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What is a GFCI Outlet? How Does it Work?

What is a GFCI Outlet? How Does it Work?

When electricity escapes the wiring it's confined in an appliance and takes a shortcut to the ground, it results in what's called a ground fault. Sometimes, that shortcut could be through a human, which can lead to death. In fact, about 200 people in the United State die from ground faults every year. And residents in Goodyear, Arizona, and the surrounding communities aren't immune from them.

What is a GFCI Outlet and How Does it Work?

Also known as a ground fault circuit interrupter, Charles Dalziel invented the GFCI in 1961 at the University of California, where he was a professor of electrical engineering. His invention monitors the difference in the electrical current flowing in and out of an appliance. When that difference exceeds five milliamps, which indicates that a ground fault might be happening, the GFCI cuts that flow off instantly in as little as .025 of a second. So no matter whether your wiring is grounded, the GFCI will protect you either way.

The National Electric Code requires that all new wet or damp spaces - kitchens, laundry rooms, bathrooms - in a home use GFCI outlets. Homeowners with older homes can either retrofit GFCI receptacles in those rooms or mount GFCI breaker switches in the main breaker panel. You can also purchase a portable GFCI adapter that plugs into a regular wall receptacle.

What Safety Considerations Should You Take With GFCIs?

When dealing with electricity in your home, the safest course of action is to always call an electrician. You just never know when you're putting yourself or your property at risk. That said, here are some safety considerations to keep in mind when dealing with GFCIs.

  • Your GFCIs should be tested monthly, ensuring they're providing adequate protection
  • Turn off the power before testing the GFCIs or working on a circuit yourself. Put a note on the electrical panel to warn others.
  • Ensure the GFCI's amp rating matches the amp rating of the breaker, wiring or fuse
  • Use tools with rubber handles and wear shoes with rubber soles.
  • Don't use GFCIs for refrigerators or freezers, since they could trip at any time without you knowing.

For more electrical tips and information about electricity at home, or if you're in need of an electrician, check out our blog or contact us at (602) 910-6267.

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