This blog is a follow-up to my recent article on GFCI installation dates and locations. In this report I'll discuss what I personally consider as just plain stupid places to install GFCI outlets.
What Is A GFCI Outlet?
First let me start of by talking about what a GFCI outlet is.
A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet is a special electrical receptacle that is designed to prevent major bodily harm from electrical faults that cause electricity to take an unintended path to go through you to the ground. Having a GFCI outlet in place would prevent that hazard from happening.
What makes these outlets so special is that they contain a sensor that monitors the flow of electrical current through the wires and when it senses a ground fault it shuts off the flow of electricity to the outlet.
In electrical terms a "fault" means any variation from the normal flow of electrical current. Normally electric current flows at a uniform rate through wiring, but when a ground fault occurs the flow of electricity surges. If a surge occurs and a GFCI outlet is in place you still may receive an intense shock, but the GFCI will prevent a prolonged surge of electricity that could kill you.
That's why it is so important to have GFCI outlets installed in all potential hazard areas, such as a kitchen, bathrooms, garages, outdoors, near water sources, etc.
Many people are under the delusion that a GFCI outlet prevents someone from getting a shock. When in fact what a GFCI outlet actually does is to limit the duration of the shock, but does not prevent it. With a GFCI outlet the duration of the shock lasts about 1/5th of a second. Not enough to kill you, but enough to knock you off of a ladder or to give you a serious injury.
Nuisance tripping of a GFCI outlet is something that periodically can happen with these types of safety outlets. Intermittent tripping of the outlet into its off position is not only an inconvenience, but also can be a serious concern for the following noted specific locations. When the outlet trips out those noted electrical devices and appliances lose their power.
What Causes Nuisance Tripping?
The following are several possibilities for a ground fault to trip out.
The GFCI outlet is defective,
The outlet is improperly wired,
The appliance that is plugged into the GFCI outlet is defective,
There are too many electrical devices drawing electrical power from the GFCI outlet.
Now lets look at dumb locations for GFCI outlets and why plugging the following devices into GFCI outlets is pure folly and a big mistake.
At my home inspections I frequently find all kinds of inane things when it comes to electricity and the following are a sampling of, in my professional opinion, those idiotic and foolish GFCI installment practices.
Such as: - Fire, Smoke, Burglar, Security Systems
Such as: - Refrigerators, Freezers, Disposals, Microwaves
Such as: - Sump, Condensate, Ejection Pumps
Radon Mitigation Systems
Garage door openers
Electric Dog fences
Dehumidifiers - Humidifiers
Central Vac Systems
Think about it, if an alarm is disabled whatever system that you have plugged into it no longer has power and is rendered inoperable, leaving you unprotected!
The take-home lesson here is to have GFCI outlets on any device that could present an electrical shock hazard, but not to have a GFCI outlet on any device that could trip out and and leave you unprotected, such as an alarm system, etc.
GFCI manufacturer's recommend testing these outlets monthly and replacing them every five years as a safety precaution.
So be sure to do it!