FAQs About GFCI Devices


A GFCI is a “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupting” device. (Pretty fancy, huh?) This means it interrupts power to the outlet when it senses any electricity leaking out of the circuit. Basically, this means the device shuts off power when its senses that electricity is going somewhere other than back to the power grid. Which is good, because sometimes that electricity is escaping into a person!

Simply put, GFCI’s save lives. In the event of an electric shock, current runs through the victim away from the source. GFCI’s sense this and shut off automatically. Since their inception in the National Electrical Code, GFCI’s have saved hundreds of lives. The US Consumer Safety Committee found that two thirds of the 300 household electrical deaths that occur every year could have been prevented by the proper installation of a GFCI device. Click Here to read The US Consumer Safety Committee’s Fact Sheet on GFCI Devices in The Home.

Kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor locations, especially near water, are a must. Garages, unfinished basements, and crawlspaces are also required in most jurisdictions. These are places in the home where ground faults commonly occur and people are the most susceptible to electrical shock. Did you know that only half the homes we inspect have GFI’s in the kitchen (shocking…isn’t it!).

On the GFCI there is a button labeled “test.” Hit the test button and you should hear a snap as the outlet shuts off. Hit the “reset” button to restore power. If your GFCI does not shut off when tested, get it replaced. The only way to really know if a GFCI is working is to test it with a GFCI tester (you can get one at your local hardware store). GFCI testing is standard in our whole house electrical safety checks.

Maybe, but it’s probably just doing its job (protecting you from ground faults). Get the circuit checked out to make sure there is not a ground fault or leak somewhere in the wiring. Often appliances that have ground faults (electrical leaks) will cause a GFCI to trip. Its a good idea to have any appliance that is tripping a GFCI checked out.