The Importance of Electrical Circuit Interrupters

This week we are focusing on electrical maintenance in your Houston home. Ensuring that your household is safe from electrical hazards should be a priority. While electrical outlet maintenance is essential, your home must also have the latest technology in order to combat a variety of harmful situations. Making sure that your home is outfitted with electrical circuit interrupters is another way to keep your family and home safe. There are two kinds of circuit interrupters, both of which provide different safety functions.

GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) helps to prevent electric shock and electrocution by disconnecting power when a current is detected flowing through an unintended path (such as water or a person). An AFCI (arc-fault circuit-interrupter) protects against high power discharges of electricity (arc faults) that can result in electrical fires. Both AFCIs and GFCIs co-exist with each other in your home as they both provide different important functions. Understanding the basics of each device will help you better plan an installation strategy with your electrician.

GFCI Essentials:

Also called a ground fault interrupter (GFI) or residual current device (RCD), this device mainly protects your household from the effects of electric shock. There are two types available for permanent installation; a circuit breaker type is installed directly into your electrical panel and a receptacle type that is installed in an electrical outlet. A professional electrician can assess your needs and recommend the best type for your home.

  • Protection: The primary function of a GFCI is to protect people from being harmed by electrical shock. These devices are essential for rooms or areas around the house that have outlets near a water source. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 47% of electrocutions a year could be prevented with GFCI installation.
  • Function: A GFCI (whether installed in your breaker panel or outlet) helps prevent electrocution by immediately shutting off power to an attached circuit in the event of leakage. Leakage signifies electricity leaving one side (the live side) of a circuit that differs (or is unequal) from that returning to the neutral side.
  • Installation Areas: The National Electrical Code® (NEC) requires GFCI outlets/receptacles in bathrooms, kitchens, basements and garages in all new residential builds.
  • Testing: Like all your home’s outlets, a GFCI receptacle should be tested every month. If the circuit doesn’t trip when tested, the device be replaced.
  • Cost: Cost is around $15 for GFCI outlets, GFCI breakers vary greatly depending on the size. They can range in price from $35 – $250.

AFCI Essentials:

An arc fault is an unintended arc formed by current flowing through an alternate (or unplanned) pathway. The result is intense heating that can spark small particles of molten or burning materials; igniting the surrounding area and causing a fire. An AFCI breaker essentially monitors the circuit for the presence of normal or dangerous arcing. Dangerous arcing can happen through a lightning strike, a tree falling on a power line or other unforeseen circumstances.

  • Protection: An AFCI circuit breaker offers protection against unintended (dangerous) arcs that can lead to electrical fires.
  • Function: Detects dangerous arcing conditions (as opposed to common, appliance-driven arcing) and shuts off the electricity before a fire can be ignited.
  • Installation Areas: The NEC requires the installation AFCI branch/feeder devices in bedrooms of residential construction. Because of the long history of bedroom fires, this room was chosen as the first focus for Bedrooms were chosen as the first area of implementation because of a long history of fires.
  • Testing: An AFCI should be tested each month.
  • Cost: A branch/feeder device costs around $35.

How to Install a GFCI Outlet

While the NEC requires both types of circuit interrupters for all new construction, older homes need to be retrofitted with them as well. Do you live in a home with an outdated electrical system? You might need more protection than circuit interrupter installation. Call Universal Home Experts today at (713) 364-0226 to schedule a full electrical inspection. We can help you get your home code-compliant – or, if your older wiring system is fine, we can help with the installation of circuit interrupters.