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I would like to replace some outlets that run along my kitchen countertop because the TRR plugs are hard to plug in, and I would like to put ones that have USB jacks. I know that GFCIs are required in this area, but if I install dual GFCI/AFCIs breaker to support this circuit and replace it with the non-CI USB outlets, would this be to code? Is there any easy way I could have found out if this was to code myself (I assume reading NEC 20, is the start?), or is this a bad idea for a DIYer? Thanks!

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You're not on NEC 2020 yet, unless your state just adopted it. (MA has so far).

Under NEC 2017, Code requires GFCI only in certain places (kitchen being one of those) and it generally does not require AFCI breakers in those places. The rationale being that providing both can be a technical challenge. So you probably do not require AFCI protection in the wiring to a kitchen, but it is a good idea if (in order of importance) roached wiring, aluminum wiring, old wiring, or wiring in non-metallic cabling or conduit. IMO.

Keep in mind despite the similar names, AFCI and GFCI do totally different things. AFCI protects wiring from burnup due to bad connections, and this mainly guards in-wall wiring, particularly backstab connections. Originally they were conceived to protect electric blankets, but "backstabs in plastic boxes" proved to be the main thing AFCIs defend from. Whereas GFCI protects humans from shock, hence the requirement anywhere within reach of a sink.

AFCI is only constructive at the breaker. GFCI can be anywhere, however. And at the breaker is just fine. Your plan is perfectly fine.

Keep in mind that making an outlet USB does not erase any requirement for Tamper Resistance. If TR is a requirement, then you need a recep that is TR and USB. There is a lot of junk on sale on Amazon Marketplace and other outlets of the Alibaba junkstream, which uses direct mail to circumvent the laws which assure the supply chain contains safe, UL-listed products. Such things are best bought at a bricks-and-mortar retailer; if you don't like Home Depot's pricing, try a genuine electrical supply.

Do your level best to keep refrigerators, freezers, fire alarms, radon systems and other "needs power for safety" appliances away from both GFCI and AFCI.

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  • thanks for the very detailed information. Can you elaborate on "Do your level best to keep refrigerators, freezers, fire alarms, radon systems and other "needs power for safety" appliances away from both GFCI and AFCI." I would classify fridge and freezer as for safety in my house, radon i can see, and I assume if the fire alarms tripped then they would be permanently off. Is that the reason? And if my alarms have battery backups? – Joe Mar 5 at 23:27
  • @Joe the ruling question is what happens if it trips and this goes unnoticed, and in particular, what if the circuit is reset for other reasons without realizing this appliance was affected? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Mar 5 at 23:31
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You could swap out the breaker for a GFCI/AFCI breaker but then if it trips you have to go to the panel to reset it. You could use a dual function (GFCI and AFCI) outlet that are not tamper resistant, to replace the existing ones, but that isn't code now. TRR are required. I don't know of a dual function outlet with USB, but you could put a non protected outlet with USB ports downstream of the GFCI/AFCI outlets. Just be sure they are indeed protected by the upstream outlets. You can easily test this by pressing the test button on your existing outlets and see which other outlets no longer have power.

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  • Thanks for the reply. I did see the 'downstream' suggestion mentioned in another answer. Going to the panel on a trip isn't a big deal to me, since these things very rarely trip for me. But this would be my first time replacing a breaker and having the reset at the outlet is a slight benefit. If I did decide to go that rout, as someone who is very amateur at this, how would I determine which outlet is 'downstream' of another? – Joe Mar 5 at 18:46
  • Hi Joe. I believe you have existing GFCI protected outlets in the kitchen, right? They have been required for years. Often one GFCI outlet will protect others in the kitchen. The downstream outlets are supposed to have stickers on them that indicated they are GFCI protected, unfortunately it doesn't get done very often. Like I said in my answer, the easiest way to find out which outlets are protected is to press the TEST button on the GFCI outlet and determine which other outlets no longer have power. Don't over-think this. You don't need a meter, any plug in (IE: lamp) device will do. – George Anderson Mar 5 at 18:57
  • @Joe like George said, if you have outlets on a countertop, press "TEST" on one of them and it will trip, cutting power to itself. Now, plug something in to the other outlets -- any of them that still have power are "upstream" of the GFCI that you TEST'ed, and any that don't have power are "downstream" of the GFCI that you TEST'ed. You can check if they're on by using a plug-in light, a blender, whatever. – Tyler M Mar 5 at 19:02
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    Clarifying one more thing: Pressing the TEST button, tests the GFCI function of the outlet. It will cut power to that outlet and any others "downstream" from it. You'll need to press the RESET button to restore power after you've tested other outlets with any plug in device. Just plug it in to various outlets and see if it works. You probably have multiple circuits to the kitchen (required) so you'll probably have more than one GFCI outlet and more downstream outlets connected to that one. Just take your time, be methodical. – George Anderson Mar 5 at 19:03
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    Tyler: Wow, Great minds think alike! We posted practically the same post at the same time! Awesome. – George Anderson Mar 5 at 19:05
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According to National Electric Code 210.8(A)(6):

125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles that serve countertop surfaces shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel. [NEC 210.8(A)(6)]

What is ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection? It is either a GFCI outlet or a GFCI breaker:

GROUND-FAULT CIRCUIT-INTERRUPTER A device intended for the protection of personnel that functions to deenergize a circuit or portion thereof within an established period of time when a current to ground exceeds the value for a Class A device. [2017 Florida Building Code Ch. 35 ... NEC Citation needed]

So using a GFCI breaker is appropriate. Code does NOT state that an AFCI is required for the countertops, so using a dual GFCI/AFCI is just as acceptable as a regular GFCI breaker. Whatever receptacle outlets (your USB plugs) you decide to put in, well that's whatever you choose. As far as NEC code, you're compliant.

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