Not all receptacles are engineered alike. GFCI stands for “ground-fault circuit interrupter” and is designed as a safety outlet to prevent electrical shock and electrical fires. GFCI outlets differ from fuses. Fuses act as a safeguard against electrical fires by heating faster than a wire if a hot wire happens to come into contact with a neutral wire. The fuse heats rapidly and burns out before the wire can ignite a fire. GFCI outlets and breakers act similarly, though with much more precision than a fuse.
How a GFCI Works
A GFCI outlet essentially monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral through the outlet. A properly functioning appliance will maintain all electrical currents flowing from hot to neutral. If there is an imbalance in this process, the GFCI will trip the circuit to stop the flow of electricity. GFCI outlets are very sensitive and can detect an imbalance of 4-5 milliamps and can trip the circuit in one-thirtieth of a second.
GFCI for Safety
These outlets are highly beneficial to have throughout the home since they can instantaneously cut of the electrical current flow upon detection of a mismatch in the flow of electricity. Having one GFCI outlet in most rooms and one outdoors in a garage is an important safety precaution to take with home electrical wiring. The Ontario Electrical Code requires GFCIs in all most wet or damp locations and also required within 1.5 metres of a sink.
The GFCI can even protect you from electrical shock if you happen to become caught between a hot wire and the ground. Electrical currents flowing from hot wires through you to the ground could be fatal. However, if you’re using a device plugged into a GFCI outlet, the circuit interrupter will detect that the current is not flowing from hot to neutral as expected, and will trip the circuit to cut the flow of electricity, potentially averting a fatal electrical shock.
What Are The Types of GFCIs?
There are three types of GFCIs. The most common form is the receptacle type, similar to a common wall outlet. Additionally, circuit breaker GFCIs are often used as replacements for standard circuit breakers and provide GFCI protection to all receptacles and devices on that individual circuit. Temporary or portable GFCIs are frequently used in construction and in outdoor settings with electric tools, mowers, trimmers, and similar devices. They are not considered a permanent alternative to a regular ground-fault circuit interrupter. Temporary GFCIs should be tested prior to every use.
It is very important to regularly check GFCIs to verify they are working. Ground-fault circuit interrupters are electronic devices that can get damaged or wear out over time. The electrical receptacle in a GFCI may continue to function even if the GFCI protection no longer works. If this is the case, contact a qualified electrician to replace it as soon as possible.
Test GFCIs monthly to ensure they are in good working order. Whether you have a receptacle or circuit breaker type GFCI, pushing the TEST button should kill the power to the circuit. For the receptacle type, pushing the TEST button should cause the RESET button to trip and pop out. After doing so, you must push the RESET button to re-establish power to the circuit. For the circuit breaker type, pushing the TEST button should cause the handle to move to the tripped position. Move the breaker handle fully to the off position before turning it back on after testing.
Testing of GFCIs monthly will determine if they are operating properly. This is especially important for any GFCIs located in bathrooms or outdoors. These include exterior outlets, hot tub disconnects, and any circuits powering pool equipment.
Replacing a GFCI
While replacing a faulty GFCI is relatively simple, it’s not a DIY task unless you understand proper wiring techniques. Wiring GFCIs may still give power to the outlet, but it could lose its protection for either the outlet itself or other outlets downstream. Licensed electricians know how to do it right to ensure the protection you and your family need.
If you have electrical problems or need additional electric service, call MDC Electric. We will gladly give you a thorough assessment of your needs and point out any concerns you should have.
Why risk annoying problems and costly emergencies? Contact the pros at MDC Electric today. We are your go to York Region Electrician. It’s as simple as calling 289-366-6669 or using our online service request, available anytime, day or night.