GFCI-protected outlets are required in kitchens along counter tops, in bathrooms, outside, in garages (except on dedicated outlets such as for the garage door opener, a freezer, etc.), and around pools and hot tubs. Some people have the mistaken idea that they are the same thing as a circuit breaker. This is not the case at all. While they can shut off the power to an outlet like a circuit breaker does, they do not provide over-current protection like a circuit breaker.
What do GFCI outlets do?
GFCI outlets “measure” the amount of current leaving the outlet and the current coming back to the outlet from the load such as a hair dryer. If it detects any difference in the two currents, it “assumes” that this lost current is going through a person and so it immediately shuts off the power to that outlet – thus preventing the person from receiving a harmful or fatal shock.
What if my electrical system is ungrounded – can I still install GFCI? Yes, a GFCI outlet will work even on an ungrounded electrical system. Although the ideal situation is to have GFCI-protected outlets and a grounded electrical system, GFCI on a non-grounded system is a safer alternative than not having GFCI outlets at all.
Where are GFCI-Protected Outlets Required?
GFCI protection is required by the 2017 National Electric Code (NEC) for newly installed and replacement 15-amp and 20-amp receptacles on kitchen countertops, in bathrooms, outdoor areas, unfinished basements and crawlspaces, garages, boathouses, laundry areas, and within 6 feet of sinks, bathtubs and shower stalls. GFCI protection is also required for certain appliances that have a history of being a shock hazard, such as garbage disposals and dishwashers.
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