Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

Everyone knows how electrical receptacles look like. There are different types of receptacles, however, for various applications. Discussing residential applications only I would like to identify two prone receptacles that were used in the older houses and modern three prone. Among three prone receptacles we distinguish some special ones such as GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter). In this article i will explain how the GFCI works. Some people confuse GFCI with a regular circuit breaker but their functions are different. Circuit breaker protects the circuit in case of overloading thus preventing the fire. GFCI on the other hand protects a person in case of the ground fault effectively shutting the current flow and eliminating electrocution. In addition to supplying electrical current GFCI also monitors its flow. If the amount of current flowing through the hot wire becomes different from the amount returning through the white wire even for a few milliamps the device instantly popes out and shuts the current flow.

In residential construction GFCI receptacles are required to be installed in all wet locations such as bathrooms and kitchens as well as on exterior of the house. However if the house was built prior to the modern days requirements it is grandfathered and GFCI receptacles are not mandatory. Nevertheless the duty of the home inspector is to point out and recommend these upgrades that potentially can save someone's life. If you live in a really old house with two prone receptacles they are most likely not grounded. Therefore replacement of the two prone outlet with three prone will not change anything but make things worse leading you to believe that there is a ground connected to the third hole. Since GFCI does not require the presence of the ground for proper operation it is recommended to replace two prone outlets with GFCI. This will not make a receptacle grounded but it will make it safer.

It is recommended that the homeowner verifies the performance of the GFCI by testing it with the TEST/RESET buttons located on the device once a month. Sometimes electrician connects all bathrooms' receptacles on one circuit. In this case all receptacles but the first one upstream are regular ones and an upstream receptacle is GFCI. This installation is perfectly acceptable however if GFCI becomes defective then all other downstream receptacles connected to that GFCI become defective too. A simple three light GFCI tester will help you to determine whether your bathroom receptacle is GFCI protected. And if its not talk to your electrician to replace a regular outlet with inexpensive life saving device called GFCI.