If an inexpensive electrical device called a ground fault circuit interrupter was installed in every U.S. household, 70 percent of the 240 electrocutions that occur at home each year could be prevented.
An unintentional electrical path between a source of current and a grounded source is referred to as a "ground fault." Ground faults occur when current leaks somewhere between its source and its destination. If a person comes in contact with this leaking current and provides a path to ground for the stray current, serious injury or electrocution may result. A ground fault is often the result of damaged cords or appliances, poorly insulated wires, or mishandling, such as dropping an appliance in water.
GFCIs are products designed to prevent serious injury or death from electrical shock by detecting the ground faults at very low levels and interrupting power. There are three types of GFCIs to choose from that would be best suited in the home: wall receptacle, circuit breaker and portable plug-in.
A wall receptacle GFCI is used in place of standard receptacles found throughout the house. It fits into a standard outlet box and protects against ground faults when any electrical appliance/portable plugged in.
Circuit breaker GFCIs can be installed in any home that has a circuit breaker panel box to give protection to selected circuits. It will shut off electricity in the event of a ground fault, and will be tripped if a short circuit or overload occurs.
There are two types of portable GFCIs. One contains the GFCI circuitry in a self-contained enclosure that plugs into the receptacle with electrical products then being plugged directly into the GFCI. The other kind of portable GFCI is an extension cord with the GFCI built into it.
GFCIs are a small investment and a big lifesaver. Recommended areas to protect are kitchens, bathrooms, garages, crawl spaces, unfinished basements and outdoor receptacles. If you home is not already protected, consider having a GFCI installed.