Uses of Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers
Earth leakage circuit breakers, more commonly known as ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), are a safety device to protect against electric shock. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that two-thirds of the household electrocutions that occur each year could be prevented by the use of GFCIs. This protection is inexpensive and can be retrofitted to any existing electrical circuit.
How Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers Work
The circuit breaker continuously samples the flow of electricity through a circuit. If the amount of current being drawn into a circuit suddenly differs from the amount returning, as in the case of current leaking to ground through the body of a person or some other hazardous short-circuiting, the breaker instantaneously interrupts the power. This action generally takes place fast enough to prevent a fatality from electrocution or serious burns.
Most outdoor AC outlets are recommended for GFCI protection. These would include patio outlets, garages, swimming pool lights and spa equipment. Indoor applications include all bathroom outlets, kitchen receptacles, and any receptacles in crawl spaces, attics and unfinished basements.
How To Use Earth Leakage Circuit Breakers
If your home has a circuit breaker panel instead of fuses, a qualified electrician can install earth leakage circuit breakers in place of the existing breakers to provide protection for every outlet on that circuit. Any individual outlet can also be converted to GFCI protection by replacing it with a protected outlet. If you're familiar with performing general electrical procedures safely, you can probably do the procedure yourself. In applications where a permanent earth leakage breaker is not practical, portable models are widely available. Just like a portable surge protector, plug the portable CFCI into a standard outlet then plug the appliance or device you're using into the CFCI.
Remember to use earth leakage circuit breaker for occasional or temporary usage, too, particularly in scenarios where a power cord might accidentally be cut or nicked. When mowing the lawn or trimming hedges with electric tools, use a portable breaker if you're too far away from the nearest protected outlet. Also, when using power tools, run an extension to a protected outlet or use a portable breaker.