Two Types Of Outlets Designed To Forestall Electrical Malfunctions

Posted on: 27 September 2016

Among the great electrical safety features designed in recent years are two types of outlets that help reduce electrical shocks and prevent electrical fires. Of course, they can't universally prevent anything bad from happening, and they require periodic maintenance for ideal functioning, but they're still a great help in the quest for a safe electrical system. Here are two types of outlets that can help keep you and your family safe from electrocution and electrical fires.

1. GFCI outlets

GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. What this means is that when the outlet detects electricity exiting the outlet and "grounding" (rather than completing the circuit, which is what happens when the current is being used safely), it "interrupts" the circuit by stopping the flow of electricity. Why is this important? Well, when you're being electrocuted, electricity leaves the appliance (or electrical cord or outlet) and passes through your body to the ground. If this happens to you and the electrical current happens to be coming from a properly functioning GFCI outlet, the outlet will cut off the flow of electricity, sometimes in just one-fortieth of a second. This limits the damage that the electricity can do to your body. It may even save your life in some situations. In fact, because the GFCI is so sensitive to how smoothly the current is flowing, it may also shut off the electricity when you plug in a malfunctioning appliance (depending on what the malfunction is). GFCIs are especially important in bathrooms and kitchens because water can cause an appliance to malfunction and electrocute you even if the appliance was working perfectly when you first plugged it in. 

2. AFCI 

AFCIs, or Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets, are essential tools for fighting unseen electrical malfunctions. They operate in a similar fashion to the GFCI, but, in addition to detecting ground faults, they also look for an arc fault. Arc faults occur when the electrical pathway is damaged (for example, when you unwittingly damage the insulation around an electrical wire while hanging a painting). Because arc faults can occur inside your walls, and you might otherwise never know it until an electrical fire occurred, this type of outlet can be a lifesaving device.

These two outlets can help you improve the safety of your electrical system, worry less about electrocution, and reduce your risks of an electrical fire. Even if they weren't originally installed in your electrical system, you can retrofit your home with them quite easily. An electrician like Action Electric can replace outlets quickly, making it a relatively low-cost job, and some homeowners might even choose to make a DIY job out of it. 

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