What Is A GFCI Outlet & How Does It Work?

You may have heard the term before, but exactly what is a GFCI outlet?

A GFCI outlet uses a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter designed by Charles Dalziel in 1961. This outlet prevents people from becoming shocked or electrocuted should they come in contact with an open electrical current.

White Electrical GFCI Outlet

GFCI outlets have been installed in homes throughout North America since the 1970s. Approximately two-thirds of electrical deaths in the home still result from ground faults. If you have children, you can better protect them by installing child-proof outlets.

In this post, our Abbotsford electricians will look at what is a GFCI outlet. Plus, look at how it works and why we highly recommend installing them in your home.

What Is A GFCI Outlet Designed to Do?

A ground fault can occur when someone touches an open electrical current and the electricity tries to reach the ground through that person. The person creates what is referred to as an unintended path for the electricity. A GFCI outlet is designed to shut off the power and prevent this from happening.

It works by monitoring how much electricity is sent through the black (hot) wire and how much is received by the white (neutral) wire in an outlet. If the outlet detects a difference of greater than 4 or 5 milliamps, it shuts off the power supply.

As little as 100 to 200 milliamps (0.1 to 0.2 amps) can be fatal to humans. A GFCI outlet is designed to react within 1/30 of a second. This almost instantaneous response shuts off the power and is what can save your life.

A Real-World Example of How a GFCI Outlet Works

Let’s say you are outside using a pair of electric hedge trimmers and it begins to rain. Perhaps you are unaware that your extension cord has been damaged and some of the wirings are bare. If you were to drag the bare wires through a puddle of water and you were also standing in water, the electricity could escape the bare wire and go into the water.

The electricity will try to ground itself through your body. However, the GFCI outlet on the wall of your house would shut off the electricity before you could be electrocuted. The GFCI outlet can accurately detect a difference in electricity of 4 or 5 milliamps or more and instantaneously shuts off the power…saving your life!

GFCI Canadian Electrical Code

In Canada, a GFCI outlet should be installed if the outlet is within 2.5 metres of the earth or any water source. These would include your bathroom, kitchen, near your pool, or in your garage. In essence, install them in any place where water or the ground could come into contact with electricity.

For the safety and security of your home or business, our Abbotsford electricians recommend installing a GFCI outlet wherever the Canadian Electrical Code requires it. If you are uncertain of electrical code requirements, talk to our certified electricians at 604-308-6195.

About Premium Electric

Premium Electric is based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and services communities in the Lower Fraser Valley. Our clients include both residential and commercial customers.

Along with 24-hour emergency electrical services throughout the Vancouver Lower Mainland, we also do electrical safety inspections. All electrical work that we provide is warrantied and guaranteed.

If you are located in the Vancouver Lower Mainland and need an electrician in Surrey orBurnaby, give us a call. We also service clients in Poco/ CoquitlamMaple Ridge, and Port Moody.

In the Fraser Valley, we have electricians in Langley, MissionAbbotsfordChilliwack, Sardis, and Aldergrove.

If you still have questions about what is a GFCI outlet or for more information about our Abbotsford electricians, please call us at 604-308-6195 or send us an email.


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