What is a Ground Fault Circuit Breaker

Ground Fault Circuit Breakers Prevent Electrocutions and Save Lives

By Mark J. Donovan

Circuit breakers are designed to trip when too much current runs through an electrical circuit in your home. Ground fault circuit breakers, (aka ground fault circuit interrupters – GFCI) are also designed to trip for overload conditions. In addition, ground fault circuit breakers are also designed to protect people from becoming electrocuted. More specifically, ground fault circuit breakers are designed to sense the slightest loss or change in current draw in the circuit and trip before a dangerous current level could be experienced by a person.

Most ground fault circuit breakers today are designed to trip after sensing just a few milliamps of current loss in the circuit.

Ground fault circuit breakers are also designed to sense a ground fault condition. A ground fault condition is when a hot power line (black or red electrical wire) comes in direct contact with ground.

For example, if an old frayed hot electrical wire comes in contact with a grounded chassis, such as a properly grounded lamp, a ground fault condition would be present.

After a ground fault circuit breaker trips, it can be reset as long as the condition that caused it to trip has been eliminated.

Ground fault circuit breakers are commonly used on circuits and in rooms where there is a higher risk of electrocution. Bathrooms, kitchens, basements and garages normally have electrical circuits that include ground fault circuit breakers. In addition, electrical circuits that include outside electrical sockets and appliances, such as pool pumps, are normally on GFCIs or ground fault circuit breakers.

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