Circuits and Wiring

What Is a GFCI and Why Do I Need Them?

A picture of a ground-fault circuit interrupter

It shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that electricity can be seriously dangerous. It’s an incredible force that powers much of modern life, but it also needs to be carefully controlled. One of the ways to prevent electrical hazards in your Charleston, South Carolina, home is by installing ground-fault circuit interrupters. To learn more, let’s look at what these devices do and why you need them in your home.

What Is a GFCI?

A ground-fault circuit interrupter, also known as a GFCI, is essentially a special type of electrical outlet. It works by comparing the current flowing through the receptacles on each side of the outlet. If there’s even a slight difference, the outlet cuts the power by interrupting the circuit. For safety, this process happens almost instantaneously.

Why Are They Important?

GFCIs compare currents between the receptacles because a current imbalance is an indicator of a ground fault. Put simply, a ground fault is a situation in which an electrical current follows an unintended path. It’s often caused by faulty devices, damaged wiring or the presence of water or another conductive substance. Because it allows current to flow outside of the circuit, a ground fault poses serious fire and electrical shock hazards. It’s also a likely indicator that you need electrical repairs.

Where Are They Needed?

Though it varies depending on local building codes, ground-fault circuit interrupters are almost always required in certain areas. Typically, this includes every outlet located in a bathroom or within four feet of a sink. Outlets that are located outdoors or in garages and basements are often included as well. Ground-fault circuit interrupters are also commonly required for outlets situated near any other water supply.

Installing electrical outlets is a potentially hazardous task that must be done with great care and skill. In particular, ground-fault circuit interrupters are only effective if they’re installed correctly. If you need new outlets for your home, check out Mister Sparky® of Charleston professional electrician services or call us at (843) 418-0696.