GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER (GFCI)
GFCI – A ground fault happens whenever electricity escapes the confines of the wiring in an appliance, light fixture, or power tool and takes a shortcut to the ground. When that short cut is through a human, the results can be deadly. About 200 people in the U.S. Alone die of ground faults each year, accounting for two-thirds of all electrocutions occurring in homes.
To prevent such accidents, Charles Dalziel, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, invented the Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), in 1961. Most of the time, his invention does nothing; it just monitors the difference in the current flowing into and out of a tool or appliance.
Where are GFCI’s Used? – GFCI’s should be installed withing 3 feet (1.5 meters) of any water source such as – bathroom and kitchen sinks, laundry tubs, whirlpools, jacuzzi’s, exterior outlets such as garages, swimming pools and spas. There is an Ontario Building Code Requirement for the placement of GFCI’s.
You may notice a home built after around 1986 may only have GFCI’s at the bathroom sinks and the reset button may actually be located inside the main electrical panel. Homes built after around 2010 should also have GFCI’s at the outlets near the Kitchen sinks and Laundry Tubs.
Homes that have been recently renovated should also have GFCI’s installed at all outlets as stated above and near Kitchen Sinks, Laundry Tubs and or any outlet withing 3 feet (1.5 meters) of any water source.
Tip – If your renting out a home and or basement apartment then you may also want to make sure you have GFCI’s in all required locations – possible safety issue which may also lead to a law suit.
Why Test a GFCI?– GFCI’s are a mechanical device which means that they can fail. Sometimes they may fail and still provide power, other times they may not. GFCI’s have two buttons on the face of the receptical/outlet some may have blue and white or red and white or the same colors. One button is actually a “test” button and they other is a “reset” button. It is recommended that ALL GFCI’s be tested just after installation and on a monthly basis for proper operation.
Final Note – GFCI’s can be purchased at most hardware stores usually for approx $15-$40 depending on the type. I recommend that a Qualified Licensed Electrician perform all electrical work.