15 Jul How GFCI Outlets Work
GFCI Virtual Demonstration
A GFCI is a type of safety outlet that stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. Unlike a fuse, a GFCI is used to deter the possibility of someone being electrocuted by systematically tracking a circuits stream of electricity to detect a decline in electrical current. GFCI’s have proven their value over the past several decades by saving thousands of lives, cutting the presence of home electrocution in half.
GFCI’s are extremely important in every home but even more so in areas that are more susceptible to heavy wind and rain. Even if you do not live in a rainy climate it is still necessary to have GFCI’s anywhere that household wires may be compromised by water. As of 2008 the National Electrical Code states that GFCI’s be present in all outdoor areas, kitchens, bathrooms, and garages. It is absolutely necessary for your safety to test your outlet as often as possible; it is recommended GFCI’s be tested at least once a month. To test a GFCI you will need a lamp or light of some sort or a plug tester that can be purchased at any home improvement store. First press the RESET button on the GFCI and then plug your light or plug tester into the GFCI outlet. After plugging in the light turn it ON then locate and press the TEST button on the GFCI. Once pressing the TEST button the light should turn OFF. Finally, press the RESET button again and the light should turn back ON. One way to tell if the GFCI you are testing is not working correctly is if the light does not turn OFF when the TEST button is depressed. This could mean that the ground fault circuit interrupter is not giving the shock protection it is meant to either because it was not wired correctly or it was possibly damaged somewhere along the lines.
To understand the necessity for GFCI’s it is important to also understand how they work. When looking at a standard 120-volt U.S outlet you will see two vertical slits with a hole centered directly below. The left slit is known as “neutral” and is somewhat bigger than the right slit. The right slit is called “hot”, while the hole is known as the “ground”. If a device or appliance is in good working order, every bit of electricity it uses will run from hot to neutral. A GFCI has the ability to monitor the total current that is running from hot to neutral and if there is any kind of instability, it will trip the circuit. GFCI’s can detect even the smallest imbalance, and can respond as immediately as one-thirtieth of a second. It’s when electricity flows from hot to ground through you that it becomes deadly. A GFCI has the ability to detect the current that is running through your body because it is able to sense that not the entire current is running from hot to neutral as it was designed to anticipate. That is when the circuit is tripped and the electricity is cut off; thus resulting in your life being saved by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.