GFCIs & AFCIs

GFCI outlets
A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a device that senses the amount of current flowing within a circuit. If the GFCI senses a short circuit, it immediately trips the circuit, halting the rush of electricity. Since it can do this in about 1/30th of a second, it can stop the shock before it becomes fatal. GFCIs can be installed at individual outlets or in the service panel, and all new outlets installed in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, basements, and outside the home are required by the National Electric Code to have GFCIs. GFCI outlets should be tested once a month. To do this, plug a light into the outlet and press the button labeled “test.” The light should go off. If it doesn’t, you need to replace your GFCI. Next, press the button labeled “reset.” If your GFCI is functioning properly, the light will turn back on. To test GFCIs installed in your circuit breaker, simply press the test button. The breaker handle should switch to the middle, or off, position. Remember to move the handle back to the on position in order to reset it.

AFCIs and arc faults
Arc faults are one of the leading causes of electrical fires. They occur when an electrical current swerves off its intended path, usually due to a rift in the wiring, and radiates intense heat. This wire damage can be caused by hammering nails into a wall, placing furniture on an extension cord, or other seemingly innocuous occurrences. Devices called arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are designed to detect such arcs and halt the circuit before it overheats. Newly installed circuits will include AFCIs, but many older ones do not. Fortunately, AFCIs are relatively cheap to install, usually costing $50 or less per breaker. AFCIs are especially valuable for older homes, where connections in the outlets may have deteriorated over the years.