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What is a GFCI and Why is it Important?

Picture of a GFCI

You’re looking at buying or selling a house and the inspector says that the kitchens and bathrooms are not up to code because they don’t have any GFCI’s, they only have regular outlets.  You scratch your head and wonder, “What is a GFCI and why do the kitchen and bathrooms need them?”

GFCI is short for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.  This is a special outlet that should be found in any area of your house that may be exposed to water.  The reason is that a GFCI will trip itself in order to prevent an electrical incident when it senses a ground fault, a potentially dangerous situation in which electrical current follows an unintended path.  The GFCI works by comparing the amount of current going to and returning from equipment along the circuit conductors. When the amount going differs from the amount returning by approximately 5 milliamperes, the GFCI interrupts the current.

GFCI’s started being required way back in 1971.  Although they were originally only required outside and by swimming pool equipment, they are now required in more locations such as kitchens, bathrooms and even garages and basements (codes may vary from state to state).  GFCI’s are meant to keep us safe from electrocution, so don’t try to skip out on this very important piece of hardware, follow the code and make sure you and your loved ones stay safe!

Always remember that Peter Needham is a Master Electrician who is an expert in installing GFCI outlets and solving many electrical issues!



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