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- Electricity in the Modern Home
Electricity in the Modern Home
Replacing Outdated Equipment
A home's electrical system is prone to wear and tear. Regular testing and evaluation of receptacles, switches, and breakers can prevent dangerous situations down the road.
Electrical Upgrades—GFCIs and AFCIs
There are two electrical upgrades that should be installed to protect your home: ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). GFCIs protect against electrical shock caused by ground faults or leaking electrical current. These devices monitor the current in a circuit and interrupt or stop the flow of power to that circuit if a spike or loss of power is detected. In new construction, GFCI receptacles are required by code in bathrooms, kitchens, and garages, on outdoor outlets, and in crawl spaces or unfinished basements.
“Anywhere there is the chance of contact with water or the ground, there should be a GFCI,” says Brett Brenner, president of the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). “It's estimated that GFCIs accounted for roughly a 70 percent reduction in electrocutions,” he says. GFCIs are also available as circuit breakers installed in the panel, giving ground fault protection to designated circuits in the home.
Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) protect a home against electrical fires. ACFIs protect against fire-causing arcing much like GFCI's protect against stray current. When an arc is detected, power to the circuit is interrupted. Arcing can be caused by any number of factors, including damaged or worn wires, incorrect wiring, and loose or wet connections. Newer AFCIs are able to distinguish between dangerous arc faults and normal arcing caused by fluorescent lighting and some dimmers and switches.
“AFCI's give great fire protection to homes with older wiring,” says Mike Holt, licensed electrician, electrical inspector, instructor, and founder of Mike Holt Enterprises, providers of educational resources to those in the electrical profession and related fields. Currently, the National Electric Code requires AFCI breakers for circuits providing power to bedrooms, living rooms, family rooms, and other common rooms in new construction. The cost for an AFCI breaker varies by manufacturer, but consumers can expect to pay around $30 to $35 apiece.
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