GFCI Outlets: Essential for Your Safety

There are about 300 electrocutions each year that occur in and around the home. Many of the electrocutions could have been prevented by a GFCI outlet. A GFCI can literally save your life by detecting ground faults, and preventing electricity from traveling through your body to the ground.

What is a GFCI?
A GFCI is a ground fault circuit interrupter. A GFI has a built in sensor which detects changes in the electrical current to an appliance that it is connected to. The GFCI compares the electrical flow going into the appliance and the electrical flow going out from the appliance. If a dangerous drop in the current is detected, then the GFI will turn off all power in less than one second. For example, (as explained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission), "Suppose a bare wire inside an appliance touches the metal case. The case is then charged with electricity. If you touch the appliance with one hand while the other hand is touching a grounded metal object, like a water faucet, you will receive a shock. If the appliance is plugged into an outlet protected by a GFCI, the power will be shut off before a fatal shock would occur."

GFCI's - It's the Law
National Electric Code (NEC) states that homes must have a GFCI protection in almost every outlet in the home. Several years ago, GFCI outlets were only required for some outlets near water. But as of 2008, all 125 volt, single phase, 15 & 20 amp receptacles in residential buildings, basements, garages and accessory buildings are required to be GFCI protected. Previously, outlets serving larger appliances, such as washing machines, were not included in the code.

Here is the complete list of where GFCI outlets are required:

Garages and accessory buildings
All exterior receptacles
Crawl spaces - at or below grade level
Unfinished basements
Near laundry, utility, and wet bar sinks

A home without GFCI outlets will be cited on home inspections for code violations. If you do not have GFCI outlets and plan on selling you home, you should seriously consider installing them.

Types of GFCI
There are three types of GFCI: receptacle, circuit breaker and portable:

Receptacle - This is the basic GFCI outlet. It is installed in the place of older outlets. These cost about $5.00 to $10.00 for each receptacle. A professional electrician can quickly install GFCI outlets throughout your home.

Circuit Breaker - The GFI circuit breaker controls an entire circuit. It is installed as a replacement for a circuit breaker on your home's main circuit board. You can install a circuit breaker GFCI instead of multiple GFI outlets, as it will protect the entire circuit.

Portable - A portable GFCI is used when there is no GFCI available. It looks similar to an adapter, whereby the plug is connected through the adapter and not the unprotected outlet.


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