One of the biggest sources of confusion it seems is what is a GFCI and where a GFCI protected circuit should be used. First things first. A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is either a device built into an outlet or a breaker in the service panel that detects when there is a ground fault. The outlet monitors the amount of electricity that is flowing from the neutral (left side of outlet plug) to the hot side (right side). When there is a difference detected it trips the outlet or stops the flow of electricity. A good example of would be dropping your hair dryer into a sink full of water. Once the dryer hits the water, the electricity is now flowing into the water and not through the outlet. The outlet trips and the risk of being shocked is gone in literally an instant. The outlet or breaker can be reset to restore power once the hair dryer is removed. There are two buttons on a typical outlet. A test and a reset button. You should test these monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer. I find many of these units are “frozen” and won’t trip due to the unit not being cycled.
The next question is where should these outlets be used? Here is a list of the locations and when the National Electric Code required them to be installed:
Pools – 1971 Exterior Outlets – 1971 Bathrooms – 1975 Garages – 1978 Hot Tub/ Spas – 1981 Hydro Massage Tubs – 1987 Boat Houses – 1987 Kitchens – 1987 Unfinished Basements – 1987 Crawl Spaces – 1990 Wet Bar – 1993 Laundry/Utility – 2005
As you can see most of these locations have been in place for many years. If you go to sell your house and these are not in place, you can almost count the home inspector is going to note these and you will have to install them. The appraiser will most likely point these out on their report was well. The good thing is if you need to protect multiple outlets on a circuit, you can install one on the lead receptacle and protect all the others down the line. A GFCI breaker can also be installed and accomplish the same protection.
Now that you know about GFCIs and where they are needed, you have no more excuses. Make your home safe!
Until next time!
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