A ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI is an electrical safety outlet designed to break the circuit once it detects an imbalance between the incoming and outgoing electric current.
A GFCI outlet looks quite identical to its conventional counterparts. But, you can tell a GFCI outlet by the “test” and “reset” buttons on their face. If your outlet stops functioning, you can push the ‘Reset’ button to reset the breaker, and it most cases the problem is resolved.
The primary purpose of a GFCI outlet is to provide protection against electric shocks. It also protects receptacles and electrical wirings from overheating, significantly reducing the risks of burns, fatal shock injuries, and even electrical fires. GFCI outlets detect ground faults and disrupt the flow of electricity providing it another path to the ground, instead of going through other routes such as the human body. However, it should not be used to replace a circuit breaker as it does not offer protection against short circuits and overloading. There are certain GFCI electrical issues that you just can’t do it yourself, if you find yourself in such situation call www.electriciancolumbusohio.com electricians.
Generally, there are three types of GFCIs, and they are as follows:
- The receptacle-type GFCI which is similar to an ordinary wall outlet.
- The Circuit breaker GFCI which is commonly used as an alternative for standard circuit breakers and provide GFCI protection to all outlets on that individual circuit.
GFCI protection should be provided anywhere there is an outlet installed in damp locations or areas subject to moisture, as the presence of moisture substantially increases the danger of electrical shocks. It is recommended that you install GFCI outlets in your kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms as well as your exterior outlets, and in garages, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements.
How Does a GFCI Outlet Work?
A GFCI outlet calculates the voltage on the hot and neutral wires. Once it detects any differences, the outlet will automatically trip. This type of outlet is generally more sensitive and acts faster than a circuit breaker, which is a crucial safety feature.
The GFCI is capable of “sensing” the difference in the amount of electric current flowing into the circuit to that flowing out, even in tiny amounts (as small as four or five milliamps). The GFCI then reacts quickly (less than one-tenth of a second) to trip or shut off the circuit, and prevent further damage.
Testing and Maintaining Your GFCI Outlets
Like other electronic devices GFCI outlets can be damaged, and are subject to wear and tear. The electrical outlet in a GFCI may continue to work, even if the GFCI circuit no longer functions. Thus, it is often not possible to tell whether an outlet is GFCI protected or not by merely looking at it.
If you have a particular outlet that doesn’t seem to be providing power, not only should you check the circuit breakers, but also try resetting the button and see if that helps.
GFCIs should be tested monthly to ensure that they are in good working condition. As with most electrical work, you should consider hiring a licensed professional electrician to install GFCI outlets in your home. Electrical work is dangerous, and it can lead to serious, even life-threatening, injuries if the right precautions and safety practices are not taken.