What is a GFCI Outlet?

A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) or ground fault interrupter (GFI) receptacle is a type of receptacle that disconnects the electrical circuit upon detecting current leakage. Typically these devices will be found in wet locations throughout kitchens and bathrooms and are mandated by building codes. At least one receptacle in the circuit will be a GFCI protected outlet and provide coverage for those downstream outlets in the circuit as well. Notable for their test buttons and reset switches these GFCI outlets are readily visible. These devices are primarily a safety feature in place to reduce the likelihood of deadly electrical shocks (although not all kinds of shocks can be eliminated with these devices) and work complementary with over-current protection. An overloaded circuit may trip this switch thereby cutting off all power to the circuit and necessitating the reset switch to be pressed to regain electrical power.

Most homeowners have probably only noted the existence of these outlets when the GFCI trips the circuit and keeps power from the receptacles on that circuit. Or simply stated they go to operate a hair dryer or coffee maker only to find that the power isn’t working. Most of the time these are tripped by accidentally pressing the test button or some other short-term ground fault. Try pressing the reset button on the GFCI controlling that circuit and see if power returns. Keep in mind that the GFCI controlling a specific receptacle may not be nearby. For instance, typically a GFCI receptacle in the garage may control all those outlets and any exterior outlets too. Or another common occurrence would be to have one GFCI receptacle in a bathroom that controls all the other bathrooms. Knowing just a little about the operation of a GFCI can save you time, frustration, and even money.

Stephen Woodall
REALTOR, GRI @ Long Realty Company
Stephen has made real estate his full-time career and passion since 2008, primarily specializing in the Foothills & the Northwest Tucson areas of Oro Valley and Marana. He is a multi-million dollar producer, representing both sellers & buyers. Stephen has tremendous experience in new home sales, listing & selling primary residences, listing & selling vacant land, listing & selling luxury homes, investment properties, rentals, and real estate development parcels.

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