So the question is, “what is a GFCI outlet”. The GFCI stands for “GROUND FAULT CIRCUIT INTERUPTER” and it is an outlet that is designed to protect people from the dangers of shock and electrocution. In the world that we live in we face many situations on a daily basis that could potentially be very dangerous or even life threatening. Let’s face it, every time we get behind the wheel of a car and drive down the road one bad decision could turn an otherwise good day into a disastrous nightmare. While driving a vehicle may be full of potential dangers most of us are aware that the dangers do exist and knowing this causes us to take certain precautions. When it comes to electricity most of us do not know about the dangers that may be sitting right in front of us or how to avoid falling prey to those dangers.


The GFCI outlet is a device used to protect people from some of those unseen dangers. If you think back to my article on grounding basics I explained that when electrical current flows outside of the intended circuit we have a very dangerous situation. The GFCI works by looking at the current that flows from the supply side of the outlet through the load and back to the return side of the outlet. The GFCI has a sensing coil around these wires and if there is an imbalance between the supply and return the device opens the circuit. Ok now I will say the same thing but make it a little simpler, if 1amp flows from the supply side of the outlet 1amp MUST return back to the outlet. If someone was to get shocked some of that current would get diverted from the circuit causing the GFCI to open the circuit.

GFCI circuit

The GFCI is designed to sense an imbalance between 4 to 6 milliamps; it takes around 50 milliamps to send the heart into ventricular fibrillation which could result in heart attack or death. So as you can see the GFCI is one of the many electrical devices that help keep us safe from unforeseen electrical dangers. I will be writing some articles in the future about some of the electrical code requirements for GFCI outlets so thanks for reading and I hope that this was helpful.

Please share your thoughts

Hardsteel Media © 2012-2018 THE ELECTRICIANS HANGOUT All Rights Reserved