Let's take a look at ground fault circuit interrupters

Published:

Scripps Howard News Service

Q: In the past you've written about special outlets for the garage. What should I install? I'm selling my house to my son and I want everything to be safe.

A: Your question is timely because I recently had an angry home seller call me insisting that I replace the outlet in his garage because, as he said, "You broke it." What you are referring to is a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).

The purpose of the GFCI is to protect people against accidental shock when they are in a damp or wet environment.

In the early 1970s, the National Electrical Code began to require GFCI outlets or a GFCI circuit breaker for all residential exterior outlets near the ground.

Over the years the codes changed to add GFCI protection to the outlets in the bathrooms, kitchen, garage and at least one in an unfinished basement.

There were exceptions to the garage outlets such as one marked "freezer only" and outlets on the ceiling for garage-door openers.

All circuits in your home are protected by either a fuse or a breaker.

These safety devices will blow or trip if there is a direct short or if a breaker overheats.

A GFCI outlet or breaker monitors current flowing through the hot and neutral wires of the outlet.

If the GFCI detects an imbalance in the flow of the current as low as 5 milliamps, it will trip faster than you can blink or in about 1/20 of a second.

GFCIs are so sensitive to changes in the flow of current that they often trip "off" when connected to a fluorescent light fixture or to a motor circuit found on a refrigerator or freezer.

The existing outlets in your home can be replaced with GFCI protection.

Find the first outlet on the

See GFCI, D10

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