and interrupt different types of faults that can lead to electrical hazards. In this blog, let’s break down the differences between AFCI vs GFCI. Here we’ll also discuss where to use AFCI protection, where to use GFCI devices, etc.
AFCI Vs GFCI: What Are The Differences?
AFCI (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter) and GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) are both electrical safety devices, but they serve different purposes. Let’s learn the difference between AFCI vs GFCI.
AFCI devices are designed to detect and interrupt arc faults, which can cause electrical fires, while GFCI devices are designed to detect and interrupt ground faults, which can cause electrical shock.
2. Protection Areas
While GFCI protection is often required in places with water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces, AFCI protection is typically required in living areas and bedrooms.
AFCI devices are typically installed in the circuit breaker panel, while GFCI devices are typically installed in outlets or circuit breakers.
GFCI devices monitor the current flow and can detect a ground fault when there is a difference in current flow between the hot and neutral wires. The GFCI device trips the circuit and stops the current flow when it detects a ground fault. In the case of AFCI, AFCI devices monitor the electrical current flow and can detect the unique signature of an arc fault. When an arc fault is detected, the AFCI device will trip the circuit and interrupt the current flow.
Both AFCI and GFCI are required for electrical safety by preventing electrical faults. Now let’s deeply analyze where to use AFCI protection and where to use GFCI devices.
Where to Use AFCI Protection?
For understanding AFCI vs GFCI, it is important to know where to use AFCI protection. AFCI (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection is used in any area of a building where there is a risk of arc faults occurring. Arc faults can be caused by damaged or overheated electrical wires, cords, or plugs, and they can result in electrical fires. AFCI protection is designed to detect and interrupt these arc faults before they can cause a fire. According to the National Electrical Code (NEC), AFCI protection is required in certain areas of a building, including:
1. Bedrooms: All bedroom outlets in new construction must be AFCI protected.
2. Living rooms, family rooms, and dens: All outlets in these areas must be AFCI protected in new construction.
3. Kitchens and laundry areas: All outlets that serve countertop surfaces in kitchens and laundry areas must be AFCI protected in new construction.
4. Crawl spaces and unfinished basements: All outlets in these areas must be AFCI protected in new construction. This section is newly added by the NEC.
It’s important to note that local building codes may have additional requirements for AFCI protection beyond the NEC. It’s always a good idea to consult with a licensed electrician to protect your electrical system.
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Where to Use GFCI Devices?
When comparing AFCI vs GFCI, one question that arises is where to use GFCI devices. Today, the National Electrical Code (NEC) has about 50 places where GFCI protection is necessary, compared to the first requirement for GFCI protection for swimming pools over 50 years ago. Here are some examples of places in single-family, two-family, and residential structures where GFCIs devices are used.
2. Garages used for storage and accessory buildings for work areas
3. Crawl spaces at or below grade level and lighting outlets.
4. Receptables that are less than six feet from the outside border of a bathtub or a shower cubicle.
5. Undone basements
6. Kitchen dishwashers and laundry areas, whether they are cord-and-plug connected or hard-wired
Also Read: How to Prevent Power Surges?
When to Use AFCI Vs GFCI?
In the case of AFCI, AFCIs are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) for circuits that supply power to bedrooms in residential buildings. This is because bedrooms often contain electrical equipment such as lamps, radios, televisions, and chargers, which can pose a risk of arc faults if the electrical wiring is damaged or deteriorated. Similar to bedrooms, living rooms also often contain electrical equipment and appliances, such as televisions, gaming consoles, and lamps, which can cause arc faults if not properly protected by an AFCI. Basements often contain a variety of electrical equipment, such as washing machines, dryers, and home theatre systems, which can pose a risk of arc faults if not properly protected by AFCIs. In addition, basements may be prone to moisture, which can damage electrical wiring and increase the risk of arc faults.
In the case of GFCI, they are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) for all receptacles located within 6 feet of a sink in a bathroom. This is because the presence of water in a bathroom increases the risk of electric shock, and GFCIs can help prevent this by quickly interrupting power to the circuit in the event of a ground fault. They are also required for all receptacles located within 20 feet of a swimming pool or hot tub. Outdoor areas are often exposed to moisture and other weather-related conditions that increase the risk of electric shock, which is why GFCI is required for all outdoor receptacles. Now, let’s see between AFCI vs GFCI outlets which one to choose. This should have explained when to use AFCI vs GFCI.
Also See: Can a Power Surge Damage an Outlet?
AFCI Vs GFCI Circuit Breaker and AFCI vs GFCI Outlets: Which One To Choose?
When talking about AFCI vs GFCI, it’s of significant importance to learn about the circuit breaker and outlets.
1. GFCI Outlet/Circuit Breaker
The National Electric Code originally mandated all residences to have GFCI outlets outside in 1971, and during the next decades, this requirement was expanded to include inside spaces close to water sources. In order to function, GFCI outlets measure the amount of current flowing into the circuit and compare it to the amount of current flowing out of the circuit. Within one-tenth of a second after detecting a current spike caused by an external source (usually a plugged-in device), the outlet cuts off power to the receptacle. For instance, if a hairdryer fell into your bathroom sink, the current would immediately rise. A GFCI outlet would stop the flow of electricity to the hairdryer when it detects that surge.
2. AFCI Outlet/Circuit Breaker
When an electric arc fault is detected, AFCI receptacles stop the flow of current. There is a big distinction between arcing that occurs naturally in some appliances and electrical gadgets and arc faults. In order to distinguish between routine arcing and potentially hazardous arcing circumstances, an AFCI outlet continuously monitors the circuit. An AFCI only trips when excessive current flows along an unintended pathway. When it does trip, the power to the outlet is shut down. Now you know between AFCI vs GFCI circuit breaker which one is for you. Let’s finally see if AFCI is better than GFCI.
Also Read: What to Do After a Power Surge?
Is AFCI Better Than GFCI?
A GFCI is designed to protect against electrical shock caused by ground faults, which occur when electrical current flows through an unintended path, such as through a person’s body. GFCIs monitor the current flowing in a circuit and will trip the circuit if it detects any imbalance, preventing electric shock. On the other hand, an AFCI is designed to protect against arc faults, which occur when electrical current jumps from one wire to another, creating a spark that can ignite flammable materials like wood or paper. AFCIs detect these types of faults and will trip the circuit before a fire can start.
Both GFCIs and AFCIs are important safety devices and are required by the National Electrical Code in different locations within a building. For example, GFCIs are required in bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor areas where there is a greater risk of electrical shock, while AFCIs are typically required in bedrooms, living rooms, and other areas where electrical cords and equipment are present.
Although there are differences between AFCI vs GFCI, neither AFCI nor GFCI is better than the other as they serve different purposes, and both are important for ensuring electrical safety.
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