GFCI – GFI Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
A $20 Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI – GFI) could save your life. Don’t
put it off any longer.
One of the most often listed defects found by home inspectors, building code officers and city occupancy officials is the lack off ground fault circuit interrupters or GFCI -GFI outlets and or breakers.
Where should you install GFCI outlets?
GFCI protection is required for receptacles by the the 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC). On all kitchen counter tops, in all bathrooms, laundry rooms, crawl spaces and unfinished areas of basements. Also included are garages, hot tubs, swimming pools, sump pumps and sewage ejectors. Outside the home they are required for outside receptacles, boat docks and out buildings. These are just a few of the areas that require GFCI protection.
Owners of older homes can retrofit GFCI receptacles or install GFCI breakers. The receptacles are about $20 retail and protect all outlets down stream. GFCI Breakers are about $50 retail and will give protection to an entire circuit. Portable adapters are available as well as protected extension cords from $20 to $50.
Installing A GFCI could save your life
GFCI protection could prevent as many as two hundred deaths by electrocution every year. As well as countless unnecessary burns and fires. The GFCI was invented in 1961 and incorporated in the NEC starting in 1971.
- 1971 Swimming pool and exterior receptacles
- 1975 Bathroom receptacles
- 1978 Garage receptacles
- 1981 Spas and Hot Tubs
- 1987 Kitchens, Hydro Tubs, Unfinished Basements and Boat houses
- 1990 Crawl Spaces*
- 1993 With in 6 feet of all Bathroom Sinks, Tubs and Showers
- 2005 With in 6 feet of Laundry and Utility Sinks
- 2014 GFCI and AFCI protection required for Kitchen and Laundry areas
- 2014 Dishwashers*
- 2017 Garage Door Operators*
- 2017 Decks Balconies and Porches
*GFCI must be readily accessible: if you have to move objects or use a ladder to reach the GFCI it is not considered to be readily accessible. GFI breakers are suggested in these cases,
GFI protection is required around areas that may become wet
GFCI protection is required for receptacles in wet areas or areas that may be expected to become wet. Prior to 2017 the NEC required GFI protection with in 6 feet of sinks this was changed in 2017 as show above. Unfortunately a very small current flow can kill a person who is in contact with a grounding source. Such as a kitchen sink, damp concrete or wet grass.
GFCI’s Trip at a 5 milliamp current leak
A GFI receptacle or breaker checks for a difference in the flow of electricity between the hot and neutral wires 30 to 40 times a second. They will trip (disconnect) the circuit breaker or fuse if a difference of 5 milli amps (.005) is detected. GFI’s trip at 5 milli amps, at 10 milli amps you will feel the shock. At 25 milli amps you will not be able to let go. Between 50 and 75 milli amps you may be electrocuted. Therefore because some GFI receptacles or breakers can fail in the energized position it is recommended to test GFCI devices monthly.
Purpose of ground wires
The third wire in a modern residential circuit is the ground wire, The ground wires purpose is to trip the breaker or fuse if a hot wire comes into contact with the metal housing of appliances or tools. Grounding has been required since the mid 1960’s to prevent over heating of wiring. Grounding only works in the case of a direct short circuit that carries enough current to trip the breaker or fuse. In other words GFI protection on the other hand is designed to protect humans from electrical shock by disconnecting at very low current flows.
Older Home Should Be Updated
In conclusion circuits installed in homes before the mid 1960’s probably do not have the protection of a grounding circuit. The NEC allows the use of GFI protection on these circuits so three prong receptacles can be installed safely. GFI protection on an older two wire circuit only protects humans from electrical shock. It does not provide grounding. Some appliances such as TV’s, computers, washing machines and dryers use the third wire to dissipate static electricity. You should discuss adding grounded circuits for these items with your electrician.
Electrical work should only be done by qualified electricians.
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