Ask an Electrician: What Are GFCI Outlets?
What are GFCI outlets? These outlets are extremely important for keeping your electrical equipment safe and have essentially become the standard for modern electrical systems. And you may already have them in your house. That’s why for our latest ask an electrician” newsletter, we’re going in-depth on these crucial devices, exploring everything you need to know about them so you can help keep your home as safe as possible in the future.
Everything You Need to Know About GFCI Outlets
GFCI stands for “ground-fault circuit interrupter.” Although there are several different versions of these devices, the most common are the outlets found in almost all modern houses.
Before understanding what they do, it’s important to first break GFCIs down in terms of terminology. A “fault” is an unexpected electrical current that – when generated in your home – can be dangerous to your electronic devices. A short circuit, for example, is an example of an electrical fault. A “ground-fault,” meanwhile, is a fault that has literally been directed on an alternate path to the ground. The job of a GFCI, therefore, is to interrupt faults when they occur in one of your system’s circuits and send that fault to the ground rather than to one of your devices.
You will typically be able to recognize a GFCI outlet in your home by the two buttons in between the receptacle slots. The top one of these buttons is often red in color, while the bottom one is often black. The top button is the “reset” button, used to reset the outlet after the device that’s plugged into it has lost power. When this occurs, it means your GFCI is working and has prevented a fault from going to that device. The bottom outlet, meanwhile, is a “test” button, used to see if the GFCI is working before it has to actually ground a fault. To conduct a GFCI test, plug any device into the outlet and press the bottom button. If the device loses power, your GFCI is working. If it does not lose power, your GFCI outlet is not working and you should promptly get it replaced.
Although the National Electric Code, or NEC, mandates that all houses built today be constructed with GFCI outlets, there are some homes that were built before this mandate went into effect and may not be up to the current code in regards to GFCI outlets. If you live in one of these homes, it is important that you upgrade to GFCIs. If a fault runs through your electrical system, you could not only lose a valuable electronic device and any data you have stored on it, you could also suffer an electrical shock or end up with an electrical fire on your hands.
Trust Our Handy Electricians at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar
At Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar, your safety is of the utmost importance to our electricians. While you can purchase GFCI outlets yourself, we suggest calling us before attempting an installation, just to be sure that everything is wired properly. And remember, whether you are looking for outlet upgrades or circuit breaker repairs, you can always count on our full range of services to help keep your home up-to-code.