Understanding the difference between GFCI breakers and GFCI receptacles

By shakir_williams on 02/28/2018

electrician fixing gfci breaker

The main purpose of a ground fault circuit interrupter is to be proactive in the event that an electrical current gets sent off of its intended path. GFCI receptacles offer protection from electrical shock hazards and electrical fires. This is especially important if you are in an area that is close to water.

If for some reason, you find yourself outside using a power drill and suddenly it starts to rain, a GFCI outlet will shut off the power. The last thing that you want is the electrical current to travel through the ground water and through you. GFCI outlets are meant to keep you safe! 

gfci breaker fuse box

Depending on your electrical wiring and power distribution needs, you can determine whether you should replace the breaker panel or the individual GFCI outlets. But first you should understand the difference between the two.

gfci receptacle

GFCI Receptacle

A GFCI receptacle is easily recognizable. Simply look for the test and reset button on the face of the outlet. When installed, any electrical device that is plugged in will be protected in the case of a ground fault. This also includes any electrical outlets that are connected on the same line. If a ground fault is detected, a GFCI outlet will cut the power to the entire line. 

electrician installing gfci outlet in bathroom

If you’re looking to install a few outlets for a bathroom or kitchen, you should consider installing GFCI outlets. They are simple to install and can save you the hassle of having to install an entire GFCI breaker panel. 

Some reasons where using a GFCI receptacle is acceptable are as follows:

  1. There are only a few outlets that require ground fault protection
  2. The outlets are too far away from the breaker panel
  3. If you only need to install a few outlets and are not interested in spending a lot of money on an entire GFCI breaker.

GFCI Breaker

A GFCI breaker can be built in or added to the circuit panel in your building. Unlike a normal breaker panel, a GFCI breaker panel is normally larger and has its own test and reset buttons to protect against ground faults. One of the benefits of a GFCI breaker is full protection against ground faults. All electrical receptacles that are installed will have full ground fault circuit protection. You may be asking, “how do I know if I should install a GFCI breaker?”

gfci breaker

Here a few reasons why you may consider doing so:

  1. If most of the electrical outlets require ground fault protection
  2. If you want to ensure that all of the receptacles in the circuit are fully protected
  3. For special uses, like heated pools, large workshops, or large outdoor patio spaces

Now that you know your options when wiring your outlets, you will find the best option for you! If cost is a concern, GFCI receptacles are a great purchase option. Just make sure to weigh your options and you can’t go wrong!


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