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How to Identify a GFCI Breaker Spyrka Electric Santa RosaHomes have been much safer from electrical problems and fires since the advent of the ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI. Everyone should know how to identify a GFCI breaker and outlet — so you know what to expect when you’re inspecting!

A GFCI shuts itself off after detecting a problem. If the line gets wet or the electrical current changes its path for some reason, the GFCI shuts off the power flowing to the wall outlet. This protects appliances from damage and avoids potentially hazardous situations.

How to Identify a GFCI Breaker

  • Go to your circuit breaker box and open the panel.
  • The GFCI breakers will have a test button. The button is often yellow, but may be other colors.

No test button next to any circuit breakers? Here’s what to do:

  • Turn on an appliance plugged into a GFCI outlet. Flip the breakers until you find the GFCI breaker — when the appliance turns off, you’ve found it. (If playing a guessing game, be sure to turn off any electronics that you don’t want to harm by cutting power.)
  • Use a device called a circuit breaker finder that also has a GFCI tester function. These cost around $100, so you might not want to buy one for a single small project. Your local electrician can perform this work and do whatever repairs you want, so it might make sense to just call for help.

Home Repair Involving a GFCI Breaker

A GFCI breaker can control many outlets, including GFCI receptacles as well as standard receptacles. If your home was wired properly, all GFCI outlets running on a GFCI breaker are placed first in the line of circuitry. Any standard receptacles would be wired further down the line.

When wetness or another problem is detected (or you run a GFCI test), all outlets on the breaker will shut off. In other words, devices plugged into regular wall outlets will be shut off if they are wired on the same GFCI breaker.

Working on your GFCI outlets? Make sure to turn off the GFCI breaker before beginning work.

If you replace a GFCI receptacle or cover plate, make sure to test it using both the outlet’s buttons and the breaker.

If you convert to a GFCI outlet, you may not need to alter the breaker panel. Talk to your residential electrician about the safest and best ways to upgrade the system. It may be advisable to update your entire breaker panel while making the GFCI upgrades. A GFCI breaker may be preferable to running GFCI outlets on a standard breaker.

As with all home electrical work, make safety the priority when working with a GFCI breaker or outlet. If you’re having trouble identifying the right breakers or lack experience with electrical wiring, it’s always best to call an electrician for help!