Are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters Really Necessary?

Electrical codes and requirements are always changing, and for good reason! These codes exist for one reason – safety. Clearly, electrical hazards aren’t to be taken lightly, and these codes should always be followed.

Electrical code requires ground fault interrupter protection in more places than ever before. If you’re building a new home or remodeling your current home, these updates are no problem. However, if you already own a home and aren’t planning a remodel anytime soon, you might be wondering if you really need to replace your old outlets with ground fault circuit interrupt (GFCI) outlets. Does it really make that big of a difference? The short answer? Yes.

What are GFCIs?

As mentioned above, GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. Simply put, this is a way to protect people from electrical shock. The GFCI will turn off (or interrupt) the circuit when the current is running outside of its intended path.

In the United States, a normal 120-volt outlet has two vertical slots with a round hole centered below them. The right slot is called “hot,” the left slot is called “neutral,” and the hole below them is called “ground.”

If an appliance is working properly, all electricity used by that appliance will flow from hot to neutral. The GFCI monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral and if it senses any imbalance, it automatically trips the circuit. This reaction can happen as quickly as one-thirtieth of a second. So, if electricity is flowing through anything other than the circuit (for example, through a human body), the circuit it tripped almost immediately.

Where should I have GFCIs installed?

GFCI protection is required in any areas that might be exposed to moisture. Although GFCI protection can be useful in any are of your home, rooms where water may be present, present more of an electrical hazard than dry areas.

Note that you only need ground fault interrupter protection. Because a GFCI outlet will shut off power at all outlets further down the circuit from it, you don’t necessarily need a GFCI for every outlet in a room. You can use a GFCI breaker or place a GFCI outlet as the first outlet on the circuit. An electrician will help you determine which outlets should be upgraded to GFCI.

In general, the following areas should be equipped with GFCI protection:

• Kitchens
Bathrooms
• Near wet bar sinks
• Laundry areas
• Unfinished garages or basements
Outdoor areas

Upgrading Outlets to GFCI

Most electrical work, including upgrading outlets to GFCI, or adding a ground fault interrupter to the breaker panel should always be done by a licensed electrician. Some upgrades require a permit beforehand and an inspection afterward. An electrician will know these requirements and all local codes and be able to easily comply. Most importantly, however, by having your electrical work completed by a professional, you’ll avoid shoddy work that could be a fire hazard or injure someone.

The local licensed electricians at White’s Electrical can help you with any electrical needs you may have, both residential and commercial, including the following:

• Adding outlets
• Replacing dead outlets
• Upgrading outlets to GFCIs
• Preparation for a home inspection in the sale of a home
• Finding and repairing electrical code violations
• Electrical work for home remodels or new builds
• Upgrading electrical panels

Contact White’s Electrical today to schedule service and get up to code!