Answer: Any extra safety that can be provided in a home is always a good idea. A GFCI can protect infants and children the same way it protects the rest of the family, by interrupting the flow of electricity.
“GFCI” is short-hand for ground fault circuit interrupter, an inexpensive electrical device that protects people from severe or fatal electric shocks. GFCI’s can also prevent some electrical fires and reduce the severity of others, because they are designed to interrupt the flow of electric current.
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How does a GFCI work?
When an unintended electric path is created between a source of current and a grounded surface (think plugged-in toaster and knife in your hand), an unpleasant and dangerous situation can occur. A mild or severe shock, burn or electrocution can occur if a human body provides a path for electric current to flow to the ground.
This unintentional path is called a “ground-fault”. Ground faults occur when current is leaking somewhere — in effect electricity is escaping to the ground.
Prevention is the Goal
How can a GFCI prevent damage to people and possessions? The GFCI constantly monitors electricity flowing in a circuit, to sense any loss of current. If the current flowing through the circuit differs by a small amount from the amount of the current returning (denoting a leak), the GFCI quickly switches off power to that circuit. The GFCI interrupts power faster than a blink of an eye to prevent a lethal dose of electricity, in as little as 1/40th of a second. It is possible someone might still receive a painful shock from the leak, but would probably not receive a serious shock injury.
Where to Install
Where is it most important to install a GFCI? Rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms are important sites for the installation of GFCI. Water containing ions and gases (the kind of water found in residential homes) provides good electrical conduction, putting families at higher risk for shock or electrocution in these rooms. Other important locations for GFCI’s include the laundry room, garage and outside circuits.
Can I Install a GFCI Myself?
There are several types of GFCI’s to choose from, including circuit-breaker types and even portables that can be plugged into a receptacle, then, and electrical product is plugged into the GFCI.
Receptacle-type GFCIs may be installed by consumers with adequate knowledge and skills to conform to proper electrical wiring practices and the instructions accompanying the device. When in doubt about the proper procedure, contact a qualified electrician; don’t attempt to install it yourself.
Thanks to our favorite home inspector for the infomative guest post for Frederick Homeowners: Tips About GFCI From The Home Inpsector