Since the days of our childhood we’ve been warned about the dangers of playing around electrical outlets. All it takes is one compromised outlet or one careless prod to zap you! In fact, even if you’re careful around your home’s outlets, compromising factors that are out of your control can still give you a little shock here and there… unless of course you have GFCIs at the ready.
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are simple in their operation and tremendously important when it comes to preventing electrical shocks. Most modern homes today are built with GFCIs in place, but not every older home enjoys the safety that these installations provide. The reality of the situation is that they should be installed or retrofitted into areas where water may be present (such as kitchens or bathrooms), as well as outdoor areas (such as garages). In fact, according to the National Electric Code’s 2008 updated guidelines, new construction projects must include at least one GFCI-secured outlet in kitchens, bathrooms, garages and outdoor electrical installations.
How do they work?
GFCIs look very much like our regular outlet panels, with the exception of a test and reset button on the face. Their function, however, is to trip when a ground fault or current leakage is detected, thus saving you from experiencing an electrical shock by shutting off the power to that outlet. They do this by monitoring the current going into the outlet, as well as the current going out of the outlet.
Testing your protected outlet
If your home already has GFCI outlets in place, it doesn’t mean you’re always safe all the time either. Ask any electrical contractor in Anaconda, MT and they’ll tell you the same thing: your GFCIs need to be tested monthly, much like a smoke detector. The process of testing your protected outlet is simple enough:
If your GFCI outlet has an indicator light, make sure the light is on. Press the reset button on the face of the panel to see the light go off, then come back on again. This will ensure that the outlet is ready to be tested*.
*Note that this procedure isn’t the test itself! This is simply to prep the outlet for a true test.
After you’ve prepped your outlet, plug a night light into it. Make sure the light illuminates, showing that it’s receiving power from the outlet and then, with the light still plugged in, press the test button on the GFCI. The light should switch off, as if it’s no longer receiving power. Wait several seconds, then press the reset button to restore power to the night light.
If everything goes smoothly, you should have no problems with the GFCI cutting and restoring the current to your outlet.
Have your home inspected
If your home is more than a decade old, it’s a good idea to see if you have GFCIs in all of the places listed above. If you don’t, make sure you schedule an appointment with an electrical contractor in Anaconda, MT to have your outlets wired with GFCIs as soon as possible! Not only will you save yourself from the potential shocks you were warned about as a kid, you could prevent house fires and other electrical malfunctions that can occur when an object is plugged into an outlet that’s faulty or damaged!