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Ask the Inspector: Installing GFCI

Question: A friend told me I need to install a GFCI in my kitchen. Can you tell me what that means and if I should install it?

Answer: GFCI is an acronym that stands for “ground-fault circuit interrupter.” It is an electrical safety device installed on outlets in areas which are prone to wet or damp conditions in residential and commercial construction. They are an important safety device which helps prevent electrocution. Introduced to the building industry in the mid-1970s, GFCI’s are designed to detect electrical “leaks” and shut off power where the leak is occurring.

To detect leaks, the GFCI monitors the current traveling in and out of a circuit or outlet. If the current changes in either side of the equation, the GFCI cuts the power off to outlets or circuit they are installed on. When installed and operating properly, GFCI’s detect very small differences in the current flow. They can be used to protect single outlets or entire circuits.

GFCI are recommended for areas near a water source such as: along countertops, in carports, near the bathroom sink and outdoors. Exact requirements vary from place to place so it’s important to check with local authorities.

GFCI’s can be a nuisance in places where motor-driven appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines or garage door openers are used. At start up, these motors can pull an extra current for a short time, tripping the GFCI protection.

GFCI outlets have test and reset buttons. If you locate the GFCIs in your home, it is a good idea to test them monthly to make sure they are operating properly.
It is recommended that these devices be installed only by licensed electrician.

A home inspection by At Ease Building Inspections Inc. will include the testing of these devices as well as other components of the home’s electrical system.

For a complete check of the electrical system and all other major components in your home, call At Ease Building Inspections.