Not all outlets are the same. While they all serve the important purpose of providing power to the areas of the home where you need it most, different outlets have different jobs. That job could be anything from convenience to protection. GFCI outlets fall into the latter camp.
GFCI outlets are designed with safety in mind. This feature is what makes them a requirement in certain areas of your house. At MZ Electric, we’re here to help you with GFCI outlet installation. If you aren’t sure what they are or why you need them, the information below can help.
What are GFCI Outlets?
GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. These three-prong outlets shut off quickly at the first indication of current inconsistency. Their sole purpose besides providing electricity is to prevent electrical injury. Whether there’s a short circuit or water exposure, GFCI’s respond instantly by powering off, consequently preventing electrical shocks. This is why most GFCI’s outlet installations are in areas where water may be present.
How GFCI Outlets Work
Like their regular two-prong counterparts, GFCIs have electrical current flowing through them at a uniform rate. Unlike their counterparts, however, GFCIs are equipped with a sensor that monitors the flow of current. In the event of a ground fault, these outlets immediately cut off the power. This quick response saves lives.
What Is a Ground Fault?
When everything is working the way it should, electricity flows through insulated wires that run behind your walls and into the outlet. A ground fault is when electricity takes an unintended path instead.
If the wiring is old and the insulation is worn, there’s a chance for the electricity to escape the electrical current pathway. Much like how lightning will take the most direct path to the ground, electrical currents will take the fastest route to the floor, using any conductor in its path.
If you happen to be touching a cord or the outlet itself, that conductor could end up being you. Water is another great conductor of electricity, which is why GFCI installations in bathrooms, kitchens, and other places where water is present are a must.
Where Are GFCI Outlet Installations Necessary?
As water is such a great conductor of electricity, GFCI outlet installations are essential in every area of your home or property where they may come into contact with water. You must install these outlets within six feet of sinks, water heaters, and washing machines. Common locations include:
- Laundry rooms
- Wet bars
GFCI outlet installations are also useful in areas outside your home, such as in your garage, workshop, or anywhere rainwater can touch.
When Should You Consider GFCI Outlet Installations for Your Home?
If your home was built prior to 1971, there’s a good chance your outlets aren’t up to code. If your outlets near water sources are the regular two-prong variety, you’ll need to have them replaced to bring your home up to code. Other reasons to have GFCI outlet installations performed in your home are:
Home Renovations and Additions
If you’re building an extension onto your house, you’ll need to consider if any of the rooms you’re adding will have water access. Additional space in your kitchen or an added bathroom will require a GFCI outlet installation.
Around Pools and Hot Tubs
Are you upgrading your home with a pool or hot tub? The outlets in your new hot tub room or around your pool will need to be GFCI’s.
GFCI Outlet Operation
Once we’ve installed your GFCI, there’s not much left for you to do. It functions as a regular outlet unless something trips it. When this happens you’ll know because the outlet won’t work.
Should your outlet suddenly stop working, it indicates that it’s doing its job. In most cases, this isn’t a big deal. It’s often the result of simple static electricity. The light on your GFCI will flash red when it has stopped working and needs a reset. Merely press the reset button to restore power, and you’re back in business.
However, if this is a common occurrence and the outlet requires a reset weekly, it may indicate a faulty outlet and should be replaced.
Testing Your GFCI
Nothing lasts forever, and GFCI outlets are no exception. These outlets come with a life expectancy of around 15 years. Despite their long life, it’s a good idea to test them periodically as they are susceptible to age and wear.
Test your GFCI outlet once a month by pressing the “test” button. You’ll hear a snap as the outlet trips and the power shuts off. You can confirm the power is off by plugging in a lamp or any other corded item to check for power. Once you are sure there is no power going to the device, unplug it and push the “reset” button on the GFCI to restore power to the outlet.
Find an Electrician Near Me
At MZ Electric, our commitment to our customers is unparalleled. With competitive rates and an emphasis on complete customer satisfaction, our licensed team of electricians services the entire Littleton, Colorado area. Contact us today for GFCI outlet installation or any other electrical service you require.