What Does a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Do?
Chances are, you have watched someone either replace a fuse or reset a circuit breaker whenever there is a power surge, overloaded circuit or other electrical issue. This basic power protection is put in place to help avoid dangerous situations such as electrical shock, fire and power surges. These events can all be damaging to both you and your electronic devices.
In more sensitive areas, such as your bathrooms, kitchen, garage and outdoors, an additional layer of protection is typically installed called the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). These special outlets are equipped with their own circuit breakers and special sensors that can detect even minimal changes in the electrical current. If a short, overload or other issue is detected, a GFCI outlet will shut itself off, stopping the flow of power to your electrical device. This could potentially save your life. If you are using devices near water, for example, and one of the devices has a short, it could lead to electrocution if the power is not shut off quickly. A GFCI is designed to help prevent this.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters – An Introduction
The National Electric Commission estimates that nearly 300 lives are lost in the United States each year as a result of electrocution. In order to help reduce this number, the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter was brought into use in the 1970s. It is now mandated by most local building codes that GFCI outlets will be installed in any area that comes into contact with water. This includes kitchens, bathrooms, garages, outdoor living areas, swimming pools and along exterior walls. By installing the important protection device, many dangerous mishaps can be prevented.
How Do GFCIs Work?
Ground fault circuit interrupters are designed to detect even the smallest leak of electrical current. They can detect these discrepancies within 1 / 40th of a second and act quickly to stop the flow of electrical current. Whenever a GFCI outlet shuts off the flow of power, the small "RESET" button on the front will pop out of the outlet. This indicates that something went wrong, and the outlet shut itself off to prevent further damage or injury. To use the outlet again, all you have to do is press this "RESET" button back into its socket and start over. If this does not work, or if your outlet resets frequently, you should have it inspected by an electrician.
GFCIs are by far one of the most important electrical fixtures that you can have in areas that may become wet. This device has, without a doubt, saved countless lives since its introduction and will continue to do so. Rather than seeing the brief interruption in power as an annoyance, consider the fact that the outlet may have saved your life. If your home is not equipped with GFCI outlets, or some of them are malfunctioning, get in touch with an electrician today. They can help troubleshoot, install and maintain these important safety devices.