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Not as Common as You Think: What You Need to Know About GFCI/AFCI Combination Breakers

It’s easy to take for granted how safely and efficiently our electrical system works in our homes. The internal wiring that brings us light, runs our dishwashers, and powers our televisions is out of sight out of mind…until it’s not. When something goes wrong with your electrical, the results can be expensive, devastating, and fatal.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), electrical failures or malfunctions were the second leading cause of home fires in the U.S. in 2012 - 2016, accounting for 13% of structure fires, and the highest in civilian deaths at 18%. Faulty or damaged wiring and electrical equipment connected to such wiring, cause nearly 70% of all electrical fires in homes.

Knowing these statistics, what can homeowners do to reduce the risk of fire and injury caused by faulty electrical wiring and damaged devices?

While there are a host of safety devices, the most effective and among the most reasonable options are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter/Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI/AFCI) combination circuit breakers. Older homes are built with GFCI breakers, while newer models are often equipped with AFCI breakers. Combination circuit breakers are not as common, but they do provide additional safety.

So, how do GFCI/AFCI combination circuit breakers provide additional safety?

Standard breakers will trip in two ways, thermal overload (when they become too hot) or magnetic overload (when too much current is being delivered to the circuit). GFCI/AFCI breakers will trip in the same fashion as a standard breaker, but also employ electrical current monitoring technology to prevent fire and injury.

GFCI/AFCI breakers protect against electrical shock by instantly shutting down power to a circuit when the current going “in or out” of the electrical panel does not measure the same. When a person touches the panel’s metal components, it disrupts the current on the circuit. This immediately informs the breaker there is some issue within the circuit, causing it to cease operation until the problem has been resolved. Standard breakers cannot provide this safety feature!

If there is a loose or faulty connection in a circuit in your home, it can lead to arcs. Arcing is the process of electricity “jumping” between two electrical conductors causing a spark. If repeated, arcing can cause heat buildup at the location of the arcing, creating the potential for a fire. Combination breakers immediately de-energize the circuit, preventing fires before they can start.

Additionally, GFCI/AFCI combination breakers can prevent hazards caused by incorrect wiring due to human error. The current measuring technology stops a circuit from operating if any wire is connected to wires on a different circuit. This can prevent fire and damage to sensitive electrical devices such as computers, TVs, phones, tablets, etc. Because AFCI/GFCI combo breakers are constantly measuring the current on each circuit, they can instantaneously locate this problem and not allow the circuit to be energized until the problem has been corrected, preventing potential loss of life and property once again!

With all that can go wrong, why take the chance? Added protection can save your home, and more importantly, your life. Make sure your home is as safe as it can be. Contact your local Mister Sparky to install your GFCI/AFCI combination breakers today!