Safety & Security
For Your Home
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

Types of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
Testing the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

Ground fault circuit interrupters are one of the most important safety devices for the home. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, deaths from electrocution in and around the home could be reduced by 50 percent if every home had installed ground fault circuit interrupters. A ground fault circuit interrupter is an outlet or appliance plug, with the RED TEST and BLACK RESET buttons, which will monitor the flow of electricity through an outlet's circuit. If there is any variation or surge in the current, the circuit interrupter will automatically cut off the flow of electricity, preventing injury or an electrocution.

Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets and circuit breakers can detect any changes in current to an appliance, power tool or any other electrical device. When a change occurs in the electric current (such as a power surge), it will immediately turn off the power to the electric equipment.

Areas that ground fault circuit interrupters are recommended and/or code required are:
  • All outdoor receptacles
  • Receptacles at hot tubs, spas and around swimming pools
  • Receptacles and supplies for fountain or pool pumps and related equipment
  • All bathroom receptacles
  • All receptacles at kitchen countertop surfaces, wet bars and laundry tubs
  • At least one receptacle in the basement and crawl spaces
  • All receptacles in the garage (except one marked for freezer)
  • All lighting in high-risk areas such as wet bars, bathtubs, spas, saunas, or showers

Types of ground fault circuit interrupters:
  • Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets
  • Ground fault circuit interrupter circuit breakers
  • Ground fault circuit interrupter appliance plug
  • Portable

They all function similarly, but each of them has different applications:
  • Surge Protectors can offer the same protection to electric equipment.
  • Circuit interrupter outlets can easily replace standard electrical outlets. The will protect any electrical equipment that is plugged into it. They can also be wired to protect any other outlets that are on the same electric circuit, providing that the circuit interrupter is the first outlet on the given circuit.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupter circuit breakers are installed in the main electrical entrance (circuit panel/board). They will control the entire electrical circuit and they provide the same safety protection as circuit interrupter outlets. Rather than install multiple circuit interrupter outlets, some electricians will wire homes so that all bathrooms or outdoor outlets are on the same circuit and will provide the same protection as the circuit interrupter outlet. If circuit interrupter circuit breakers are the best option, purchase one that will fit into main electrical entrance. These types of circuit breakers cannot be used in older homes where the entrance may utilize fuses instead of circuit breakers. The ground fault circuit interrupter outlets must be installed in the home instead of the circuit breakers.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupter appliances or portable circuit interrupters can be plugged into any outlet. When properly used, they can work as well as the other types of circuit interrupters. Some appliances, such as hair dryers, extension cords and power tools, are available from the factory with them built into their power cords. The best practice is to only use them in grounded situations, because sometimes they may fail to turn off the power supplying the electric equipment. However, portable ones do not need a ground to function because they are designed the same as the other types. If the circuit interrupter is operating properly, it will, even in ungrounded situations, provide the safety protection against electric shocks and electrocution.

Note: Do not use appliance plugs or portable circuit interrupters in place of the circuit interrupter outlets or circuit breakers. The best rule of thumb, however, is always be cautious and use safe practices when working with or being near anything electric.

Testing the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter:
  • Always perform a safety test on your appliance plug/portable ground fault circuit interrupter before using it. All circuit interrupters should be tested on a monthly basis. To test:
    • Plug a lamp or radio into a circuit interrupter outlet
    • Turn the electrical appliance on
  • Push the RED TEST button on the outlet. The lamp or radio should turn off immediately. If it doesn't, the ground fault circuit interrupter has been improperly wired.
  • To restore power, simply press the BLACK RESET button.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Outlet
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Outlet

Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets are not difficult to install.
  • Before installing the outlet, check with the local electrical inspector's office. Some communities may allow qualified homeowners to install them, while others will require a professional electrician. By following the installation instructions, they can be installed by using the same process as an ordinary outlet. To ensure that it is working properly, test it after installation.
  • Only a certified electrician should install circuit interrupter circuit breakers.
  • Anyone can use circuit interrupter appliances or portable circuit interrupters that plug directly into a wall outlet.

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