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Everything You Need to Know About GFCI Outlets

When it comes to electricity, safety is always a concern. When everything goes according to plan, electrical current runs safely through insulated wires to switches, wall outlets, appliances, and gadgets throughout your home. But as we know, electricity often has a mind of its own. And when it travels down an unintended path, the result can be devastating.

Thanks to the development of ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (GFCIs), the risk for severe shock or electrocution is greatly reduced. In fact, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrocutions are down 83 percent since the 1970s when GFCIs were first introduced. So, what exactly are GFCI outlets, how do they work, and where should they be installed? Read on to find out.

What Is a GFCI Outlet?

GFCI outlets, identified by a “TEST” button and a “RESET” button between the two outlets, are required by law in new home construction. However, it’s a good idea to install them in older homes as well to minimize the risk of electrical shock and other electrical hazards.

Normally, electrical current flows at a uniform rate through insulated wiring. But when electricity escapes the insulated wires and takes an unintended path to the ground, a GFCI outlet senses the ground fault and immediately cuts the circuit off to reduce the risk of electrocution to humans or damage to devices plugged into that outlet. While you may still receive a painful shock, the GFCI will prevent a prolonged surge of electricity that injures or worse.

Where should GFCIs be installed?

According to the National Electric Code (NEC) GFCI outlets must be installed in new construction in areas where electrical outlets are in close proximity to water. While  older homes are not required to have GFCI outlets unless the wiring is being updated, it’s prudent to install them anyway. They should be installed in the following high moisture areas of a home:

  • All bathroom receptacles
  • Unfinished basements and crawl spaces
  • Kitchen outlets within six feet of a sink
  • Every outlet in a laundry room
  • Outdoor outlets because they are exposed to rain and snow
Caring for GFCI Outlets

Once installed, a GFCI outlet is virtually maintenance-free. Still, you should press the “TEST” button once a month to make sure it’s still functioning properly. Occasionally, a GFCI may shut itself off for no apparent reason. This can be caused by something as simple as static electricity. When this happens, just press the “RESET” button to restore electricity. If a GFCI outlet trips frequently when not in use, the outlet could be worn out or faulty and should be looked at by a licensed electrician.

To learn more about GFCI outlets or to inquire about any of our electrical services, contact Excel Electrical Technologies today. We’ll be happy to answer all questions and provide you with the safe, code-compliant electrical services you deserve.