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I need a new AFCI circuit breaker for a new refrigerator-only circuit we're running. Square D Homeline. Don't want any GFCI outlet or breaker. I bought two breakers at home depot, but I don't know which one I need.

  1. No labeled AFCI breakers at home depot, only CAFI. However, the back of both described them as AFCI. Are CAFI and AFCI basically the same thing or is there any meaningful difference?

  2. One is titled "Plug-on Neutral CAFI" without a pigtail. The other is titled "Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter" with a pigtail. Package features on back label use different wordage, but actually say the same thing. The breakers themselves have different label designs. Front of packages are similar design and both have labels that say "Arc Fault Protection". They cost the same $42.94 and are same size. Which one do I want and why?

EDIT: Forgot to mention both claim to cover parallel and series faults.

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    You should take a picture of both and add the pictures to your question. It would make answering your question 100 times easier.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Mar 9 at 19:21
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    This isn't a "what's a CAFCI" question (easy enough to go ogle), it's a "does my panel take PoN or normal breakers" question. Mar 9 at 20:39
  • The major differentiation you're looking at is Plug on Neutral vs Pigtail. Provide a picture of the labeling inside your panel, and one of the electricians here (like @Harper-ReinstateMonica) will be able to tell you (off the top of his head or by looking it up) which breaker will fit in your panel. Unless the panel was installed within the last 5 years (perhaps less?) you'll need the pigtail, but provide the specs and someone will tell you.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 12 at 13:26
  • You could, of course, also go look up your panel model on the Square D web site to determine which breakers will fit it.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 12 at 13:27
  • ... opened up the panel, pulled a a breaker, and while the panel was open, didn't take a pic of anything there. Um, I'll infer that you are not asking what YOUR panel takes. Mar 12 at 17:10
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So much has happened in this area recently. AFCI stands for Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter, CAFI stands for Combination Arc Fault Interrupter. There are 2 types of arc faults: 1) Series (loose connection) and 2) Parallel (like a short, but not drawing enough current to trip a normal breaker. You can't use a PON (plug on neutral) breaker unless you have a PON panel, which are fairly new. Most arc fault breakers these days handle both. THere are also dual function breakers (DUFIES!) that handle both types of arc faults, ground faults and over-current protection. Since you said you didn't want ground fault protection, you don't want a dufie breaker. Depending upon the location of the fridge, and which NEC code is in effect where you live, that may not be code legal, if that matters to you. 2020 NEC code requires practically everything to be GFCI protected.

So having said all that, unless you have a PON panel, you need the breaker with the pigtail. I'm going to get snipped and yelled at by all the legalistic people here for this, but if this isn't going to be inspected, for a dedicated Fridge circuit I'd just use a regular breaker. I think it's still code legal to swap a AFCI/GFCI breaker for a regular breaker if you get nuisance trips. Let the hate me begin.

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    In my state the dedicated breaker to a fridge or other piece of equipment not easily moved or known to have problems are exempt from the GFCI, electronic protection methods. Series snd parallel covers it.+
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 9 at 19:51
  • I couldn't reach the electrician to ask about the breakers, so I'll just return the two he doesn't use after he runs the new circuit. Thanks all as always for the great advice and learning opportunities. Stackexchange is the best thing since cat pics.
    – Kirk Hings
    Mar 14 at 20:22
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Question 1. CAFI is the more proper designation for the type of AFCI you're required to use nowadays, as George Anderson discusses at length. People call them "AFCI" as a slang, which is fine.

Question 2. Normal breakers "clip on" to the hot bus. Historically, AFCI and GFCI breakers needed a pigtail wire to get neutral. Some installers found that messy. So some newest panels do a positioning trick with the neutral bus so the breaker can clip onto it also. This is called "Plug-on neutral". If you have a Plug-on neutral panel, you can use a plug-on neutral breaker. If you do not, you cannot. Pigtail xFCIs will generally fit both.

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