What is a GFCI?

Ground Fault Circuit Interupter

What is a GFCI?

GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. It is a device used in electrical circuits to protect people from shocks.  It works by detecting tiny current imbalances between the ungrounded and grounded (aka the “hot” and “neutral” ) conductors which shut off power to everything downstream of the device. The imbalance can be caused by a “leak” in the electrical current and the “leak” could be going through you! This happens when you are simultaneously in contact with ground or a grounded conductor and an energized part of the circuit. GFCI devices are required in areas that a prone to water contact such as bathrooms, kitchens, garages, crawlspaces, and the exterior of your home. Although they may not have been required when your home was built, it is a good idea to upgrade these areas to have GFCI protection.

Testing Receptacle-Type GFCIs

Receptacle-type GFCIs are currently designed to allow for safe and easy testing that can be performed without any professional or technical knowledge of electricity.  GFCIs should be tested right after installation to make sure they are working properly and protecting the circuit.  They should also be tested once a month to make sure they are working properly and are providing protection from fatal shock.


To test the receptacle GFCI, first plug a nightlight or lamp into the outlet. The light should be on.  Then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. The “RESET” button should pop out, and the light should turn off.

If the “RESET” button pops out but the light does not turn off, the GFCI has been improperly wired. Contact an electrician to correct the wiring errors.

If the “RESET” button does not pop out, the GFCI is defective and should be replaced.

If the GFCI is functioning properly and the lamp turns off, press the “RESET” button to restore power to the outlet.

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