What is a GFCI Outlet?

The acronym GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt.   The main thing you need to know about this type of outlet is that it can save your life.  Or that of a loved one!

If properly installed in household branch circuits, it is estimated that these could prevent many injuries.   The estimate is over two-thirds of the approximately 300 electrocutions that occur each year in homes.   More CFCI devices could also prevent thousands of burn and electric shock injuries each year.

These outlets are very sensitive to the slightest variation in current.  They switch off whenever they sense it.   A GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral. If there is an imbalance, it trips the circuit. It is able to sense a mismatch as small as 4 or 5 milliamps.  The reaction time is as quickly as one-thirtieth of a second.

Examples of GFCI Safety

Compare this to a standard breaker in the circuit box (fuse box) of your home.  These are designed to prevent electrical fires.  Normally, the breakers found there are 15 or 20 amps.   They will switch off when something happens to the current, like an overloaded circuit.  For instance, you may run over the cord with the vacuum cleaner which cuts through the wire.   Or, you might be hanging a picture and accidentally drive a nail into the wire in the wall.   If the hot wire accidentally touches the neutral wire, the breaker would trip.

However, what if a hairdryer falls in the water in a bathroom sink?  That might not be enough to make the breaker trip.   You (or your child) might reach into the water to get the hairdryer and get a nasty shock.   If that circuit contained a GFCI outlet there is no shock.    It would have tripped and shut off the current as soon as the dryer hit the water.

Requirements for CFCI Outlets

CFCI outlets are required to be located in wet spaces.   Bathrooms, kitchens, wet bars, and outdoors, especially around pools or spa areas.   Some older homes were not built with GFCI outlets but should be upgraded.  The images below show you what they look like.  If you don’t have this type of protection in all of those areas, contact us for assistance.  We can take a look and quickly upgrade the outlets wherever they are needed.  Let us protect you and those you love from a dangerous and shocking experience.