Arc-fault and ground-fault circuit interrupters offer protection from electrical hazards, but that — and their two buttons — is where their similarities end.

AFCI and GFCI outlets help prevent electrical shocks and fires — a leading cause for home blazes — but each has a certain function, and it’s important to understand the differences.

Differences Between AFCI & GCFI Outlets

AFCIs detect arcing conditions — a high power discharge of electricity — and shut off power to the branch circuit. Arcs arise due to punctured and pinched wires, like when an electrical cord is squished under a nightstand or repeatedly stepped on.

GFCIs constantly track electrical current flow; if they detect a change, they immediately cut power to the outlet.

AFCI and GFCI outlets may look alike, but they function very differently.

This is helpful if you drop an appliance — like a hair dryer — into a sink or tub filled with water. GFCIs are often found in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as outdoor areas, garages and crawl spaces.

Now, about those buttons! Leviton’s AFCIs and GFCIs have TEST and RESET buttons to ensure the outlets are working correctly. You should press the TEST button once a month to simulate arc-faulting and grounding issues; power to the outlet will cut off as soon as you do. Press the RESET button and power will return.

Another reason why AFCIs and GFCIs are important? They’re required by law!

Today’s Homeowner Tips

The National Electrical Code requires AFCIs and GFCIs in new homes, older homes that are renovated, and homes up for sell.

Editorial Contributors
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Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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