Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Kevin Chen
Image source Electricaltechnology.com
You have a GFCI outlet and you want to put it on an AFCI circuit. Is it possible?
Yes, it is possible to put a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet on an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit. The GFCI outlet must be on the load side of the AFCI-protected receptacle and will not provide any protection to the AFCI circuit.
But that’s not all.
We are going to look at many other things that you should consider when it comes to dealing with such a kind of electrical setup.
Basics of GFCI outlet and AFCI circuit
Before we go any further, let’s have a basic understanding of these two terms.
A GFCI outlet is an outlet that is designed to protect people from electrical shock by immediately shutting down the power supply in the event of a problem.
AFCI circuit, on the other hand, is a type of circuit breaker that protects against fires by detecting and interrupting arcing faults.
AFCI circuit is basically a safety concept built into modern electric panelboards which monitor for dangerous arcing within the electrical system.
This device can be installed in all homes that have AFCI receptacles or breakers.
AFCI circuits have been mandated by code to protect against arc-faults in order to reduce fire hazards associated with such faults.
AFCIs are designed to detect “arcing” faults between conductors and ground and can be used on all 120 volts, 15 amp or 20 amp circuits found in most homes today.
AFCIs are required on all receptacles and GFCIs are required on all kitchen counter receptacles (but not bathroom). AFCIs are required in new construction, but GFCI protection is not required except for kitchens.
GFCIs and AFCIs can be used together
As we have stated earlier on, you can connect a GFCI outlet to an AFCI circuit.
The two can work together without raising any safety concerns.
This was among the biggest issues that were highlighted by the NEC 2014 edition.
It stated that GFCI outlet and AFCI circuit are compatible.
The edition clarified that you can safely connect the GFCI receptacles directly from the AFCI circuit breakers.
This is possible because AFCI can provide high-level protection to any modern electrical wiring system.
Treat each case as isolated
despite the compatibility, we cannot assume that all GFCI can be fixed into all AFCI circuits.
There are unique cases where you have to consider other factors.
The NEC 2014 edition has outlined some of the factors that you should consider in such a case.
The special cases are:
-When you have a GFCI receptacle on an AFCI circuit, but you do not have GFCIs on all the other outlets in the same room.
-When you have GFCIs on all the circuits in a room, but not on all the outlets within that room.
-When you have an AFCI circuit breaker feeding a GFCI receptacle.
What are the disadvantages of such a set up?
Are there some demerits of connecting a GFCI outlet to an AFCI circuit?
Even though we have explicitly stated that there is nothing wrong with having such a connection, there are cases where all may not be perfect.
One such case is when you are introducing a GFCI outlet when the AFCI circuit does not have the actual GFCI breaker.
This move is null and void since even though the outlet will be there, the circuit still does not have the protection of the GFCI component.
So, in case of a ground fault, you will still incur some damages.
It is advisable to have the circuit installed with a GFCI breaker before you install the outlet.
Another case is when you have a GFCI receptacle on an AFCI circuit but you do not have GFCIs on all the other outlets in the same room.
Such a connection will also be useless since it will not prevent any damage that may be caused by ground faults.
All it does is protect against shocks and there will still be damage if it detects any ground fault in your home.
Solution: Combination of GFCI/AFCI circuit breakers
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The good news is the problems we have highlighted above are solved by a combination of the GFCI/AFCI circuit breakers.
This combination is inclusive of the GFCI breaker and AFCI breaker and is designed to ensure that there are no ground faults in your home.
It does this by ensuring that there is no leakage of current in the ground wire.
The GFCI/AFCI circuit breaker also ensures that all outlets are protected against both arc faults and ground faults.
These circuit breakers come with a test button which allows you to test the whole circuit for faults.
These devices have been installed by many utility companies as well as homeowners who have realized their importance in preventing electrical fires as well as other forms of destruction caused by faulty wiring installations.
Can you have a GFCI breaker and a GFCI outlet on the same circuit?
Yes, you can do this. There is no major safety risk in adding a GFCI outlet on a GFCI circuit breaker.
The reason is that the GFCI outlet is designed to detect a fault in the hot wire while the GFCI circuit breaker detects ground faults.
So, the risk of having both a GFCI outlet and a GFCI circuit breaker on the same circuit is low because they are designed to detect different faults.
However, you do need to check with your local building codes to make sure that this is allowed before doing it.
How do you wire an AFCI/ GFCI outlet?
Now that you know it is possible to add GFCI outlet to an AFCI breaker, it is time to do the wiring. Simply connect the hot and neutral wires to the hot and neutral terminals on the outlet as well as connect the ground wire to the green screw terminal.
If you are doing this with an AFCI breaker, make sure you connect the load on terminal #2.
I hope now you are fully convinced that it is possible to add a GFCI outlet to an AFCI breaker.
If you are not sure if you can do it, the best way to find out is by doing it and then checking with your local building codes.
And lastly, if your city has no building code that allows this, then you may have to contact your local electrician and ask him or her if it is possible to add a GFCI outlet to an AFCI breaker.
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