Special circuit breakers in your home protect you and your family from fire, shock, and electrocution.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are a special type of breaker used for circuits that supply bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, garages, and outdoor outlets. If your power fails in just one of these areas, it probably means that a GFCI has been tripped. You can find GFCIs in either your circuit breaker panel or at outlets. If your home has GFCI circuit breakers, theyâ€™re located on your circuit breaker panel and have an extra button marked â€œtest.â€ If your home has GFCI outlets, they look like ordinary outlets with the addition of two small buttons marked â€œtestâ€ and â€œreset.â€
GFCIs detect the slightest amount of unwanted electrical current flow and trip immediately, cutting power to the circuit and protecting the person using the outlet. Without GFCI protection, a person could be shocked or electrocuted.
One of the best ways to think about the difference between a normal circuit breaker and a GFCI is to remember that a normal circuit breaker protects your home, while a GFCI protects you.
In addition to GFCIs, some municipalities may require another type of electrical protection called Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs). While both AFCIs and GFCIs are important safety devices, they have different functions. AFCIs are intended to address fire hazards; GFCIs address shock hazards.
AFCIs are installed on circuits that service bedrooms. They detect dangerous arcing in a circuit, extension cord, or appliance that could cause a fire. Unwanted arcing typically occurs because of loose connections along the circuit, cords pinched by furniture, and cables in contact with vibrating machinery. When arcing is detected, the AFCI trips immediately, cutting electricity to the circuit. Conventional circuit breakers respond only to short circuits and overloads, not to unwanted arcing. If your home has AFCIs, theyâ€™re located on your circuit breaker panel and have an extra button marked â€œtest,â€ making them look similar to GFCI circuit breakers.