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Rochester, NY 14616
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Ground Fault Interrupter (GFCI ) Outlets

Ground Fault Interrupters (GFCI)

A Ground Fault Interrupter outlet (also referred to as GFCI or GFI) is a device that protects you from an electric shock. The most common locations to find GFCI outlets are in the kitchen and bathrooms of a house. They are easily spotted by their distinctive face. Normally there are two buttons in the middle of the face, a red test button and a black reset button (Figure 1). Sometimes knowing if a circuit is ground fault protected is not as easy as simply spotting it because the ground fault interrupter may be located somewhere else like another bathroom, in the basement, or in the main circuit panel box. It is possible to ground fault protect an outlet from another location. If properly wired, outlets downstream from a GFCI will be protected (up to approx. 4-6 outlets). The 1999 National Electrical Code (NEC) states that GFCI outlets are required to be installed in all wet locations in new construction as well as remodeling projects. This means that countertop outlets in bathrooms and kitchens, and exterior outlets should be protected if it is a newer house or has been remodeled recently. In older buildings built prior to the invention of and requirement of GFCI outlets may not have any in the house. Although not required in existing homes built prior to the NEC requirements (unless recently remodeled), it is strongly recommended installing them in their proper locations.

How Do They Work?

How a GFCI outlet works is it monitors the amount of current going to and coming from a receptacle. Whenever the amount of incoming and outgoing current are not equal, indicating current leakage or a "Ground Fault" the GFCI opens the circuit instantly, cutting off the electricity. The protection of GFCI outlets lies with their quick response and sensitivity. GFCIs are designed and built to trip in approx. 1/40 of a second in the event of a ground fault of 0.005 ampere. This is important because circuit breakers are designed to only trip once the circuit has exceeded the designed amount of ampere (or amps), which is usually 15 or 20 amps. Manufactures of GFCI devices state that the GFCI outlets should be tested at least once a month to ensure proper function ability.

 


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