GFCI Receptacles 101

What are GFCI Receptacle? To be honest, a lot of people don’t understand how these protect us and where they should be.

Ground Fault Circuit Interruptors are safety devices that protect you from a dangerous electrical shock. GFCI receptacles are designed to trip at 0.005 amperes (5mA). Serious health problems can arise from just 0.018 amperes (18mA) electrical shock. Receptacles inside a new home must be GFCI rated if they are within 59″ (1.5m) of a wash basin (sink). Now here is where it gets confusing the receptacle in your kitchen or bathroom may not look like it’s GFCI rated because it could be downstream wired to another protected receptacle. It also may be protected at the breaker on the main panel. Best bet is to buy a $10 receptacle tester and check the receptacles around your home. The picture above shows a receptacle that has a self testing feature with a light that will flash when the receptacle is defective.

A few other bits of information that I have come across with older homes. Your kitchen may not have GFCI receptacles and it may be wired in way that you can’t just add a new protected receptacle. Some receptacles may need to be protected by a GFCI breaker at the main panel. I have also come across receptacles overtop of sinks this is not an acceptable position as it should be to the left or the right of the sink. Also most exterior plugs should be GFCI rated as well.

I always check GFCI receptacles even in new construction, I have seen them not working or wrong. GFCI’s are important safety devices that must be checked on a regular basis.