What is a GFCI Outlet?

Author: Pacific Northwest Inspections Group, LLC   Date: 25-Nov-2013.   Category: Electrical   Add to Favorites 

Look at the picture below you should have a few of these already installed in the outlets around your house. GFCIs are designed to prevent electrical shock by breaking the circuit when there is a difference in the currents hot and neutral wires. The advantage of a GFCI is that it can detect very small amounts of electricity (that your main fuse or circuit breaker panel can’t) and effectively turn off the circuit to avoid potential electrical dangers.

 

Installing GFCIs in every home in the United States, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than two-thirds of the approximately 300 electrocutions occurring each year could easily be prevented.

 

If you don’t have any GFCIs in your home, consult your contractor or electrician and have them installed.  If you do have them, it’s important you know how to test and maintain these safety devices – a commonly overlooked step in home-safety that can have dire consequences. >How do I test GFCIs? UL recommends testing GFCIs once a month to verify they are all working properly. Like all products, GFCIs can be damaged by lighting or electrical surges and may fail to provide adequate protection. A simple test after any violent thunderstorms is therefore recommended. To properly test GFCI receptacles in your home:First, push the “Reset” button located on the GFCI receptacle to assure normal GFCI operation.

 

If the light or other product remains “ON” when the “Test” button is pushed, the GFCI is not working properly or has been incorrectly installed (miswired). If your GFCI is not working properly, call a qualified, certified electrician who can assess the situation, rewire the GFCI if necessary or replace the device.

 

GFCIs are proven lifesavers; however, consumers need to take a few minutes each month to do this simple test. By taking action, you can help protect your family from the risk of electric shock,” says Darren Spencer, WA State Home Inspector.

 

Several types of GFCIs may be installed in/around your home. Look for the UL Mark on GFCIs when purchasing them or when specifying the product to your electrician. GFCIs should be installed in all outdoor locations, bathrooms, kitchens, basements, garage and laundry room.

 

GFCI protection devices are also required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles located in garages and grade-level portions of unfinished or finished accessory buildings used for storage or work areas of a dwelling unit [210.8(A)(2)]. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. GFCI protection is not required for receptacles that are not readily accessible, such as a ceiling-mounted receptacle for a garage door opener. Nor are they required for a receptacle on a dedicated branch circuit located and identified for a cord-and-plug-connected appliance, such as a refrigerator or freezer.

What about those receptacles located outdoors? 

 

Per 210.8(A)(3), all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles outside of a dwelling unit, including receptacles installed under the eaves of roofs, shall be GFCI-protected. The only exception to this rule is that GFCI protection is not required for fixed electric snow melting or de-icing equipment receptacles that are not readily accessible and are supplied by a dedicated branch circuit in accordance with 426.28.

 

 

What about crawl spaces and unfinished areas of the basement? 

 

Once again, ALL 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles installed within a dwelling unit crawl space [210.8(4)] or in each unfinished portion of a basement not intended as a habitable room but used for storage or as a work area [210.8(5)], must be GFCI-protected. However, the Code does note a few exceptions to these rules: GFCI protection is not required for receptacles that are not readily accessible or are located on a dedicated branch circuit and identified for a specific cord-and-plug-connected appliance, such as a sump pump.

 

Don't forget kitchen or wet bar areas!!

 

 Per 210.8(A)(6), GFCI protection is required for all 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles that serve kitchen countertop surfaces in a dwelling unit (Fig. 1 on page 54). GFCI protection is not required for receptacles serving appliances like dishwashers, or convenience receptacles that do not supply countertop surfaces. Receptacles installed within 6 ft of the outside edge of a wet bar sink must also be GFCI-protected [210.8(A)(7)]. However, GFCI protection is not required for receptacles not intended to serve wet bar countertop surfaces, such as refrigerators, ice makers, water heaters, or convenience receptacles that do not supply counter-top surfaces.