Grounding became required for laundry room outlets by the National Electrical Code (NEC) in 1947, and for all branch circuits in a building by 1962. Grounding a circuit gives electricity a path to earth so it will not pass through a human’s body or flammable building materials. It reduces the chances of shocks, but the path can be compromised by worn insulation or a loose connection in the system. When this happens, a person can get shocked while handling an uninsulated tool, such as a hair dryer, while standing on wet ground.
How Does a GFCI Work?
A GFCI device contains solid-state circuitry that monitors the amount of current going to the load from the device and the amount returning. The measurements should always be the same, and if not, the GFCI trips, opening the circuit and stopping the electricity flow. GFCIs are designed to respond to even the smallest signal differences very quickly.
GFCI receptacles became a requirement by the NEC in 1971, but only in pool areas. The requirement quickly spread to all outdoor receptacles, to construction sites and bathrooms, to other areas in a building. The 2017 edition of the NEC requires GFCIs in locations where water may be present, including garages, outdoors, unfinished basements, bathrooms, kitchens, crawl spaces, laundry rooms, pools, and spa areas. During the 2020 code review, the NEC approved changes to increase amp protection ratings across all receptacle outlets, both indoor and outdoor, wherever GFCI protection is required.
Dual GFCI/AFCI Devices
GFCI devices guard against a current surge, and AFCI devices guard against electrical arcing that could start a fire. AFCIs are required in even more locations than GFCIs are. AFCIs monitor current strength and waveform characteristics, helping it recognize when sparking or arcing occurs.
Manufacturers have begun incorporating both GFCIs and AFCIs in receptacles, portable power outlets, and circuit breakers. Even if you do not install dual function breakers or outlets, you can install AFCI breakers and GFCI receptacles in the required locations.
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