Do You Know What A GFCI Circuit Is?
Hey everybody, Brian Barrett, with Mountains To Sea Inspections. One of the most common defects that we find in homes that we inspect in Asheville, is the lack of GFCI protected outlets in areas where they should be located on, or GFCI circuits that are not functioning properly and therefore are not providing the added safety they were designed for. We have all seen what a GFCI outlet looks like. It is a normal electrical outlet that has 2 buttons, one that resets the circuit and one for testing the circuit. In some homes, this protection comes in the form of a GFCI circuit breaker in the home's circuit breaker box. In the case of GFCI circuit breakers, there is one button for testing and the reset is handled by the circuit breaker arm or handle.
Where Should A GFCI Be Installed?
Regardless of which protection has been installed in your home, it is imperative that they are functioning properly to provide safety to you and your family. Current regulations require that any electrical outlet located within 6 feet of an open water source, such as a kitchen sink, be on a GFCI protected circuit for safety. Current regulations also require that GFCI protected outlets be installed anywhere they are used in a bathroom, in a garage, or on exterior outlets. Instead of remembering these current code standards, it is easier to remember, that anywhere where an electrical outlet could come in contact with water be on a GFCI protected outlet or be on a GFCI protected circuit breaker to increase the safety of the electrical outlet and to prevent possible electric shock. As licensed home inspectors in Asheville, this is one of the number one defects that we discover on a regular basis.
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Do You Know How A GFCI Circuit Works?
So, now that we understand where these GFCI protected circuits and devices should be located, let's talk just a little bit about how these circuits perform their function. In its most basic form, the GFCI circuit works by monitoring the current between the hot terminal and the neutral terminal of the outlet and if a voltage drop is detected the circuit "pops" breaking the current flow. In technical parlance, the circuit is capable of detecting a voltage drop that exceeds 5mA. If this difference in voltage is observed the circuitry opens the contacts and the circuit is de-energized. It is also imperative to understand that this is a mechanical device and can fail overtime, it must be tested as part of a home inspection in Asheville to ensure proper operation.
According to a 1999 study by the American Society of Home Inspectors, 21% of GFCI circuit breakers and 19% of GFCI receptacles inspected didn't provide protection, leaving the energized circuit unprotected. In most cases, damage to the internal voltage surge protectors that protect the GFCI sensing circuit were responsible for the failure of the protection device. In areas of high lightening activity, such as Florida, the failure rate for those circuit breakers and receptacles was over 50%!
Also of note, it is important to understand that the ability of the GFCI circuit to perform its function is completely dependent upon it being installed properly. At Mountains To Sea Inspections, whether we are performing a home inspection in Asheville or a maintenance inspection in Asheville, realize that this is one of the primary inspection points on our home inspection checklist. In closing, if you remember anything, remember to push the test button every once in awhile to ensure that the circuit performs its task and cuts the current, before the current enters you and gives you a nasty shock.
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