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Function and operation of residential circuit breakers

Residential circuit breakers are one of the most important safety mechanisms in your home.  All the wiring in your house runs through a power panel/load center.  A typical load center houses all the circuit breakers your house needs to serve electricity.  Circuit breakers monitor the flow of the electrical current and cut off the power when current levels are too high.  Circuit breakers or interrupters simply cut the power to decrease any potential disasters such as fires in your home.


ABB offers three types of residential circuit breakers/interrupters:

Types of residential electronic circuit interrupters (breakers)

Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI)
Provides arc fault protection

According to USFA, in 2019 there were 24,200 residential fires due to electrical malfunction. Many are the result from arc faults. Arc faults are unintended, electrical arcs that may ignite combustible materials in the home. Four types of arc faults may occur: line-to-line, line-to-ground, line-to-neutral, or a series arc fault, which is arcing over a gap within a single wire.

Arc Faults may arise from numerous different situations

Damaged wires

Wires pinched to the grounded metal box

Worn electrical insulation

Corroded connections

Loose electrical connections

Shorted wires

Wires or cords in contact with vibrating metal

Overheated or stressed electrical cords and wires

Misapplied/damaged appliances

GE by ABB Combination AFCIs help protect against all types of arc fault incidences. An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) detects arc faults and de-energizes the circuit before a fire can start. GE by ABB Combination AFCIs offers multiple kinds of protection.

These combination AFCIs electronically identify unique current and voltage characteristics of all arc faults and de-energize the entire circuit when one occurs.

Learn more about AFCI safety

Residential Building Electrical Malfunction Fire Trends (2010‑2019)

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters with Self-Test (GFCI)
Provides ground fault protection

The GFCI circuit interrupter provides protection against overloads, short circuits and ground faults. It detects very low levels of electrical current leakage (ground faults), and acts quickly to shut off power, preventing serious shock.

What is a Ground Fault?

Normally, the electrical current traveling to an electrical appliance is equal to the current traveling from that appliance. However, an imbalance in that flow indicates a current leak — also referred to as a “ground fault,” because the leaking current is escaping to the ground.

If the leaking current is traveling through a person, that person could be injured, burned, severely shocked or electrocuted. For example, when a hair dryer is dropped into a sink full of water, some of the electrical current leaks out of the appliance and into the water. This current leak could be enough to kill someone who comes in contact with the water.

The National Electrical Code requires GFCI protection of receptacles located outdoors, in bathrooms, garages, and spa areas. This applies not only to new construction but also to existing homes. When an electrical outlet is replaced in a location that requires ground-fault protection, the new outlet must be GFCI protected, according to the NEC.

Why GE by ABB Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters with Self-Test?

Self-test functionality is a UL requirement on all GFCI devices that began in June of 2015. This variant of the GFCI ensures its ground fault circuitry is functioning properly by automatically running diagnostic testing on a periodic basis. Should a problem be detected, the circuit breaker will trip and will need to be replaced.

When installed in a home’s load center, the GE by ABB GFCI Self-Test does everything a circuit breaker is designed to do plus it helps protect people against dangerous electrical shock caused by ground faults. Whenever it detects a ground fault, it almost instantaneously shuts off the power, helping to prevent an electrical shock.


1 or 2 pole

15A, 20A, 25A, 30A, 40A or 50A


120 Vac or 120/240 Vac

Wire Range #14-8 AWG CU / #12-8 AWG AL

Dual Function Circuit Interrupters (DFCI)
Provides ground fault and arc fault circuit protection in one unit

In recent years, the National Electric Code has mandated Ground Fault and Arc Fault circuit protection on many 15 and 20 amp kitchen and laundry circuits. GE by ABB’s Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI) offers both Ground Fault and Combination Arc Fault (GFCI and AFCI) protection in a simple to apply and cost-effective package.

Dual function circuit interrupters utilize both GFCI and AFCI detection technology.