This Old House Magazine
Wiring Electricity Home Safety Image Credit: This Old House Magazine
Wiring Electricity Home Safety Image Credit: This Old House Magazine

How Safe Is Your Home's Wiring?

Your home and family may be vulnerable to easily preventable dangers. Read on for ways to protect them.

An Ounce of Prevention

More than half of the 28,000 electrical home fires¹ and nearly 70% of the 400 electrocutions that occur in the U.S.² every year could have been prevented with two inexpensive, DIY-friendly safety devices. And while these devices may look similar, the ground-fault and arc-fault dangers they prevent—and functions they perform— are vastly different. Here’s why you need the protection of both.

The Ground-Fault/Arc-Fault Difference

Ground-faults occur when electricity escapes bare, damaged, wet, or poorly insulated wires and takes a shortcut to the ground. If your body provides the path to that ground, you could be electrocuted. Arc-faults happen when electricity crosses a gap between damaged wiring such as loose, corroded, overloaded connections in walls, appliances, and cords. The resulting high-intensity heat can ignite surrounding materials, including framing and insulation. GFCI (Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter) and AFCI (Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets detect these faults and instantly break the connection, reducing the risk of electrical shock and fire.

Keeping Up with Codes

The National Electrical Code® (NEC®) has long mandated that GFCI outlets be installed in kitchens, bathrooms, garages, outdoors, and other damp locations. More recent code changes require AFCIs in living spaces such as bedrooms and living rooms. In 2014

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