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As a homeowner, we’re pretty sure you’ve heard electrical contractors use the abbreviations GFI and GFCI while getting electrical repairs and installations done for your home. Have you ever wondered what those abbreviations stand for and what the differences between the two are? Well, this short read will answer all those questions for you.
Truth be told, there aren’t any differences between the two. GFI is an abbreviation for Ground Fault Interrupters while GFCI is an abbreviation for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. Both abbreviations refer to the same type of devices, although GFCI is more commonly used.
GFCI refers to circuit breakers and outlets that are designed to protect people from suffering electrical shocks. If these devices detect an energy leak even as small as a thousandth of a milliamp, they immediately shut down the circuit.
There are also other types of circuit interrupters known as Arc Fault Circuit interrupters (AFCI). These devices will shut down a circuit as soon as they detect an arc fault, which is a dangerous arc of electricity-generating high temperatures. Without AFCI receptacles, these arc faults could lead to electrical fires.
Ground Fault Interrupters (GFI) and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) receptacles are easy to identify. They usually have a test and reset button on the face of the outlet.
GFI outlets and GFCI outlets are ideal for bathrooms and kitchens, or basically any place that is damp. However, be sure to test these receptacles at least once a month.
Arc outlets, on the other hand, are required for 120 volts, 15-amp, and 20-amp circuits.
For larger applications and projects, such as heated swimming pool pumps, large outdoor patios, or buildings where multiple electrical outlets require ground fault protection, you may need to install GFCI breakers.
This brings us to what is one of the most frequently asked questions.
What household appliances need GFCI protection?
The National Electrical Code has, over the years, defined what areas of the home need GFCI protection. For example, new constructions in 1973 needed to ensure GFCI protection only for external outlets. By 1985, the list included garage outlets, bathroom outlets, and any outlets within six feet of a sink.
Currently, the NEC requires any outlets close to the water in new constructions to be GFCI devices. In laundry rooms and bathrooms, GFCI outlets are required for water heaters, washing machines, and any other outlets within six feet of a sink. They are also necessary for garages, unfinished basements, and within six feet of a wet bar.
GFCI receptacles are not necessary for bedrooms, living rooms, and other areas that aren’t close to a water source.
While these norms may not apply to older homes, we’d suggest you still consider getting your home the extra protection for a GFCI circuit breaker.