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Definition: GFCI

(Ground Fault Current Interrupter) An AC receptacle or circuit breaker that cuts power off (trips) when it detects leakage from the hot side to ground, which causes a difference between the hot and neutral sides. Also called an "appliance leakage current interrupter" (ALCI) or residual current device (RCD), a GFCI receptacle is required in wet areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Like a regular circuit breaker, a GFCI breaker in an electrical panel also trips when there is a current overload, but the GFCI receptacle does not. GFCI breakers are more sensitive than regular breakers because cutting the power faster may save a person from being shocked into a heart attack.

Bathroom Wall GFCI Receptacle
GFCIs are required in wet areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, where water can short a nearby electric appliance. Pressing Test connects hot to ground to see if the device cuts the power off.