When Do I Need GFCI Receptacles
The electricity receptacles in your home are not created equal. This is especially true if your home was built sometime in the 1980s when a change in receptacles started taking off. Chances are you’ve seen the difference among receptacles but maybe aren’t familiar with how they are different.
A Standard Receptacle vs. a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
Electrical outlets are typically looked over during an inspection to ensure they adequately installed and correctly placed. Standard receptacles are usually found in living spaces, bedrooms, hallways, and the like. GFCI receptacles are placed in environments that share electricity and water, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
GFCI outlets (also called GFI) usually look different and have little buttons on them that say “reset” and “test.” This receptacle is designed to keep people from electrical shocks by monitoring the current at the receptacle site. On one side of this outlet, the GFI controls the “hot” wiring against the other side of the outlet considered the “neutral” side. When there is any change in hot vs. neutral current, the outlet will shut off the receptacle.
Where Should GFI Outlets be Installed
In today’s building codes, outlets that are located near areas that are prone to moisture (kitchens and baths) should be outfitted with a GFI outlet. Here are other places that these receptacles should be installed or may be required by code. Garages, crawl spaces, unfinished basements, laundry rooms, utility closets, bars, kitchenettes, and all exterior sites.
How Should a GFI Outlet be Installed
Anyone unfamiliar with how electrical work is done should hire a professional electrician to install the outlets. For consumers who have a decent amount of knowledge or experience with electrical work, they may feel comfortable enough to install these on their own. There are plenty of tutorials online; again, these should only be used if you are comfortable with working around electricity. This can be a dangerous project.
How To Check Your GFI Outlets
The easiest way to check your outlets to see if they are working is to plug something simple into one, like a lamp. Turn the lamp on, and press the “test” button. If the light stayed on, your GFI outlet isn’t working, and you should have it looked at by an electrician. Try also hitting the reset button. If the light comes back on, you may just have needed to reset it, and it’s likely working fine.
A Final Note
You might also want to get familiar with your circuit breaker box as these breakers can also have GFIs installed on them for added extra protection. GFIs at this location will protect from overloading as well as the fixture or appliance it serves. You can always have an electrician walk you through your breaker box, so you know how it functions if you’re ever faced with a problem.