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GFCI Receptacle vs. GFCI Circuit Breaker

For the prevention of shock and electrocution injuries, GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection is required for certain receptacles, also known as outlets, throughout a home and its outdoor areas, especially where water can be present.

Either a GFCI circuit breaker or GFCI receptacle can be selected to accomplish this requirement. Depending on the location, there are pros and cons for each. In addition, state and local electrical codes also set forth GFCI requirements. 

Circuits vs. Receptacles

GFCI circuit breakers offer a simple installation. One is installed inside the service panel, also known as the breaker box, and it provides GFCI protection to the entire circuit, including wiring and every appliance and device connected to the circuit.

Single-location GFCI wiring provides protection for only one receptacle. Multi-location wiring provides protection for the first GFCI receptacle and all the following receptacles downstream of the electric current on the same circuit. Multi-location wiring will not offer protection between the service panel and itself.

Accessible Receptacle Locations

A tripped GFCI breaker must be reset at the service panel. In contrast, a tripped GFCI receptacle can be reset at the receptacle itself. A GFCI receptacle should be installed at locations that are physically accessible, so it can be easily reset whenever necessary. Electrical issues downstream from a GFCI receptacle can cause it to trip. As a result, the tripped GFCI receptacle will need to be reset to allow electrical current to flow again on the whole portion of the circuit that it protects.

Deciding on the GFCI Protection Type

It may be the case that only one or two outlets each are needed for a laundry room or bathroom. For this situation, the installation of GFCI receptacles would be the most efficient and sensible. Where a new receptacle circuit is needed for a location like an outdoor patio or garage woodshop, every receptacle will require GFCI protection. The best course of action would be wiring the circuit with a GFCI breaker to provide protection for all the receptacles on the circuit.

Electrical Services You Can Trust

Founded in 1991, Meyer Electrical Services provides home and commercial electrical services in Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., where we are licensed and insured. Based in Bethesda, our team proudly serves all of Montgomery County. Receive a free consultation for custom electrical work today by calling (301) 941-1400.