AFCI or GFCI That Is The Question

Is an AFCI the same as a GFCI and what is a GFI?

AFCI or Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter and GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter are names for similar looking electrical devices that are used for very different purposes.

  • An AFCI protects an electrical circuit against a specific kind of arcing. It’ function is to prevent overheating and fire because of damaged or broken wires, loose screws and wire connections. It does this by disconnecting the circuit breaker or fuse before the arc creates a fire.
  • A GFCI is very different. It measures current flow over the hot and neutral wires in circuit acting like an off switch if the amount of current in the 2 wires is not in balance. The assumption is the imbalance is caused by current flowing through you rather than the circuit.  Not a good situation because you essentially become the light bulb.

A GFI or Ground Fault Interrupter is what we used to call a GFCI. The electrical code simply changed the term to make it more precise.

In short, 
The AFCI protects your home from fires caused by wires that overheat through arcing.  The GFCI protects you from being electrocuted by current rushing through your body as it takes the path of least resistance to ground. The GFI only makes electricity more confusing to understand than it already is.

These devices save lives…your home is calling out for these improvements.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI certified inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

Rob ‘Pops’ Leslie
Kaplan Professionals, Retired