A ground fault circuit interrupter, of GFCI, is a special type of electrical switch or receptacle with a built-in circuit breaker. Houses built since the 1970's use GFCI circuits in place where the circuit may be exposed to excess moisture, and are required in certain locations by most local laws. Installing a GFCI does not require an Electrician's license, and won't demand any previous knowledge of how household wiring is done, but faulty GFCI's should be replaced right away to prevent serious electrical problems. The following facts and tips about ground fault circuit interrupters will give you a better idea of how they are used, and why it is in your best interest to have them.
Fact #1: Types of GFCI Available
There are many types of ground fault circuit interrupter. Many light switches, power receptacles, and certain light fixtures all contain GFCI circuitry. Just about any fixture or electrical outlet of any type is available in a GFCI version. They are often specially designed into outdoor fixtures and receptacles, providing a measure of protection at the possible source of a problem. Additionally, be sure that outdoor wiring is properly run through water-proof conduits.
Fact #2: How GFCI Works
A gfci circuit tester constantly monitors the flow of electricity through the circuit. If the flow spikes, or the ground becomes unstable, the GFCI will trip a mini circuit breaker built into the unit, and power to that particular outlet will be terminated until the GFCI is reset. This can also happen if too much of a load is placed on a wiring circuit, turning off power at the receptacle rather than at the circuit breaker panel.
Fact #3: Why GFCI is Used
GFCI receptacles have been shown to reduce the danger of electrocution, especially in locations where contact with water is likely. Building codes have been modified to include GFCI circuits because reducing the hazard of direct shorts also decreases the hazard of household fire, and that means a safer community for everyone to live in.
Fact #4: How to TEST a GFCI
There are 2 buttons on a GFCI, a RESET button and a Test button. Before the first use, press the RESET button. Plug a device into the receptacle, such as a radio or lamp, and turn the device on. If it works, everything is if fine. If the device does not work, press the RESET button to see if the problem is corrected. If power is still not available, check the main circuit breaker, and then inspect the wiring for a possible short before the receptacle.
Fact #5: Where GFCI is Required
GFCI receptacles are required in the kitchen, the bathroom, and laundry room. Outside the home, all receptacles and switches, even those in weatherproof boxes, should use GFCI circuitry. Don't be frugal about placing GFCI switches and outlets, they are intended to help you protect your home against many things, including flooding, and sudden damage to your electrical wiring. The more GFCI's you have, the better protected your home electrical system will be.