GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERRUPTER (GFCI), ELECTRICAL
Description: There are three types. One looks like a standard receptacle and is designed to be used as a receptacle. Another is a combination GFCI/circuit breaker and is installed in the circuit breaker box. The third type is portable with male and female plugs, sometimes with an integral extension cord.
Buying information: This is an important safety device. If an appliance or tool has stray current leakage of as little as 6/000 of an amp, the GFCI will sense it and shut off the current quickly to prevent a shock. They are particularly important -- and in many localities are required -- where water is used, such as on a line that goes to a pool, or in a bath or kitchen. There is normally a small amount of electrical leakage in house wiring and this can mistakenly trigger a combination GFCI/circuit breaker. Hence, many people opt for installing a receptacle type at the place it is needed, where the house leakage won't affect it.
GFCIs are available to protect 15- and 20-amp circuits.
How-to hints: Near a pool, inside a cellar workshop, and in garage areas on a slab, GFCIs deserve protection. When working outdoors with power tools, use a portable GFCI. Do not install a GFCI on a circuit that serves a fluorescent light. The electrical characteristics of the ballast in the light can mistakenly -- and repeatedly -- trigger the circuit, shutting it down. A GFCI should be installed only by the experienced do-it-yourselfer.
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