GFCIs: How Do They Work and Why Do You Need Them in Your Home?

Posted on: 24 August 2016

In the past, home electrocution during storms and rainy seasons was a common occurrence, and there have been many injuries and fatalities due to electrocution. Even today, many homes lack proper electrical protection in outdoor and wet areas. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) were introduced to protect against electrocution by faulty electric circuits or leaking electric currents. They are electrical devices that every homeowner should consider installing in their homes. Read on to find out more about GFCIs and how they aid in protection against electric shocks.

Causes of electrocution 

Electrocution can be due to any type of electrical shock, and the extent of injuries caused to an individual depends on the amount of electrical voltage, the amount of time that one comes into contact with the circuit, and the path taken by the electric currents through the body. There are several factors within a home that can lead to an electrical shock, including the following:

  • Faulty electrical wiring
  • Contact with defective or exposed electrical wiring
  • Contact between a metal and a live electrical wire
  • Faulty electrical equipment such as hair dryers, microwaves, and washers
  • Faulty repairs and restorations on electrical equipment and wiring

Electrocution can cause severe injuries to the body, and these range from burns to memory loss, unconsciousness, broken bones, internal organ damage, seizures, or even death. It is essential to protect your family members against these unfortunate incidences by installing GFCIs.

How GFCIs work

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters monitor and control the electric currents flowing through a circuit. Most electrical wiring systems have a live, neutral, and earth wire. When electrical equipment is properly installed, all the electricity that it uses flows from the live wire to the neutral wire. The GFCIs can monitor the exact amount of current flowing through the wires.

If there is an electric fault and an individual comes into contact with the circuit, some of the current flows through the body, and the GFCI detects the change in current that should be flowing through the wiring. It reacts quickly and trips the circuit and cuts off the electricity before it flows through your body. Every time the device senses an abnormal change in current flow through the wiring, it trips the circuit to prevent electrocution.

Failure of GFCIs

GFCIs are effective in cutting off electricity during a fault and preventing electrocution. However, there are instances when they can fail. They include the following:

  • Incorrect installation and wiring of the GFCIs
  • Damage to the GFCI's internal surge protectors, for example, due to lightning

GFCIs should be installed by a qualified electrical contractor to ensure electrical protection and eliminate the chances of failure. Also, having them tested regularly is essential, especially if you live in an area with high lightning activity.