Aren Electric Co., Inc. Industry Info

The importance of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).

The average homeowner might not even know what a ground fault is, but when a house’s ground fault is compromised, it can put the entire property in danger. Basically, a ground fault is an inadvertent electrical path between a power source and a grounded surface. While all electrical devices and appliances are “grounded” to ensure they can be safely operated by consumers, devices can still lose their grounding and divert electrical currents to the nearest channel that provides a path to the ground: the body of the consumer.
This is where the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) comes in. A common safety feature that can be identified as two small buttons located in between the two sockets on an electric outlet, the GFCI’s function is to constantly monitor the power current flowing through a circuit. The moment the GFCI senses even a small disparity between the current flowing into the outlet and the return current, it intervenes by shutting off the power to that outlet. GFCIs are effective because they’re able to quickly sense dangerous situations and interrupt the current before it administers a potentially fatal electric shock. Because of the ever present danger posed by the possibility of a ground fault (particularly when water is involved), GFCIs are required by the electrical code for outlets in bathrooms and kitchens, on the exteriors of buildings, and near swimming pools.
If your GFCI gets tripped, you can just press the reset button to restore power to the circuit—however, it may not reset if an electrical problem is still present. If your GFCI trips frequently, it’s a good idea to call an electrical contractor to come take a look. “A GFCI shouldn’t trip at all unless there’s a ground fault or something that’s shorting,” says Gerry Reyes, owner of Aren Electric Co., Inc. in Daly City. “Either the outlet itself is bad or it has a faulty component, but either way, it’s telling you there’s something wrong that needs to be addressed.”