What is a GFCI Outlet?
A GFCI outlet is wired directly into your home’s electrical circuits and is designed to monitor the current flowing through the circuit. Any interruption or surge that alters the current (such as dropping a hair dryer in water or plugging too many appliances into one circuit) will cause the GFCI breaker to shut off or “trip.” By shutting off the electrical current, the GFCI protects you from electrical shocks and prevents fires caused by overheated circuits. Installation of GFCIs in areas near water sources, such as kitchens and bathrooms, as well as in all outdoor receptacles are required in most states.
What Causes a GFCI Outlet to Trip?
Typically, the GFCI outlets in your home are wired in such a way that only a major electrical problem will cause them to trip. However, there are a few instances in which a GFCI will keep tripping regardless of what is plugged into it. If you GFCI keeps tripping, that means there is an underlying problem that needs to be addressed immediately by an electrician. A GFCI that is continually tripping is not working properly and exposes you and your home to the risk of electrical shock or fire from an overloaded circuit.
How Does a GFCI Outlet Work?
When an electrical current escapes or “leaks” out of its proper path, it is called a ground fault or leakage current. A GFCI outlet is designed to trip about one tenth of a second after it detects even a tiny amount of leaking current. Because the circuit that is being protected by the GFCI can span multiple rooms and have multiple appliances running on the same circuit, it can be difficult to determine the cause of a tripped GFCI, especially when nothing is plugged into it or it seems to trip at random times. These “ghost trips” are most often caused by:
- A ground fault somewhere in the circuit.
- Moisture invading the receptacle box.
- A faulty GFCI outlet.
Every year, hundreds of Americans die from electrical shocks. In a typical 120 volt outlet, 2 seconds of exposure to a ground fault or electrical surge is enough to kill an adult. GFCIs are specifically designed to protect you and your family from the devastating effects of electrical shocks or fires; that is, if they are working properly. Make sure to test your GFCIs monthly and if you notice one that is not working as it should, call us!