What are GFCI outlets and why do we need them

The ground fault circuit interrupter also known simply as a GFCI outlet has been around for many years. Invented by Charles Dalziel back in 1961. The now common outlet didn't become common for many years later. The following article will explain the importance of GFCI outlets and why upgrading non-existing outlets to GFCI is a good idea.

How do GFCI outlets they work

GFCIs are designed to sense any difference in current between the supply on the ungrounded (hot) conductor in a circuit, and the grounded (neutral) conductor.

If the circuitry recognizes a differential of more than 5 milliamps (nominal) between supply and return, a solenoid trips open the circuit, causing all power to be disconnected.  The main 3 types of these outlets are in- house receptacle, Breaker located in the distribution panel and stand alone outlet commonly found near pools or hot tubs.

Where should they be located

It is safe to say GFCI outlets are located where moisture may be present. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity, therefore raising the risk of serious electric shock. Locations where GFCI's are commonly used are:

  1. Kitchens
  2. Bathrooms
  3. Garage
  4. crawlspace
  5. Boathouse
  6. Unfinished basement
  7. Pools and hot tubs
  8. exterior outlets
  9. Laundry

GFCI protected outlets should be place within 1.5 meters of any sink, bathtub or wash basins.

Upgrading to ground fault circuit outlets

Many older homes are not equipped with these outlets. According to NCBI Electrical shocks account for 1000 deaths in the United States each year.  Upgrading outlets to GFCI is the utmost importance to you and your family. It would be advisable to hire an electrical contractor to retrofit existing outlets to GFCI. If you have had some electrical experience one can do it themselves but  would be advisable to have it inspected afterwards.

The outlets themselves are quite affordable ranging from $20- $30.

Testing the outlet

Testing the outlet is quite straight forward. Located on the actual receptacle is a test and reset button. Home inspectors also utilize an outlet tester which comes with a built-in GFCI test.  Simply plug a lamp in the outlet and press test, the lamp should instantly turn off. It is also advisable to have a flashlight handy as the main light may be on the same circuit and will also turn off. Once the test is complete press the reset button.



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