What is GFCI?

We get a version of this question on a lot of our home calls. This is especially true when we are doing electricity in a kitchen or a bathroom and we explain that it is required by most codes that we install GFCI outlets in the room.

What is GFCI?

What, the phrase “ground fault circuit interrupter” doesn’t clear it all up for you?

Well, that is the GFCI.

It is a special circuit built to protect your appliances and, more importantly, you from potential surges and arcs that might otherwise cost you money or your life.

What is grounding?

Grounding, as we have explained elsewhere, is not just something you do when your kids have misbehaved. It is an important electrical term that means giving excess electricity a pathway to the ground in case of a surge or short circuit.

By making sure that every appliance and outlet is properly grounded, you protect your appliances, lightbulbs, computers, and even your own health and safety from the danger that free electricity can pose.

Grounding involves the third, rounded prong you see on your cords for appliances. And it involves the hidden workings of your walls. Not surprisingly, it also involves giving electricity an efficient way to get to the ground outside your building, keeping everyone safe.

Ground fault circuit interrupter does … what?

So this special switch, the ground fault circuit interrupter, is an extra safety precaution. It senses when there is an overload right in the circuit itself and shuts off.

Instead of relying on circuit breakers in your circuit box in your basement, it takes care of matters right on site. This is important because circuit breakers are meant to handle a bit more electricity, and a surge that the GFCL picks up might be missed by your circuit breakers.

This more sensitive, localized switch means two things.

First, you and your appliances are safer. They are protected by a more sensitive guardian right there where you need it most. This is especially true in your kitchen and bathroom, where you are more likely to make a mistake with splashing water.

Second, the protection is more convenient. This more sensitive switch can be reset multiple times right at the point of use – in your kitchen, bathroom, or other essential electricity location. So when it triggers and protects you, you don’t have to go in the basement and figure out the problem. You know exactly what tripped, and you can more easily find and fix the problem.

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