Ground fault protection for every job site
Whenever I go to help a friend on a home-improvement project, I never know whether the electrical outlets I'll be using, especially outdoor outlets, are protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). To protect myself from accidental electrical shock, I built a portable GFCI-protected outlet by cutting the end from a heavy-duty extension cord and wiring it to a GFCI outlet in a weather-tight PVC electrical box.
With a tool plugged into this outlet, the other end of the cord can be plugged into any outlet and I know I'm protected. My portable GFCI is small enough to toss in my toolbox and costs considerably less than an "off-the-shelf" GFCI extension cord.
—Tom Bentsen, Columbia, Md.
Editor's note: When a ground-fault circuit interrupter detects small amounts of stray current between the outlet and any appliance or tool plugged into it, the built-in breaker shuts off the current almost instantly. This protection is most important for tools that are not double-insulated. (Double-insulated tools usually have a two-prong, ungrounded plug). A GFCI outlet offers an extra layer of protection because normal circuit breakers are designed to detect "shorts," not small amounts of stray current. However, GFCI protection is not a substitute for a properly grounded outlet. And, although acceptable for home use, this tip may not meet OSHA requirements for job-site use.