A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter or GFCI is a type of outlet that can detect whether the electrical current in your RV is not flowing along the desired path and will immediately shut off the power supply to prevent harmful or fatal electrical shocks. GFCIs work by monitoring imbalances between the neutral wires and the hot wires, quickly and automatically disconnecting a circuit when an imbalance in the electrical currents is detected. A GFCI is faster than a circuit breaker making it more effective at protecting people and buildings from harm.
Oftentimes, the GFCI outlets installed in your RV are located in wet areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, or on the exterior of your RV. It can be hard to tell which outlets are GFCIs. Generally, there will be one main GFCI outlet indicated by the presence test and reset buttons, while other outlets connected to the main outlet will have “dummy plates” with no buttons.
When a GFCI outlet is wired in a circuit, there are often other outlets and electrical devices sharing the same circuit and breaker. Properly wired GFCI outlets will disconnect devices down the circuit line, causing outlets to lose power at the same time. Devices on the circuit line that come before the GFCI will not be disconnected from the current. A GFCI that is improperly wired won’t protect either downstream or upstream devices.
To test an RV GFCI outlet, plug a lamp (or other device) into the outlet, then press the test button. The power should disconnect, and the lamp should turn off. If you hear a click but the outlet still has power, your GFCI outlet is wired incorrectly and should be fixed or replaced immediately. Next, press the reset button. Power should be restored to the circuit, and the lamp should turn on.
It’s also important to understand which outlets are connected to the GFCI circuit. Press the test button on the main GFCI outlet, then test all outlets inside and outside of your RV. If you find an outlet that is not working, it may be connected to the GFCI circuit.
Now that you have an idea how an RV GFCI works, you’ll feel safer and more prepared for life on the open road.