Where Do I Need AFCI or GFCI Protection In My Home?

Electrical safety has advanced considerably in recent years, and with these advancements have come changes to our electrical standards. Known as the National Electrical Code, this ever-evolving list of standards now requires you to utilize both ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) or arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) in various applications throughout your home. Chances are that unless your home is brand new and built to the latest code revision, there’s a good chance you may not necessarily have the right protection in all of the required places.

Where Do I Need Ground-Fault Interrupters (GFIs)?

A ground-fault interrupter is a specialized device that shuts off power to an outlet or circuit when it faults to the ground. When electricity faults to the ground, a high amount of amperage can travel through the circuit, creating a potentially dangerous situation. For example, someone who accidentally touches a live wire while standing in a puddle could create a high-amperage circuit that could be fatal in as little as a few seconds. GFIs prevent this by shutting off power when they detect a sudden spike in amperage that indicates faulting to ground.

This requirement in homes is not all that new. The National Electrical Code began requiring indoor GFCI protection in dwelling-unit bathrooms in the 1975 revision. In 1987, that was expanded to include receptacles near the kitchen sink. Today, there are ten requirements for homes, twelve for other properties, and additional requirements for properties with crawlspaces, certain appliances, and outdoor applications.

In short, you need to have GFI protection in any location that electricity may come in contact with water. This includes the following:

  • Kitchens (specifically all outlets servicing kitchen countertops)
  • Bathrooms (all outlets near sinks, showers, or tubs)
  • All outdoor outlets (approved covers are also required)

GFI protection can come from a single outlet on the circuit, but we strongly advise installing a GFI-equipped circuit breaker on that particular circuit to offer the best protection.

Where Do I Need Arc-Fault Interrupters (AFIs)?

Arc-fault interrupters are devices that measure resistance within an electrical circuit in order to determine the presence of arcing electricity. Arcing happens when an electrical charge jumps from one conductor to another, creating a dangerous bolt that can spark a fire or create a short. An arc is a sign of something like a frayed power cord, faulty connection in a device, or even damage to an electrical line from intruding rodents. The Consumer Product Safety commission estimates that more than 30,000 home fires each year are the result of arc faults in electrical systems.

AFCIs have been pretty commonly used since 2000, when they were first brought into the National Electrical Code. In pretty much every NEC revision since then, AFCIs have become mandatory in seemingly at least one new application. However, because AFCIs are still fairly new, they are also one of the single largest sources of code violations found in homes everywhere.

As of NEC 2017, every 120-volt, 15 or 20-amp single-phase branch circuit that serves outlets in dwelling areas is required to have AFCI protection. Or to put it more simply, it means that the outlets in your bedroom walls need to have AFCI protection. Likewise, NEC now mandates that this requirement also applies to lighting circuits, so any recessed lighting, ceiling fans, or other lighting-specific circuits serving a bedroom also need to be AFCI-protected. Attics do not need to be protected, provided that the switch to turn the lights on and off is also located in the attic itself.

If your home was built before the year 2000 and is still using the original electrical equipment, there’s a strong chance you don’t have an AFCI installed where necessary. In some cases, this is an easy fix—simply swapping out the circuit breaker on your panel for one of the same amperage with arc-fault protection can often bring your home into code compliance. However, AFI protection won’t fix any additional problems or issues that may already exist in your electrical system. Therefore, we advise you to have this protection installed with a full-fledged electrical upgrade for your home.

Schedule an inspection for your electrical system today! Dial (404) 471-3847 now and book an appointment with the pros at Lightning Bug Electric.