Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) provide protection against arc faults and ground faults (electrical fires and electrical shocks respectfully).
They can be installed directly into outlets and receptacles or installed in the electrical panel, although you will commonly find GFCIs installed in outlets and AFCIs installed in service panels.
Regardless of where they are installed, it’s a good idea to test all your AFCIs and GFCIs once a month.
How to Test Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)
AFCIs protect against electrical hazards known as “arc faults,” which can occur when there are damaged, overheated, or stressed electrical wiring and devices.
Without working AFCIs, you may have an arc fault that can go undetected by your electrical panel. This can lead to a destructive electrical fire.
Follow these steps to test your AFCI breakers every month:
- Leave lights and other devices on (make sure you save your work on desktop computers).
- Locate your electrical panel.
- With your breaker in the on position and at least one device turned on in the circuit, press down on the AFCI “TEST” button.
- The AFCI breaker should trip and move the switch to the OFF position (or the middle “TRIP” position if there is one).
- If the breaker trips when you press the “TEST” button, the AFCI is working.
- Flip the breaker switch all the way OFF before turning it back ON.
- Repeat these steps for every AFCI breaker in your service panel.
- If there is an AFCI that does NOT trip, contact a certified electrician right away to replace it.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
Ground faults occur when there is a leaking current. If a person comes into contact with a leaking current, they could be severely shocked or electrocuted.
Ground fault circuit interrupters are designed to shut off power if the amount of current returning is not the same as the electricity flowing into the circuit. This indicates “leaking electricity” and a dangerous hazard for the entire household.
GFCIs have saved countless lives since first introduced in the 1970s. They mostly protect against electrocutions, but can also prevent electrical fires as well.
Follow these steps to test your GFCI outlets every month:
- Press down on the “RESET” button.
- Plug in a lamp or something similar.
- The light should be on.
- Press down on the “TEST” button.
- The light should have turned OFF.
- Push the “RESET” button again.
- The light should have turned back ON.
- If pressing the “TEST” button did not turn the light OFF, contact a certified electrician to fix your GFCI.
Make Sure You Have Both AFCI and GFCI Outlets
Since AFCI protection is now required in kitchen, laundry rooms, and nearly every circuit in the home, it make sense to simply protect your entire electrical system from dangerous arc faults.
We highly recommend installing dual AFCI/GFCI protection on all of your circuits.
Yes, it’s possible to install both AFCI and GFCI protection directly into your circuit panel to protect the entire circuit from arc and ground faults. There are many safe, UL-listed dual-function AFCI/GFCI circuit breakers to choose from.
Don’t forget to test your AFCIs and GFCIs once a month. If they do not trip when tested, contact a qualified electrician for replacement.
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