Ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, outlets contain an added safety feature to protect against electric shock. It is important to note that GFCI outlets operate differently than fuses. A fuse blows when a wire becomes too hot (the fuse heats up faster than the wire, thus blowing before a fire can start).
A GFCI works a bit more delicately. Any standard, 120-volt outlet has three holes: one hot, one neutral, one ground. When all is working properly, electricity flows through the outlet from hot to neutral in a consistent fashion. A GFCI monitors the electricity running from hot to neutral in the outlet. Should there be an imbalance in that flow, the GFCI trips the circuit and shuts off the power.
If there is an imbalance, that means that ‘hot’ electricity is flowing somewhere that it shouldn’t be, most likely through you as you hold your power saw or other electric tool. This most commonly happens when working under wet conditions. GFCIs also trip when frayed or damaged electrical cords are lying in standing water.
GFCI’s are equipped with TEST and RESET button on the face of the outlet so the circuit can be reactivated when any safety issues have been addressed.
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