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What is an AFCI Breaker and How Does it Work?

AFCI's Recalled Square D Breakers

An AFCI breaker is an acronym that stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter. These breakers function by detecting if there is an arc in electricity and then shutting power off to stop the arcing.

You can tell if you have AFCI breakers by looking at your electrical panel. A few breakers should have buttons for testing and be labeled as “AFCI”. However, this should not be confused with GFCI breakers (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) that protect wet areas.

AFCI's in Square D electrical panel - White buttons are AFCI'S.
AFCI’s in Square D electrical panel – White buttons are AFCI’S.

Where should AFCI’s be installed?

AFCI’s should be installed or covering every living space that is not a wet area. This means your AFCI breakers should be installed in all bedrooms, the living room, dining room, den, etc., but not where water is located (bathrooms, garage, exterior, and kitchens).

How does an AFCI actually work?

These high tech breakers have many interior components that work together to determine arcing. In a nutshell, the equipment is able to detect the amplitude (size of power) over a period of time. If there is a short period of time where there is a surge of power, the AFCI is “tripped” and automatically shuts off the power! How awesome is that?!

Things to remember

AFCI’s are not guarantees of success as AFCI’s are systems that can fail. Test your AFCI’s monthly by pressing the “test” button in your electrical panel.


Square D (blue buttoned) AFCI’s are actually called out for Recall due to consistent failure. Check for recall. A tell-tale sign is if you panel is branded with Square D, and you have blue buttons on your AFCI breakers. Check the featured image of this post for what they look like.

What to do if your home does not have AFCI breakers

If your home does not have AFCI breakers, do not fret. It is common to not have AFCI’s in older homes, therefore, you are not required to upgrade. On the other hand, if you want to sell your home, the buyer of your home may request AFCI’s to be installed for safety reasons.

Speak with electricians for installing AFCI breakers in your home. The cost for installation should be a few hundred dollars.

Have more questions about AFCI’s? Comment below or contact us!