What is a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)? How do they work? A GFCI outlet constantly monitors electricity flowing in a circuit, to sense any loss in current. Different than a home’s fuse, the GFCI is integrated in the outlet itself. If you were to plug a hair dryer into it, it would monitor the amount of power going to the device. Accidental contact with water causes the GFCI to detect the current interruption and cut the power. These are very important outlets to have in your home because water and electricity don’t mix. These outlets are found in bathrooms, kitchens and any other rooms that use water and will reduce the chance you’ll get electrocuted, burned or shocked. A GFCI outlet will also help prevent electrical fires. If there is an electrical fire, it can decrease the severity and damage that can occur. These outlets are important to meet local building code requirements, but also work to prevent accidents that can be fatal in some situations.
How Does a GFCI Outlet Work?
A GFCI device protects us from getting an electrical shock from faults in the electrical devices we use in our homes. They work by comparing the input current on the hot side to the output current on the neutral side. In the event there is the slightest difference in current, even a few milliamps, it indicates that there’s a current leaking out somewhere, this might be a human body. The protection comes when the device quickly cuts off the power supply to the device that leaking, within 20-30 milliseconds. This greatly reduces the chance that any human tissue will be damaged from the current. This can save your life! Before GFCI outlets were introduced, around 800 people died every year in the United States. In areas with water, that number is now about 200 a year.
GFCI Outlet Testing Procedure
In order for GFCI outlets to keep you and your home safe, they need to be tested. Each outlet has a red button on it that activates the outlet after the built-in breaker is tripped. It will also have a black button that can be used to test it to makes sure it’s working correctly. These outlets should be tested at least once a month, after they have been installed, after any electrical power outage and as recommended by the manufacturer. The easiest way to test your GFCI outlets is to plug something into it, like a lamp. Turn the lamp on and push the black button. The outlet is working correctly if the lamp goes out. If the lamp stays on, you will need to call a licensed electrician to figure out what’s going on. Trying to evaluate the problem on you own is not a good idea because you aren’t trained to handle electrical currents and wiring safely.
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Save yourself the time it will take to test your GFCI outlets and all other electrical components in your home by calling Sentry Electric. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment for all your electrical needs.