Using GFCI Receptacles in the Bath and Kitchen
Electrical Ground Fault Receptacles in Residential Home Wiring
© 2008-2009 by Kelly Smith all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without authors written permission
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) electrical receptacles are mandated by standard
electrical building codes
during residential wiring installation by licensed electrical contractors.
What exactly is this electrical ground fault protection and why do you need it? Consider some basic
facts of nature that you might be acquainted with. You know that water always seeks its own level
in a water level.
In such a manner electricity always looks for the most effective route to go to ground. And that
is why commercial office buildings use grounded lightning rods to keep inhabitants safe. When lightning
strikes, the metal rods on the upper levels of the structure route the electrical charge to the ground,
bypassing the contents and people in the building.
Well, thats just the way it is with your homes electrical wiring. Imagine when a
wire housed in a metallic kitchen appliance finds itself in contact with the metal housing.
What happens? Now the metal outer part of your appliance becomes electrically energized. Suppose
you, as the cook, grabs the appliance with your left hand and your sinks faucet, properly grounded,
with your right hand.
The deadly result is that a potentially lethal current is sure to flow through your body. You becomes
the electron flows shortest path to ground. To avoid this potentially deadly situation,
GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles are installed it kitchens and bathrooms and
some other areas by code.
How Does the Circuit Interrupter Work?
The GFCI receptacle continually monitors the circuit its installed on. When a situation that
threatens an electrocution emergency occurs, the GFCI immediately breaks the connection, like a circuit
The person involved will most likely still experience an electrical shock. Uncomfortable but not
Where in Your Home does the Building Code Require GFCI Receptacles?
The electrical building code requires these in certain circumstances. The common denominator is
any environment where water and moisture are likely.
This means outdoor lighting applications, bathrooms,
unfinished basements, kitchens, garages, and crawl spaces.
The code mandates are specified in the National Electrical Code. Of course all residences arent
completely up to code because of when the home was built or because rooms were added on. For
instance, outdoor receptacles were added to the NEC in 1973 and
unfinished basements were included
Oddly, requirements for installing GFCI receptacles when
wiring kitchens wasnt added until 1987.
Any homes that are not up to code on GFCI receptacles should consider installing them. Theyre
cheap, but human life is priceless.
Before beginning a wiring project, its important to understand home wiring
How to Test Ground Fault Interrupters
Like residential smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, ground fault interrupters need to be
tested for reliable operation on a monthly basis. The US government tells us to test them immediately
after installing them, and then every month regularly. Here are the steps:
- Youll notice 2 buttons on the unit; Reset (usually red), and
Test (usually blue). Begin by plugging a light into it. It should light up.
- Press the Test button.
- The light should go out, and the Reset button should pop out.
- If Reset pops but the light stays on, the receptacle is probably wired
incorrectly. Rewire it.
- If Reset doesnt pop out, this indicates that the GFCI is faulty;
toss it out and replace it.
- If everything tested properly in step 3, everythings fine. Press Reset and repeat
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