Home  |  Questions  |  Qualifications   Home Inspector Tips Pre-Inspection Agreement Services   |  Facebook Book
The Differences Between GFCI and AFCI Electrical Circuit Interrupters - Quality Home Inspections of East Tennessee

A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is a outlet that shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person. GFCI outlets are usually located in areas where water can possibly come into contact with the person using the outlet such as in bathrooms, kitchens, or outdoors.

Usually, a small button is located in the middle of the outlet for resetting the outlet. When a GFCI is triggered the outlet will no longer get power. Many times GFCI outlets will be connected from one bathroom to the next so that if one goes out, you have to go to the next bathroom to hit the reset button.

A GFCI works by measuring the current leaving one side of a power source, and comparing it to current returning on the other. If they are not equal, then some of the current must be leaking in an unwanted way, and the GFCI shuts the power off.

You can test the GFCI any time by hitting the reset button off and on. GFCI's can also be installed in circuit breakers in your electrical panel.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) help prevent electric fires.  An AFCI distinguishes between a harmless arc that occurs incidental to normal operation of switches, plugs, and brushed motors, and an undesirable arc that can occur, for example, in a lamp cord which has a broken conductor.

AFCI breakers have been required for circuits feeding electrical outlets in bedrooms of homes by the electrical codes of Canada and the United States since the beginning of the 21st century; since 2014, U.S. code has required them for outlets in most rooms in houses. If your home is an older home, you may want to consider upgrading your electrical system to include AFCI's for added protection to your home.

Conventional circuit breakers only respond to overloads and short circuits; so they do not protect against arcing conditions that produce erratic, and often reduced current. The AFCI circuitry continuously monitors the current and discriminates between normal and unwanted arcing conditions. Once an unwanted arcing condition is detected, the AFCI opens its internal contacts, thus de-energizing the circuit and reducing the potential for a fire to occur.

Cons of AFCI's are false tripping that can occur due to lightning storms or  presence of radio frequency energy, especially within the High Frequency spectrum (3-30 MHz) to include legitimate CB and amateur radio operations.

For a list of what is included in a Quality Homes inspection.

East Tennessee Quality Home Inspections
Quality Home Inspections serves the East Tennessee area of Roane, Loudon, Knox, Anderson, and Cumberland counties which includes the areas of Knoxville, Oliver Springs, Oak Ridge, Kingston, Harriman, Rockwood, Midtown, Lenoir City, and Crossville, Tennessee. The goal of Quality Home Inspections is to help make the home buying decision a little less complex by providing a professional visual inspection and report of various systems and areas of the home.

Other related articles

Open Slots in an Electrical Panel  - Why open slots in an electrical panel are considered a dangerous defect.

Electrical Panel Location
Electrical panels can be located just about anywhere, inside a garage, outdoors, or in any room. That doesn't mean that every location is acceptable or necessarily desired for that matter.

AFCI Electrical Panel