An electrical circuit is a closed pathway for electrons to flow in order to generate power. That’s why you’ll always see at least two wires in a circuit, a hot (line) wire that carries current to an outlet, switch or appliance, and a return (neutral) wire to carry the current back to its source. Most modern circuits also have a ground wire for shock protection.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters Protect against Shock Hazards
If a ground fault occurs in the circuit creating a shock hazard, a device breaks, or interrupts, it so that the danger is eliminated. That device is called a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) because of its function. GFCIs can be installed as either outlets or as breakers in an electrical panel. An outlet GFCI only protects that location, while one in the breaker box protects the entire circuit.
The concept is really quite simple; the GFCI device measures the current flowing through both the hot and return wires in amperes and compares them. If there is as little as 4-6 milliamps’ difference, that indicates that current is leaking off somewhere and the GFCI shuts the circuit down. That’s a good thing because one of the most likely places that current may be leaking is into you. That’s a bad thing.
National Electric Code GFCI Requirements
That’s also why the National Electrical Code (NEC) and most building codes require GFCI outlets or circuits in places like bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and outdoor areas where shock hazard is greatest. And while nearly all new construction has grounded circuitry, some older homes and commercial property may still have two-wire service. Adding GFCI outlets and breakers to those circuits is recommended as protection if rewiring isn’t an option.
GFCI vs. AFCI and GFCE Devices
Finally, don’t be confused by other similar-sounding devices. AFCI stands for arc fault circuit interrupter and is meant to protect against arcing and sparks in circuits as a fire prevention measure. AFCIs do not protect against shock hazards but GFCIs can be added to those circuits, too.
A GFCE is a device that provides ground fault protection for equipment. They are designed to be used on circuits running heavy equipment and have a much higher tripping point than a GFCI.
Both AFCIs and GFCEs are common in industrial applications but are rarely found in home wiring.
Don’t Risk Unsafe Wiring in Your Home
Don’t risk your home and family with unsafe wiring. A Residential Electrical Evaluationby Allstar Electrical Services will point out any problems in your home’s wiring. We visually inspect your service panel and breakers and check for any potential hazards and illegal or out-of-code situations as well as pointing out any other issues that may affect the safety and convenience of your electrical service. It’s an easy and economical way to determine if your home’s electrical system is providing you and your family with safe, reliable, and adequate electrical service.
Allstar Electrical has served the Front Range for over 15 years and is top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List. We offer homeowners, builders and businesses reliable, professional electrical workthat is safe and up to code.
Before trouble strikes, call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420.