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Where are GFCIs requried?

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacles are required by the National Electrical Code (NEC) in kitchens, bathrooms, garages and outdoors. They are also required and in many receptacle locations both inside and outside the home where water is present. A GFCI will detect even a relatively tiny amount of ground fault current and shut off power to its face and any downstream receptacles that are connected to it.

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When purchasing a GFCI, what factors should be considered?

First, consider whether the GFCI carries the UL listing mark or that of some other recognized testing laboratory. For a circuit breaker GFCI, the make and model of the panel box determine whether the GFCI will fit the panel box. Recently, a combination light/switch/receptacle type GFCI has become available. This is for bathrooms where the only receptacle outlet is in the lighting fixture. A consumer can replace the light switch with a combination switch/receptacle GFCI.

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If an appliance has a built-in shock protector, is an additional GFCI necessary?

Appliances that have built-in shock protectors, as now required for hair dryers, may not need additional GFCI protection. However, other unprotected appliances still need GFCI protection.

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If the GFCI is working, is there any danger of electric shock?

With the GFCI working properly, the consumer can still be shocked. However, the GFCI acts quickly to limit the exposure to shock and protects against serious injury and electrocution resulting from ground faults.

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Are 20-ampere outlets better than 15-ampere outlets?

Not necessarily. The rating of 15- and 20-ampere receptacles has to do with the rating of the load that may be connected, and may not reflect upon the quality or capacity of the device itself. The parts of the NEC that deal with outlet ratings (2002 NEC 210.21) treat 15- and 20-ampere receptacles a little differently from higher-current receptacles.

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I have an appliance plugged into my GFCI and there’s no power. What do I do?

If your GFCI is working properly, it will shut off power to help prevent a hazardous ground fault condition. First, unplug the appliance from the GFCI. Then, plug in a table lamp or small radio that you know is working properly. Push in the RESET button on the GFCI. The lamp or radio should turn ON. Then push the TEST button. The lamp or radio should go OFF. If both the RESET and TEST buttons are working, the appliance you had plugged in it is previously is damaged and a potential shoc...

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