AFCIs (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters) are intended to reduce the chance of fires caused by electrical arcing faults; whereas, GFCIs are devices intended to reduce the chances of shock and/or electrocution. An AFCI breaker should shut off a circuit if certain arcing faults occur.
AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection has been required for bedroom receptacles since January 1, 2002. In 2008, AFCI protection requirements were expanded to include family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, or similar rooms or areas.
The installation of AFCIs can be difficult or problematic when old wiring or electrical panels are present. If there has been remodeling or alterations to a property where AFCI protection would be expected, it might not have been required by the local jurisdiction if old wiring or other conditions prevented the ready installation of the devices.
The first generation of AFCI circuit breakers were called “branch-feeder” AFCIs and they didn’t provide protection against some faults. The second generation AFCI circuit breakers are called “combination” types and they provide greater protection and have been required since January 1, 2008.
AFCI protection can also be provided by receptacle outlets, although we do not currently see many of them in the field. They resemble GFCI receptacle outlets.