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GFCI Receptacles

posted May 31, 2014, 11:54 AM by Troy LaPare
One of the most common Inspection items I come across, is the lack of GFCI receptacle in Kitchens and Bathrooms.
First, I will discuss why these are best practice to have installed and then what the American Society of Home Inspectors standards are.

Why have GFCIs?

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) is an unintentional flow of electricity between a source of electrical current and a grounded surface. Without protection, electrical shock can occur if a person comes into contact with an energized part. For example, if a person is holding a damaged electrical cord from a hair dryer and touches a plumbing fixture, they could get electrocuted. At minimum, a painful shock.

The GFCI receptacle constantly monitors an electrical circuit. If it detects even a slight flow of electricity to a grounded item, it immediately shuts off the flow of electricity. This protects you from electrocution. It is particularly important to protect people where they could come in contact with exposed grounded items such as plumbing fixtures or with dripping water on hands.

How is a GFCI different from  regular circuit breaker or fuse?

If too much electricity flows through a wire, it will get hot. Sometimes it can get hot enough to start a fire inside the walls of a house. Traditional circuit breakers protect your house from fires by shutting off the flow of electricity to a wire when there is too much demand for electricity. This can happen when too may items are plugged into a circuit. This is why a power strip can be dangerous, if there are too many electric items plugged into one plug. Circuit breakers do not protect people from electrocution. Their purpose is to protect you from a fire.

When and where are GFCI receptacles required?

GFCI receptacles were required in houses starting in 1971. Originally they were only required at the exterior of the house and by swimming pool equipment. Over the years, GFCI receptacles have been required in more locations such as garages, bathrooms, kitchens, etc. This really depends on the municipality, but some local codes may be different. Remember,  that a home inspection is not a code inspection, if a home inspector recommends GFCI installation it is for you and your families safety.

Best Practice is that any receptacle within 6 feet of a laundry tub, sink, pool,shower or bathtub be a GFCI.

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