What is a GFCI Outlet

You almost certainly have them in your house, but are you familiar with the GFCI outlet? This is the type of electrical outlet that has buttons on the outlet face that say test and reset. GFCI stands for “ground fault circuit interrupters”, and these outlets are essential for safety, but what makes them so important?

To understand their importance, you first need to understand the term “ground-fault condition”. A ground-fault condition happens when current takes the wrong path back to the source of electricity. If, for instance, a metal appliance becomes energized, a person touching it could become the path for the current, receiving a potentially fatal electrical shock. GFCI outlets are designed to protect people from electrical shock.

How do they do this? Think of a GFCI outlet as a miniature, ultra-sensitive circuit breaker. Because it’s built directly into the outlet, a GFCI circuit breaker responds much more quickly than your home’s circuit breakers. A GFCI breaker turns off the electrical circuit any time it detects current flowing along an unintended path.

GFCI have been around since the 1960s. At first, they were a niche item, only required near swimming pools. Today, they’re used in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, home exteriors, pool areas, laundry and utility rooms, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements. Anywhere you’re likely to find water, the outlet should be a GFCI outlet. They should never be used, however, with appliances like refrigerators or freezers, because they can cut the power without your knowledge.

Why are GFCI outlets important? They’ve drastically reduced deaths from household electrocutions. In fact, before GFCI outlets were required in houses, 800 people died each year from these accidents, while today there are fewer than 200 deaths each year. Many older houses still don’t have them, which is unfortunate. There are 140,000 fires and 4,000 injuries attributed to electricity each year, along with $1.6 billion in property damage. How many of these accidents would be prevented if inexpensive, easy to install GFCI outlets were installed in every house?

Another type of safety outlet you may have heard of is the AFCI outlet. AFCI stands for arc-fault circuit interrupters, which protect against electrical dangers that create heat via arcing. If wiring somehow becomes damaged, it may arc or spark, creating a fire hazard. ADFIs protect against this arcing and shut down outlets before damage can occur. AFCI breakers are used in sleeping areas, kitchens, and laundry rooms. While GFCI outlets protect people, AFCI outlets protect the electrical system.

If you need help updating your electrical system, call Hoover Electric. Established in 1980, Hoover Electric, Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling has been serving customers in Southeast Michigan ever since, offering courteous, professional service. Because we offer all the services you need for residential maintenance under one roof, we’re able to offer extremely competitive pricing while maintaining great customer service and guaranteed satisfaction. When you’re looking for top-quality electrical, plumbing, heating, or cooling services in Clinton Township, contact Hoover through our website or call 586-232-9204 today.

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