This piece was originally published in the November/December 2019 issue of electroindustry.
Daniel Abbate, Industry Director, Building Infrastructure Division, NEMA
Recent years have seen a significant increase in the number of do-it-yourself projects that homeowners will undertake. Home products and construction materials are easily accessible, and there are online tutorial videos for every installation imaginable. This includes the ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI), which is designed to protect people from electric shock. It is important for all homeowners to understand that this type of electrical plug, or receptacle, is essential.
GFCIs work by sensing ground faults, which occur when electrical currents leave the standard path and then disconnect the circuit before electrocution occurs. GFCIs are easy to install, and there are now years of evidence showing them to be effective. Data shows that the installation of GFCIs has led to a drastic decrease in the number of electrocutions associated with consumer products.
GFCI receptacles have improved significantly from the first editions that were sold in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Most, if not all, have the self-test option, which allows the home dweller to perform a simple test of the receptacle’s operability and protection. Many now also contain a small indicator light that shows the GFCI is still functioning. Recent editions have power denial features that can keep a non-functioning receptacle from being reset and receiving power, offering another level of protection against electric shock and fires.
The modern electrical codes now require GFCIs in many more places, such as near sinks and in laundry rooms. For any homeowner that wants additional protection in areas such as those, GFCIs can easily be installed in place of most any electric plug. The new features of the GFCI make it easy for people to see whether the electric plug is still working as intended. When the decision is made to replace an older version, the homeowner can rest assured that a GFCI will provide robust protection. ei