What’s a GFCI Outlet and What Does It Do?

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Maybe you’ve heard someone mention a GFI outlet but then you hear someone else mention a GFCI outlet.

What’s the difference between a GFI outlet and a GFCI outlet?  

One of the most common misconceptions in the electrical world is the difference between a GFCI and a GFI outlet. There is no significant difference at all, a typical GFI outlet is the first in a string of outlets, and is the one used to provide GFCI protection to the circuit.  GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter and when you hear an electrician say GFI or GFCI outlet, it’s the exact same thing.

How does a GFCI outlet work?

The GFCI is integrated into the electrical outlet and constantly tracks the current flowing in a circuit to sense fluctuations in real-time.

It has three holes: two of the holes are for neutral and hot wire and the third hole in the middle of the outlet serves as a ground wire. If it detects any change in the electrical flow in the circuit, it will immediately cut off the flow of electricity. So, if you are using a hair dryer for instance and it slips into a sink that is filled with water, the GFCI outlet will immediately sense the interruption and cut the power to ensure electrical safety in the bathroom and beyond.

Minnesota electrical code requires all bathrooms, kitchens, garages, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements to have ground fault protection installed in those areas of the house where water or moisture could come into contact with an energized part of the system.

GFCI Outlet

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A GFCI is basically a safeguard for your home, the outlet is constantly monitoring electrical current and if the amount is ever to change even the smallest amount, in a blink of an eye, the GFCI will stop power to that outlet. (Preventing a fire or worse)

Most often, when a GFCI “trips” it is the result of a faulty appliance plugged into the outlet or an outlet down circuit. Before calling a Dean’s Home Service electrician to diagnose the issue, you may want to try this simple home diagnosis.

1. Unplug all appliances plugged into or down circuit from the GFCI

2. Reset your GFCI by pushing the button in the center of the outlet and then plug the appliances back into the GFCI one at a time and turn them on to see if any of the appliances are causing the appliance to “trip”.

3. If you plug in your coffee maker and the GFCI immediately trips, it is likely you have a faulty appliance and the GFCI is operating as designed.

If you live in an older home in Minneapolis or St. Paul, having your electrical wiring checked out is important because while older homes are not required to have GFCI outlets unless the wiring is being updated, it’s a good idea to install them anyway.

Dean’s Home Service Minneapolis electricians are experts when it comes to home wiring and will be able to quickly diagnose, update and upgrade your home’s electrical.

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