GFCIs, or ground fault circuit interrupters, protect against the risk of electrical shock. Installing them provides an inexpensive solution to preventing incidents of shock, and offers the added bonus of bringing your home up to code.
What is a GFCI outlet?
GFCI outlets are used in areas like the kitchen, bathroom or garage where the risk of electrical shock is greater. They can be identified by the “test” and “reset” buttons located on the receptacle. These outlets help protect you from electrical hazards by monitoring the amount of electricity flowing in a circuit and tripping the circuit if an imbalance is detected. Once detected, the outlet stops the flow of electricity.
How To Operate and Test a GFCI Outlet
If your GFCI outlet stops the flow of power under normal operating conditions and it is safe, the GFCI can be manually reset by pressing the “reset” button to restore power. GFCIs are much more reliable than depending on the circuit breaker in your electrical box to trip and stop current flow, as they are sensitive to even small variations in current. In fact, they are designed to operate before electricity can affect your heartbeat. Because of this function, it is important to check all of the GFCI outlets in your home monthly.
- Press the “test” button to see if they are operating properly.
- Use a night light or other portable device that uses a minimal amount of electricity to ensure current is no longer flowing through the receptacle.
- Press the “reset” button after confirming this to return power to the outlet.
Where are GFCI outlets required?
GFCIs have been required in homes since 1971, when they were mandated for use on the exterior of homes and for use with swimming pool equipment. There are many areas of your home where GFCI outlets are required to meet code, commonly in areas where the risk of electrical shock is increased due to possible exposure to risk factors such as water. GFCI outlets are required in:
- Bathrooms since 1975.
- Kitchens since 1987.
- Laundry and utility sinks since 2005.
- Wetbars since 1993.
- Garages since 1978.
- Crawlspaces and unfinished basements since 1990.
- Your home’s exterior since 1973.
- Spa and pool areas since 1968.
- Limitations of GFCI receptacles
GFCI outlets should not be used as receptacles for refrigerators, freezers, or other appliances, as they could trip without your knowledge.
Many older homes have lacked GFCI outlets for quite some time, putting their occupants at increased risk of electrical shock. Don’t wait on installing these inexpensive, potentially life-saving devices. Walters Tristate Electric today and protect yourself and your family with the addition of GFCI receptacles.