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GFCI & AFCI DEVICES

Hickerson Brothers Installs and Repairs Circuit Interrupters

A circuit interrupter serves a similar function to a circuit breaker. When it detects a problem, it shuts off the circuit to prevent devices, wiring, or people from being harmed. The two most common interrupters are ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCI). While GFCIs are more common in homes, both are found regularly in everyday life and are essential for proper electrical safety.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs)

GFCIs are most often found on the electrical outlets in your bathroom, garage, or near your kitchen sink. But you’ll also find them attached the power cords for high-power devices such as space heaters, hair driers, flattening irons, and microwaves. All of these devices have very large power draws, and many of them are used near sources of open water.

A GFCI is designed to open the circuit (cutting off power) when a ground fault is detected. For an electrical outlet, it does this by measuring the level of current flowing into and out of the electrical outlet.

If any part of the circuit shorts to ground, either because of a wire fault or a sudden immersion as your hair drier falls into running water, electricity will try to escape via the new circuit, overloading your entire system and electrocuting anyone who happens to be between the outlet and the new ground-point. The difference between the incoming current (which spikes to dangerously high levels) and the outgoing current (which falls to zero) causes the GFCI to disconnect the outlet from the main power line.

It’s important to test your GFCI at least once a month to ensure functionality (one of the many steps in our standard safety and code inspection). Simply press the TEST button on your GFCI, you should hear a loud click, and the reset button should pop out. If it does, everything is working fine. Otherwise, you should shut down the circuit at the breaker box and have the outlet replaced.

Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)

AFCIs function in a similar capacity, but are finer-tuned than either circuit breakers or GFCI outlets. An AFCI fills in the holes of your electrical protection by watching for dangerous electrical surges and arcs. When it detects a large electrical arc, it disconnects the circuit, shutting down power and protecting the rest of the circuit until power can be restored properly.

AFCIs have to be finely tuned because every new electrical connection generates a small electrical arc. Even plugging your TV into a wall outlet generates a small spark inside the outlet.

When you need upgraded protection against dangerous electrical surges and faults, Hickerson Brothers Electric Service is your trusted advisor and contractor for all residents of Northern Virginia. Call us today at (703) 594-3913!

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