Understanding GFCI Receptacles

If you are wiring your basement, extending your house or overhauling the electrical wiring in your home, then you have probably heard of the requirement to install GFCI outlets in some places. Well, this piece is for you if you don't know much about these outlets.

What It Is

GFCI is Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter in full. Like the name suggests, the GFCI "interrupts" or cuts off power supply in case it detects a dangerous condition that is allowing electrical current to flow through an unintended path.

How it Works

The GFCI is able to do this because it has a monitoring system that compares the current in the hot side of the electrical connection (this is the input side or the side that has the incoming electricity) to the neutral side (the output side, so to speak). In a perfect connection, the current on these connections should be the same. Therefore, if there is a current difference, even the tiniest difference, then it means some of the current is leaking elsewhere, and the GFCI cuts off the power as soon as possible.

How This Helps

The action of the GFCI helps because it cuts off the leaking current before it has the opportunity to cause damage or injury. For example, if an appliance connected to an ordinary outlet is malfunctioning and has exposed wires, the current may leak onto the casing of the appliance and give you a nasty electrical shock. This is because the conventional circuit breakers don't work fast enough and may not protect you from small current leaks. However, if the appliance is connected to a GFCI outlet, then the outlet will cut off the power to the appliance as soon as it detects the current leak.

Where It Is Required

Due to the inherent danger of electricity and the protective nature of GFCI outlets, the outlets require installation in certain places. As a rule, a GFCI outlet is required in every place where an electrical outlet is likely to be exposed to moisture or water; this makes sense because water conducts electricity and increases the risk of electricity diversion and its associated dangers. This means you will be required to use GFCI outlets in your bathrooms, outdoor electrical connections, kitchen, laundry area, and other similar places.

One of the reasons electrical wiring isn't a safe DIY project is that you may mess up with things like GFCI outlets. A professional electrician will always know where these outlets are needed and install them for maximum safety. For more information, check out a website like PIRESELECTRIC.COM.