What is a ground fault circuit interrupter?
A ground fault circuit interrupter is an electrical safety outlet designed for use in homes and businesses. A GFCI is typically installed in areas that come in contact with moisture like the kitchen or bathroom, and its primary purpose is to protect against electrical shock. GFCI outlets look similar to the traditional counterparts, however, they can be identified by the “test” and “reset” buttons on their face.
GFCI outlets monitor the flow of an electrical current in a circuit. When a ground fault occurs, the flow between the neutral and hot wires becomes unbalanced. Once there is a disturbance in current, the GFCI breaks the electrical circuit and shuts off the energy flow.
Many people use GFCI outlets because they react faster than circuit breakers or fuses. These outlets not only prevent serious electric shock, but they also reduce the risk of electrical fires and prevent damage to appliances. A GFCI outlet may also share a circuit with other outlets, which provides additional protection. GFCI’s can be installed anywhere an outlet is needed, including in garages, basements and outdoor areas.
GFCI outlets are commonly found in bathrooms and kitchens. These areas are highly susceptible to the occurrence of ground faults. Generally, if there is a risk of water meeting electricity in a certain area, a ground fault interrupter outlet should be installed. When a GFCI is tripped, it’s necessary to determine why the power was shut off. The outlet can be reset or replaced once the cause is verified.
GFCI outlets should be tested regularly to confirm they are working correctly. To test the outlet, plug an appliance into it and push the test button on the outlet. If the ground fault interrupter is working properly, the appliance will shut off and the reset button on the outlet will pop out. To ensure the GFCI continues to protect against ground faults, push the reset button in before using the outlet.
As with most electrical work, you should consider hiring a licensed electrician to install GFCI outlets. Electrical work is dangerous, and it can lead to serious bodily harm if the right precautions aren’t taken. Sign in to Angie’s List to find a licensed, highly rated Chicago electrician.