According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrocutions have decreased over 80% since the introduction of ground fault circuit protection in the mid-seventies. The most well-known device for this type of protection are GFCI outlets. Every home in Canada is, or should be, outfitted with these potentially life-saving receptacles. You can recognize them by their standard “test” and “reset” buttons.
How They Work
Like most of the other outlets in your home, ground fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs, utilize three wires: neutral, hot, and ground. The difference is that the flow of electricity through these wires is closely monitored. This flow always moves from the hot wire, through the plugged-in appliance, and then back in through the neutral side. Or rather, almost always. Sometimes electricity will take a shortcut from the hot wire and into the ground, bypassing the aforementioned circuit completely. This creates the perfect opportunity for electrocution. GFCIs act as mini built-in circuit breakers. As soon as it detects an imbalance, the outlet switches off immediately.
Canadian Electrical Code
In Canada, GFCIs are an important component of the electrical code. That being said, not every outlet in your home needs to be protected by one. According to the code, any 15 or 20amp outlets within 1.5 metres of a water source must be GFCI protected. This includes sinks, bathtubs, and showers. Hot tubs and hydro-massage tubs are a little different due to the fact that water can spray further distances. Outlets must not be closer than 3 metres to a hot tub and 1.5 metres to a hydro-massage bathtub. Outdoors, all outlets installed within 2.5 metres of finished grade must also be GFCI protected.
Regular Maintenance & Testing
Once installed, GFCIs are relatively low maintenance devices. The best way to ensure they are functioning properly is to test each unit about once a month. This is as simple as plugging in a small appliance such as a lamp or radio and pressing the “test” button. If the GFCI is working correctly, the circuit will trip and the appliance will shut off immediately. Press the “reset” button to get the electricity flowing again. Occasional trips are nothing to worry about, static electricity could be the culprit and it won’t cause any harm. Frequent tripping is a red flag that the outlet is faulty or worn out. Be sure to get it replaced right away.
Whether you’re looking to add new outlets or replace worn-out GFCIs, always work with a licensed electrician. A trained professional will have a working knowledge of the rules and regulations surrounding GFCI outlets so that your electrical system stays safe and up to code. For skilled electricians in the Calgary area, our team at 4-Star Electric can help you with any of your GFCI needs. Contact us today to get started!