GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) have been required in certain locations since 1970. At first, they were originally required for outdoor spaces and around swimming pools. Over time, the requirement spread to all areas that are subject to water such as kitchens, bathrooms, boat docks, crawl spaces, and even construction areas.
GFCIs are very important for safety. If there is a potential for a lethal shock, the device will trip to protect the individual from a serious shock. Class A GFCIs (which most all GFCI receptacles are) are set to trip between 4 to 6 milliamps or .004 to .006 amps. Just to give you an idea of how small that is, a 60 watt light bulb uses 1/2 amp, or .5 amps. It takes about 100 times more current to power a 60 watt light bulb than it does to receive a lethal shock!
In a few rare instances, current as low as 1 milliamp, or .001 amps, have been enough to cause a lethal shock. Most of the time when a GFCI trips, you don’t feel a shock. Sure, you may get frustrated because there is suddenly a loss of power and we begin to blame the electrical system for for the problem. Well, you are partially right. The GFCI receptacle or breaker did shut off the power. Usually this is because there is moisture (water) in the tool or appliance and the electricity is trying to take a different return path back from where it came from. When this this happens, the electricity doesn’t care how it returns, just so long as it can make it back to the ground, even if it’s through you.
Just remember, for the safety of your friends and family, make sure that you have GFCIs installed outdoors, kitchens, bathrooms, attics, and crawlspaces. If it will have water or liquids running in or through it, such as pool pumps, sump pumps whirlpool tubs, etc., the general rule of thumb is to have GFCI protection.
Have you got a horror story about being shocked? I want to hear from you! By posting your story, you can share the importance of GFCIs.