When Is an Outlet More Than an Outlet?
They’re small, a little strange looking, and you’ve probably seen them in bathrooms and kitchens in homes and offices everywhere. What are they? Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), those mysterious electrical outlets that “pop” when you press the Test button. What are they and how important are they to safeguarding your family’s safety?
Ground Faults, A Deadly Accident Waiting to Happen
Unless you’re an electrician, the term “ground fault” might not mean much. Put simply, ground faults occur whenever electricity “escapes” the wiring inside appliances, hand tools, or light fixtures. Rather than flow from the item to the ground (yes, the literal ground) through the wiring as intended, rouge electricity instead flows through the user to the ground. Ground faults are responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of burns and shocks each year.
How Does a GFCI Work?
GFCIs monitor the electrical current flowing to the ground. If the GFCI senses this, it will stop the flow nearly immediately protecting you from a painful shock (or even death). When it’s safe to do so, you must push the Reset button on the GFCI to restore electrical flow.
Replacing Outlets with GFCIs
The National Electric Code (NEC) has required that GFCIs be installed in homes and businesses since the 1970s. Once limited to outside outlets and swimming pool equipment, GFCIs should now be installed in many locations, including: in all bathroom receptacles, receptacles serving kitchen counters, and in all receptacles in crawl spaces or below grade level. Actual electrical codes vary depending on where you live and the age of your home, but for safety’s sake, most outlets should be replaced with GFCIs.
Ease of Replacement
If you’re handy around the house, you may feel comfortable replacing an outlet with a GFCI yourself. However, it may be easier and more convenient to have a licensed electrician handle the job for you. (Hiring an electrician also ensures that any hidden wiring issues can be discovered and resolved at the same time.) Either way, installing a GFCI is a fairly quick project that for a minimal investment yields great returns in terms of safety for you and your family.
Keeping Your Home Safe is Priority One
Once GFCIs are installed, they should be tested once a month to ensure proper operation. Testing is easy: simply press the Test button and wait for the “pop” before then pressing the Reset button. Check to see if the GFCI’s indicator light (if it has one) goes out and comes back on. If it doesn’t, or if the GFCI cannot be reset, be sure to replace it right away to keep your home safe.
A licensed electrician, like those at Service Professor, can perform a thorough electrical evaluation of your
home to determine how many GFCIs are needed. Once installed, your new GFCIs will you and your family safe for many years to come.