Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

by Tom Olecki, Owner, Broadview Heating

Although we have held a state of Ohio electrician license for over 40 years, in the past we have turned away electrical work as we have too been busy doing HVAC things. But now we are able to offer any electrical service you can imagine as we have 3 full-time electricians on staff. Because of this, I will occasionally be including expert articles covering electrical topics, this being the first.

One of the most common questions we receive are about GFCI receptacles or plugs – what are they and how do they work? Do I need to have one in certain areas of my home? If it trips, does that mean it is bad and needs replacement?

So, first we need to know that Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are required by the National Electrical Code for any new work. You can easily identify whether you have this device by looking for test and reset buttons on the receptacle or wall plug. Look in your fuse box too, as some GFCI devices can be installed there. The basic areas that require a GFCI include kitchens, bathrooms, unfinished areas of basements, crawl spaces, garage and out buildings and outdoor areas. Requirements in these areas reduce the potential of electrical shocks. If your home was built before 1973, there is a good chance you have none of these devices and might consider having them installed.

Basically, a GFCI is a device that protects you from a severe electrical shock or electrocution. In very basic terms, electricity is always searching for a conductor to the ground. A good example of this is a lightning strike. In some cases, you can become the electrical conductor for the ground path that electricity is seeking such as standing in bare feet on a concrete floor. In this case, electricity might flow through your body to the ground and you could be injured or electrocuted. With GFCI protection, the device will sense this unbalanced flow of electricity and immediately trip or shut off the path.

It is good practice to periodically test these devices. Just push in the test button and you should hear a click. Then, push the reset button and the device will again be in the protection mode. Occasionally the outlet may trip for no apparent reason. Again, simply push the reset button. If your outlet continually needs to be reset or won’t reset, it needs to be replaced.

Tom Olecki, Owner, Broadview Heating

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Opinions and claims expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of ScripType Publishing.