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What is a GFCI?

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, cuts electricity, like a fast acting circuit breaker. It is built into an outlet (or receptacle) and has “Test” and “Reset” buttons, and occasionally an indicator light to let you know when it is tripped.

Why Do You Need a GFCI?

Electricity will take the fastest path to the ground. For this reason, homes use electrical grounding, which provides a direct pathway from electrical equipment to the ground.

So, when electricity is looking for the fastest route to the earth, it doesn’t take a detour through you or your appliances. This dangerous situation is called a ground fault.

A GFCI is there to protect you and your appliances from a ground fault.

gfci

How Does a GFCI Work?

A GFCI is built into the outlet. It keeps an eye out on the amount of power going to devices that are plugged into the outlet. When the GFCI detects an interruption in the current, it cuts power.

If you’ve ever been in the middle of blow drying your hair when all of a sudden it stops working, you can likely blame the GFCI. But don’t be too harsh — it saves lives.

To get more technical, A GFCI watches the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral. If the GFCI senses a mismatch as little as 4 or 5 milliamps, it trips the circuit. This happens in as fast as one-thirtieth of a second — faster than you can let go of a potentially hazardous device.

GFCI Issues

  • GFCI outlet is tripped: A GFCI will turn off power if it senses an imbalance of electrical current in the circuit. So, if it has tripped, you won't have power running to your device.

  • Defective GFCI: GFCI outlets can sometimes fail within five years. A GFCI protects you from electrical shocks, so it's important to test it once in a while.

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