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Installing and maintaining a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter)
You may have heard of a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) or GFI (ground fault interrupter). The GFCI is a valuable safety device that should be installed in bathrooms, kitchens and any other rooms with a sink; in the garage; near pools; and at all exterior outlets.
If your home is fairly new, it already has GFCIs. They have been required in new construction and remodeling for about 15 years. If you are spending the money to remodel a kitchen or bathroom, add GFCI outlets there and at every other spot in your home where damp or wet conditions occur. Hire an electrician to do this job.
The GFCI uses sensitive circuitry to prevent shocks. A tiny imbalance in the power and neutral line will trip the GFCI. The imbalance indicates the possibility of current leakage that could deliver a shock.
GFCI outlets or circuit breakers provide a high level of safety for a very small cost. The GFCI outlet can cost less than $10. In most locations, it can be installed in just a few minutes.
Don't confuse a GFCI with the fuse or circuit breaker in the basement. The fuse or breaker protects the wire from overloading, overheating and burning. A fuse will allow 15 or 20 amps to flow through the circuit before it trips-that's more than enough power to electrocute you.
Once the GFCI is installed, test it monthly with the test/reset button on the face of the breaker or outlet. Push the test button, and the GFCI will trip. Reset the GFCI by pressing the reset button. Often a GFCI outlet in one bathroom also protects other bathrooms, the garage, and exterior outlets.
I provide professional home inspection services, during which I always test the GFCIs, and I've found that about 5% to 10% of the existing GFCI outlets are not working properly.
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