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  • Writer's pictureDavid Darrah

GFCI or GFI: What are they and where do they go?

What homeowner wouldn’t want to reduce short circuits, painful random shocks and risk of electrical fires? Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are one of the best ways to do it. GFCI, previously known as GFI or Ground Fault Interrupter, monitors the balance of electrical current moving through a circuit (the amount of power going out on the hot wire and back through the neutral), and if power goes where it shouldn’t or is not balanced, as in a short circuit. When called for, it immediately cuts off electricity preventing painful shocks and potential fires. GFI/GFCI receptacles are easily identified as the plugs with the test and reset buttons in the middle.

GFCI covers three different items:

  1. Receptacles

  2. Circuit breakers

  3. Portable GFCI for outdoor use

(1)GFCI circuit receptacles are, by code, required for outdoor receptacles (1973) bathrooms (1975), garages (1978) kitchens (1987) and unfinished and crawl spaces (1990) all basements finished or unfinished need GFCI and arc fault protection (2020). GFCI are specifically placed near water sources, such as faucets, toilets, dishwashers, refrigerators, and cured concrete- yes it still has moisture in it. Water and electricity do not mix, so the added safety measure of a receptacle that can trip to stop possible electrocution is a must. They are required to be at the first receptacle before water sources in kitchens and bathrooms, everything after the GFCI receptacle is protected on the circuit. GFCI receptacles also allow for portions of a room to be protected, but not control all items in a room- i.e. plugs near a faucet on GFCI, but not the lights and fan. GFCI is required in garages due to the weather coming in and possible standing water. They are required in both finished and unfinished basements and crawl spaces for the same reasons, often basements are uninsulated and can be appreciably damp. Outdoor receptacles need to be GFCI simply due to weather access.

(2) GFCI Circuit Breakers have the added benefit of protecting every fixture on a circuit, lights, outlets, fans etc. These circuit breakers offer a builder an option to use less expensive receptacles throughout the structure as they are protected at the circuit breaker panel, but if the circuit trips- everything on it is affected. Knowing what rooms are protected by GFCI circuit breakers is important if non-GFCI receptacles are used, it also may force the need for separate circuits in a given room. This route can be cost prohibitive, and add several thousand to a panel upgrade or replacement. Panel Upgrade link

(3) Portable GFCI is in the form of a powerstrip with GFCI built in. This affords the same protection as a GFCI receptacle or circuit breaker if one is not available. These can be readily found in home improvement stores or online.

Now, none of these will protect against a lightning strike power surge, but they will protect from a circuit overload or short circuit and provide protection from major shocks and possible fires. Whole house surge protection will provide further protection in the event of lightning. Otherwise focusing on bathrooms, kitchens, garages, crawlspaces, basements and outdoor receptacles are a cost effective and safe solution.

If you are getting ready to sell a home or property, it is important to have GFCI receptacles or circuit breakers in place. This issue is looked for and noted by home inspectors as personal safety issues to be addressed.

Contact Gringo Dave’s Electric, Inc. today at or 719-290-1484 to discuss your GFCI receptacles and possible panel upgrade needs and receive individualized home recommendations.

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