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Should You Put GFCI At Beginning Or End Of Circuit: An In-depth Explanation

This article is for informational purposes. Always seek the advice of qualified professionals.

Are you confused about where you should put a GFCI? Most people understand that placing GFCI in a circuit is important. but they don’t know that placement also plays a huge role. 

Should you put GFCI at beginning or end of circuit? 

If you want to protect all of your outlets down the line then putting GFCI at the beginning of the circuit is necessary. But if you plan on only protecting the last outlet then you can place the GFCI at the end. 

Still can’t make up your mind? Our in-depth article will surely sway your decision to the right path. 

So, without wasting any more time let’s dive right in! 

What Are The Benefits Of A GFCI?

GFCI is a common household item. but to know about the correct placement of the GFCI you should first know what are the benefits of a GFCI. 

GFCI is a fast-performing circuit breaker that is designed to shut off electric power in case of a ground fault. A GFCI can effectively protect your devices from the damages of electric shocks. 

By breaking off the power it stops the flow of electricity. As a result, no harm is caused to your device or you.

GFCIs are usually placed in places where they can frequently come in contact with water. The most common places are the kitchen, the bathroom, laundry room, etc.

GFCI can be placed on any outlet in the house for better protection overall. 

Here are my top picks for GFCI: 

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How Does A GFCI Work?

The GFCI in a circuit measures the electricity flow in the hot and neutral wires of a conductor. If it detects an imbalance that exceeds 5ma, it will shut down power directly. 

When there’s a surge in electricity in an outlet, the GFCI will trip. As a result, it will stop the excess flow of electricity immediately. 

The appliance connected to the GFCI will stop working for the moment. You can again fix the outlet by simply pushing the reset button on the GFCI. 

Can You Put The GFCI At The Beginning Of The Circuit? 

You can easily put GFCI at the beginning of the circuit. But remembering a few things is key in this case. 

Pros of Putting GFCI At The Beginning:

By putting GFCI at the beginning of the circuit you can protect all the other outlets down the line. The flow of electricity will be stopped at the first outlet if there’s any ground fault. Thus, all of your outlets are protected. 

For your better understanding let’s look into an example. Suppose there are five outlets in a circuit. If in one of the outlets a surge in electricity is seen, all the other outlets will break.

That’s why the general consensus is always to put GFCI at the beginning of the circuit. It’s also a cheaper option compared to individually placing GFCI on each outlet. 

Cons Of Putting GFCI At The Beginning: 

The major downside of putting GFCI at the beginning is that in case of a ground fault all the other outlets will lose power. 

On top of that in case of a persistent ground fault, the GFCI will keep tripping until the faulty outlet is identified and fixed. Identifying the faulty outlet can be very difficult in this case as there is no clear indication.

How To Place A GFCI At The Beginning Of The Circuit?

Now that you know how the circuit will function by putting the GFCI at the beginning, let’s see how you can place the GFCI at the beginning. 

  • A typical GFCI consists of two lines. One is called line contact and the other one is called load contact. The line contact side brings the power to the GFCI. On the other hand, the load contact side is connected to the outlets you want to protect down the line. 
  • Now to place the GFCI you need to first check whether the electrical outlet is hard to plug in. After that, secure the GFCI on the line cable.
  • Now, connect the three wires of the outlet with the GFCI. In this way, a GFCI can be successfully connected to the first outlet. 

Can You Put The GFCI At The End Of The Circuit?

Now, let’s look into the pros and cons of putting the gfci at the end of the circuit. 

Pros Of Putting GFCI At The End

If the outlet you’re planning to install a GFCI in happens to be the last outlet of the circuit then you can go ahead and place the GFCI at the end. 

Even though it makes more sense to place a GFCI at the beginning of the circuit, you can still place it at the end. In case if appliances like the freezer or dryer are connected to a circuit you may need to skip cutting out electricity from those appliances. 

As a result, it’s important to only place GFCI at the end of the circuit in this case. 

In case you want to plug in Christmas lights outdoors then you must install GFCI to the outdoor outlet. Due to snow and other weather conditions, it’s necessary to place GFCI in the last outlet.

So, If your primary goal is to protect only the last outlet of a circuit then you can connect the GFCI at the end of the circuit. 

Cons Of Putting GFCI At The End

If you put GFCI at the end of the circuit only the last outlet will be protected. All the outlets before this one won’t be preserved. 

As a result, it may get unnecessary to place it at the end of the circuit.

How To Place A GFCI At The End Of The Circuit?

Before connecting a GFCI at the end of the circuit it’s important to identify the last outlet of the circuit:

  • Usually, there are two cables in an outlet. One brings in power and the other takes power to the next outlet. In the case of the last outlet of a circuit, there will be only one cable. 
  • Only the cable that brings in power will remain in the last outlet. As there is no more outlet after this one there will be no second cable. 
  • By now you know that there are three wires in a circuit. They are hot, neutral, and cold. Among these wires, hot or neutral is common
  • To identify the last outlet you need to open and inspect each outlet individually. After finding the last outlet simply connect the GFCI at the power end of the cable. 

Thus, the installation of GFCI at the end of the circuit is complete. 

Where To Not Put GFCI? 

GFCIs can be put on almost all of the outlets. But there are a few exceptions where putting GFCI can put you in danger instead of protecting you:

  • There are outlets connected to appliances like refrigerators, freezers, medical devices, etc. In these types of outlets, the loss of power can cause significant damage. So these outlets should be avoided while placing a GFCI. 
  • Although it’s usually said to put GFCI in places where it gets wet or comes in contact with water frequently, it’s okay to put GFCI in dry places. But you can get the most bang for your bucks in a place that comes in contact with water often. 
  • A GFCI adds an extra layer of protection no matter the location of the outlet. So if you have the ability to provide one then make sure to install GFCI in each outlet. 

That’s everything on whether you should place GFCI at the beginning or the end of the circuit.

FAQs

Question: How long does GFCI last?

Answer: The circuitry of a GFCI wears out over time due to continuous use. Usually, a GFCI can last for a good 10 years before losing its functionality. 

Question: How do I know if my GFCI has gone bad?

Answer: You can recognize your GFCI has gone bad by checking its reset button. If during an electrical surge the reset button doesn’t pop out then your GFCI is no longer working.

Question: Can I put GFCI in any outlet of a circuit?

Answer: Yes, you can put GFCI in any outlet of a circuit. As long as the appliance you need to protect is protected, you can place your GFCI according to your needs. 

Bottom line 

Placing a GFCI at the beginning or end of the circuit has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages. So depending on your need you need to make the decision yourself. 

I hope you now have a clear idea about where to place GFCI at beginning or end of circuit

Until then, have an amazing day. Catch you next time!