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GFCI Outlets: Everything You Need To Know

GFCI outlet

When we plug our electronics into the wall, we rarely think about what it takes to have electricity wherever we want. To funnel electricity throughout your home in a safe way, there must be control over the current of electricity. Untethered electricity can cause shocks, start fires and even cause death if severe enough. That’s why safety measures like GFCI outlets should be taken seriously.

Benchmark Electrical Services is dedicated to informing our customers and making sure they understand the importance of all the electrical components in their homes – including GFCI outlets. Read on to learn how GFCI outlets work and the general information every homeowner should know about their outlets.

How Are GFCI Outlets Different?

Electricity moves through wires that are insulted by plastic or rubber, preventing electricity from leaving the inside of the coating. However, when a wire gets damaged or experiences a surge of lightning, the electrical surge can escape and take a different path. The escaping electricity always finds the fastest route back to the ground – through other materials and even through people. This is called a ground fault.

In 1971 the National Electrical Code (NEC) started to require ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCIs) in all homes being built. GFCIs are different because they have sensors in them that recognize when a ground fault is occurring and automatically stop the current of power to the outlet. Standard electrical outlets allow electricity surges to escape and travel in unexpected paths to the ground.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) electrocutions have dropped 83% since the GFCI outlet became required in homes. Any electrical surges could shock a human, but the GFCI will defend against an open flow of electricity – which could potentially cause death.

What Does a GFCI Outlet Look Like?

GFCI outlets are very similar to standard electrical outlets with three-pronged plug slots stacked one on top of the other. The main difference between the two is two small buttons labeled ‘test’ and ‘reset’ on the front of the outlet. Some GFCIs also have a small red light to signify to the homeowner if it’s operational.

The ‘reset’ button can be used after the GFCI has tripped and halted the flow of power due to an electrical surge. Pressing ‘reset’ should allow the outlet to have power again.

The ‘test’ button is used to ensure the electrical function is on. Plug a small device – a night light, for example – into the three-pronged plug. Press the ‘test’ button. The GFCI should shut off the flow of power causing the night light to turn off as well.

Where Should GFCI Outlets Be In Your Home?

Though GFCIs are now required in the home, not every room must have them. Water is one of the most conductive materials for electricity, so it is most important to have GFCIs installed in rooms with water access – these rooms are called ‘wet rooms’. Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and wet bars need to have GFCI outlets within six feet of sinks, washing machines and water heaters. If you have electrical outlets in garages and unfinished basements they should also be GFCIs.

Bedrooms, living rooms and other areas with no water are fine to use standard electrical outlets. Older homes are not required to have GFCIs installed until their wiring is updated, but we encourage GFCIs to be installed for maximum safety standards.

Should You Install GFCI Outlets Yourself?

While GFCIs can be installed or replaced by someone with electrical know-how, the NFPA recommends using a certified electrician. When connecting or installing wires to existing electrical systems complications can arise easily that need to be handled with caution. Outlets can be ports for several types of wires, and you don’t want to tamper with anything and create a bigger problem. Our electricians have years of experience dealing with wires and electrical systems so that they are set up safely for your use.

Benchmark Electrical Services is proud to offer superior electrical services to the Frisco area. When you are in need of electrical services or have any more questions about GFCI outlets, count on our team to have your back. Contact us today!