As a homeowner, you may be unaware of what GFCI or AFCI electrical outlets are - much less what they stand for. Although both of these types of outlets perform essentially the same function - controlling the flow of current in an electrical system - they do not operate in the same manner.

Harrison Electric technicians install and repair and GFCI and AFCI outlets for residential properties in Plymouth, Minnesota. We recommend each type of outlet because they keep your house safe.

Below, we compare both options for your home and explain their applications. If you have any further questions or need to schedule service, please contact us.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)

Charles Dalziel invented the ground fault circuit interrupter in 1961. The device was invented for a specific purpose: to cut off the circuit in a wiring system if the GFCI senses that there is an overload. More specifically, if there is an overload caused by an outside source such an electronic device or appliance.

GFCI units are valuable because they can prevent electrocution simply by stopping the flow of current. For instance, if a person accidentally dropped a hairdryer into a sink filled with water and quickly reached down to grab the hairdryer, the GFCI would instantly sense an overload and cut the circuit.

How does it do this?

The GFCI device operates similarly to a circuit breaker panel. When a fuse cannot handle a certain amount of electricity, the circuit shuts down. To reset the circuit, you would have to flip the switch in the breaker, and it turns back on. A GFCI works the same way. It shuts down when there’s too much current. You just have to reset it by pushing the reset button on the front.

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)

To understand how an arc fault circuit interrupter works, you need to know what an arc fault is. An arc fault is triggered by current flowing through an unintended path. Arcing creates high levels of heat at the point where the arc is located. The heat is so intense that it can create a fire in seconds and ignite everything around it. Wiring is often surrounded by insulation and wood framing and drywall. The temperature of the arc can exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, the fire caused by the arc is strong enough to burn insulation, wood, or drywall in a short period.

Some electronic devices or appliances produce normal arcing levels. Since normal arcing occurs in electrical systems, the AFC unit monitors the circuit to differentiate between normal arcing and dangerous arcing conditions. Hazardous conditions, however, such as a tree falling on power lines or an electrical overload caused by too many devices running on the same circuit.

The AFCI works just like the GFCI. It cuts off the circuit when it senses an arc. This action can prevent an electrical burst and, in turn, a fire.

What is the Difference Between a GFCI and AFCI?

The main difference between a GFCI and an AFCI is in their application. GFCI devices are installed in areas where water is a factor. You’ll generally see them in kitchens, bathrooms, utility rooms, or in basements.  They have a specific use.

AFCI units are primarily used to prevent fires. Therefore, they are likely to be placed in areas where fires could occur. This is why you’ll see AFCI in or near a circuit breaker. You may also see them in areas where a circuit overload or a fire is more likely to occur.

GFCI and AFCI Replacement in Residential Homes

If you have a GFCI or AFCI that is in poor condition, you will want to hire an electrician to fix the problem right away.

Harrison Electric offers electrical outlet repairs and replacement services for homes in Plymouth, Minnesota. We provide complete electrical services on all types of outlets, circuit breaker boxes, and wiring.

To schedule service, call us at 763-544-3300, or you can message us at