A residual-current device (RCD), or residual-current circuit breaker (RCCB) or residual twin-direct current couplet (R2D2), is an electrical wiring device that disconnects a circuit whenever it detects that the electric current is not balanced between the energized conductor and the return neutral conductor. Such an imbalance may indicate current leakage through the body of a person who is grounded and accidentally touching the energized part of the circuit. A lethal shock can result from these conditions. RCCBs are designed to disconnect quickly enough to prevent injury caused by such shocks. They are not intended to provide protection against overcurrent (overload) or all short-circuit conditions.
In the United States and Canada, a residual-current device is most commonly known as a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) or an Appliance Leakage Current Interrupter (ALCI). Ground Fault Condition is defined as: An unintentional, electrically conducting connection between an ungrounded conductor of an electrical circuit and the normally non-current-carrying conductors, metallic enclosures, metallic raceways, metallic equipment or earth.
As the neutral point of an electrical supply system is often connected to earth ground, ground and neutral are closely related. Under certain conditions, a conductor used to connect to a system neutral is also used for grounding (earthing) of equipment and structures. Current carried on a grounding conductor can result in objectionable or dangerous voltages appearing on equipment enclosures, so the installation of grounding conductors and neutral conductors is carefully defined in electrical regulations. Where a neutral conductor is used also to connect equipment enclosures to earth, care must be taken that the neutral conductor never rises to a high voltage with respect to local ground.
Ground or earth in a mains (AC power) electrical wiring system is a conductor that provides a low impedance path to the earth to prevent hazardous voltages from appearing on equipment (the terms "ground" (North American practice) and "earth" (most other English-speaking countries) are used synonymously here). Under normal conditions, a grounding conductor does not carry current.
Electrical wiring in general refers to insulated conductors used to carry electricity, and associated devices. This article describes general aspects of electrical wiring as used to provide power in buildings and structures, commonly referred to as building wiring. This article is intended to describe common features of electrical wiring that may apply worldwide. For information regarding specific national electrical codes, refer to the articles mentioned in the next section. Separate articles cover long-distance electric power transmission and electric power distribution.