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Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)

Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices are designed to trip in response to the detection of a ground fault condition at an AC load. GFCI devices are utilized to interrupt a circuit path, typically at an AC receptacle, in response to the detection of a ground fault condition at an AC load. Ground fault circuit interrupters are used in utility power applications to protect against leakage currents that flow through ground rather than back through the source's neutral line. They are commonly found in residential settings where the utility power is used to operate household appliances. In operation, a GFCI type device supplies electricity to an exterior circuit and opens an outlet circuit when a ground fault occurs in the exterior circuit, i.e., when a portion of a circuit that is plugged into the outlet becomes grounded. GFCI devices commonly include a differential current transformer, control circuit, and a circuit breaker device. Typically, a GFCI device detects this condition by using a sensing transformer or wire coil to detect an imbalance between the currents flowing in the hot and neutral conductors of the AC supply, as will occur when some of the current on the line side is being diverted to ground. A ground fault condition happens when the current is diverted to the ground through another path such as a human body that results in an imbalance between the currents flowing in the phase and neutral conductors. When such an imbalance is detected, a circuit breaker within the ground fault circuit interrupter is immediately tripped to an open condition, thereby opening both sides of the AC line and removing all power from the AC load. A GFCI device may be used in a single phase circuit, such as a single phase 120V AC circuit, or in a polyphase circuit, such as 120/240V AC circuit.


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