What Is a GFCI Outlet?
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (better known as GFCIs, and sometimes referred to as GFIs) are outlets that can prevent electrical shock in areas near water sources, including bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and outdoor spaces.
GFCIs are required by the National Electric Code (NEC) in all kitchens, bathrooms, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, garages, and outdoor receptacle locations. Outdoor outlets also require special boxes and covers. In addition, outdoor receptacles must be equipped with a weatherproof cover approved for damp areas.
The Case with Older Homes
Older Homes that have been remodeled with an upgraded electrical system must upgrade outdoor outlets or those that are within 6-feet of a plumbing fixture, to GFCI receptacles. GFCIs are designed to prevent electrocution, so they are essential for a family’s safety. In most cases, multiple bathroom receptacles throughout a home can be protected by one GFCI outlet.
Similarly, only one GFCI is generally needed to protect all kitchen counter outlets. Because a shock hazard exists with both 120-volt and 240-volt equipment, in 2020 the National Electric Code was tightened up to require GFCI protection for any electrical receptacle rated 125-volt through 250-volt and installed in a GFCI-required location.
How do GFCI Outlets Protect You?
GFCIs protect people from electrocution, whereas circuit breakers protect from a fire. Circuit breakers are designed to shut off the flow of electricity to a wire when there is too much electricity demand (e.g., too many items plugged into a circuit). Shutting off the electricity in this situation prevents the wire from getting excessively hot – in some cases hot enough to start a fire within the house's walls.
When Is It Time to Replace Your GFCI Outlet?
Testing your GFCIs is easy. Plug an appliance (such as a lamp) into the outlet. Turn the light on. When you press the “test” button, the lamp should turn off. The lamp should turn on again when you press the “reset” button. If the light stays on when you press the "test" button, it’s time to replace the GFCI.
Why You Need an Electrician for Installation
GFCI outlets need proper installation to prevent electrical shock, electrocution, fire, and other damage. Furthermore, the electrician will ensure everything is up to code. If your GFCIs need replacing or your home is older and does not have any at all, call the experts at Milton Electric.
Did You Know?
GFCIs were invented in 1961 and were made to continuously monitor the current leaving the receptacle with the amount of current returning to the outlet. If they detect even a small imbalance they quickly (in as little as 1/40th of a second) shut off the electric flow, preventing harm. If properly installed and maintained, GFCIs save lives and protect against fire, overheating and destruction of wire insulation.