When you flip the light switch in your bathroom to start your day, you may not think about how you harness a force of nature to illuminate your home.

Electricity is incredible when used safely. It powers appliances at home, tools at work and devices that entertain us for hours on end.

However, when you lose control of the energy powering your home, it becomes dangerous.

Thankfully, engineers have worked over decades to develop and improve the devices that keep you safe from electrical shock and electrocution.

Two devices, the Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) and Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) are designed to prevent electrical mishaps in your home.

These devices help protect you from different electrical hazards. So, how do you compare an AFCI vs. GFCI? How does each one work, and why are they essential to your home?

Keep reading to learn more.

What are GFCI Outlets?

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters, better known as GFCIs, monitor the flow of electricity to your devices to make sure they remain grounded. If electricity escapes its grounded flow, the appliance you are using can become energized, resulting in shock or electrocution.

This escape of the designated path is known as a ground fault. A GFCI will monitor and shut off power to the appliance you are using if it notices a discrepancy as small as a few milliamps.

New building codes require GFCI outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, outdoor areas and anywhere water may cause a ground fault.

What Is AFCI Protection?

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) are similar to GFCIs as they recognize unusual power activity that could start an electrical fire.

The most significant difference is AFCIs recognize unusual arcing activity versus GFCIs, which detect irregular power flow from the outlet. Arcing happens when electricity flows through the air from one point of conduction to another.

Arcing is dangerous as it can create extremely hot temperatures. An electrical arc can start a fire in an instant with a potential to reach temperatures of 10,000 ℉.

Exposed conduction points can occur from stapled wiring, nails, heat, animal bites or other general wear and tear.

Arc-fault circuit interrupters detect dangerous arcing conditions and shut off the power flow through the part of your home that it monitors. AFCI detection uses various sensors and logic circuits to determine if an unsafe condition exists.

If an unsafe condition is determined, the AFCI turns the power off.

Why AFCIs and GFCIs Are Important

AFCIs and GFCIs exist to protect and alert you of electrical hazards, whether it’s a direct shock from an appliance or arcing conditions that could cause ignition.

Not only do these devices protect you, they are now required by law in specific areas of your home when building. AFCIs are required in dwelling areas for every 15 and 20 amp, 120-volt, single-phase branch circuit outlet.

Areas of the home with water access like bathrooms, kitchens and outdoor patios require GFCIs to prevent ground faults due to water contact. These circuit interrupters protect you, your family and your home from unnecessary risks.

Want to learn more about AFCIs, GFCIs, installation points or replacements? Contact your local electric cooperative today. They can help you get in contact with a professional to assess your wiring and receptacles.

To learn more about electrical safety in your home, check out our indoor safety and wiring inspection pages.