GFCI Outlets – What are they and why do I need them?
GFCI Outlets – What’s all the fuss about?
I’ll explain what GFCI outlets do and why they’re so important.
GFCI outlets are required in all the areas around water in your home. These areas include the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry area, outdoors, garage, and around pools, spas, and other water features.
Electricity can be dangerous, especially when your hands are wet or there is water on the floor/ground. If you come into contact with electricity in these situations, you can get severely shocked or electrocuted. It takes very little electricity to stop your heart.
If this happens, a working GFCI will stop the flow of electricity before you can get hurt. That is why it is so important to make sure they’re working by testing them regularly. You don’t need a fancy tester like home inspectors use. All GFCI outlets have a “Test” and “Reset” button. We recommend testing them monthly. GFCI’s are designed to provide additional protection for non-GFCI outlets downstream on the same circuit. So, let’s say you have 5 outlets in your kitchen on the same circuit, you only need 1 GFCI to protect them all.
One thing to note: do not paint a GFCI outlet! Painting an outlet seals the buttons and it will no longer trip. Hardware supply stores sell GFCI outlets in several colors so you don’t have to paint them.
Older Home Wiring
One additional use for a GFCI outlet is when replacing an ungrounded 2 prong outlet. If adding a ground to an outlet in an old house is not feasible, this is an acceptable option for shock protection. Without a ground, a person can become the ground which could also cause electrocution. The GFCI will protect someone from getting shocked but the downside is that it does not provide an equipment ground for electrical devices that require them. Also, a surge protector needs a ground to work properly and a GFCI does not replace an actual ground.
I hope this gives some insight into the importance of having properly installed and working GFCI’s in your home. If you’re unsure of how to test your GFCI’s, give us a call and we’ll help you out. If you live in the Los Gatos, CA area and need to replace any non-functional GFCI outlets, you can call Handy Dave and he’ll be happy to help you out. Dave wrote a great article on the importance of GFCI outlets. Thanks for reading and have a great day!