What’s the scoop with GFIs?

With so many people spending time outside with their holiday lights and finding their GFIs tripping, it’s natural that lots of questions about GFIs arise.

Firstly, what is a GFI and what is the purpose of them?  The technical term is Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) although in the business it’s generally referred to simply as a GFI.  There are three openings – the left slot which is the “neutral”, the right slot which is the “hot” and the hole beneath it which is the “ground”.  In a nutshell, the GFI monitors the amount of current flowing from the hot to neutral and, if there is an imbalance, it trips.  So, if you are outside using electricity in wet conditions, the GFI senses that the flow is imbalanced and that you are basically you’re about to become the middle man (not a good scenario) and trips in as little as 1/13 of a second – protecting you from a possibly fatal shock.

Understandably, it is code that exterior outlets are GFIs.  They should have covers as well.  If your GFI does trip, try resetting it.  If necessary, let everything dry first before resetting.  Although it may be an inconvenience to reset your breaker, remember that they have a very good reason for being around.