What Are GFCI Outlets?

What Are GFCI Outlets?

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If you take a look around your home, you’ll notice different types of outlets installed. Basic outlets sit throughout the house for powering lamps, electronics, and other devices. Larger outlets allow you to plug in major appliances such as a clothes dryer. In the bathroom and kitchen, you may notice GFCI outlets, but do you know what they do and why you need them? Estes Services answers what GFCI outlets are and why they are important to have at home.

What Is a Ground Fault?

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. Before we explain what GFCI outlets are, let’s first discuss ground faults. A ground fault is a term that describes an unwanted electrical path created between a source of electricity and a grounded surface. Technically, a ground fault is a type of short circuit.

When a ground fault occurs, electricity is no longer flowing in the intended path. Its new path doesn’t have the same resistance as the normal circuit and thus the flow of electricity can increase significantly, and rather quickly. If a person were to come into contact with a ground fault, electric shock will occur.

What Are GFCI Outlets?

With some knowledge of ground faults, we can now explain what ground fault circuit interrupter outlets are. GFCI outlets are a type of electrical device designed to protect people from electric shocks due to ground faults. The device works by constantly monitoring the electrical current running through the circuit. When changes in current are detected, indicating a ground fault – this causes the GFCI outlet to shut off electricity through that circuit in an instant. You’ll be able to tell GFCI outlets from standard receptacles because they have two buttons positioned between the two receptacles where you are able to plug in cords.

Ground faults are more common in certain areas of the home, particularly near plumbing and water as well as parts of the home below ground level, such as in a basement. They typically happen due to damage to electrical equipment that is plugged into a circuit or contact between water and an electrical device or wire. This is why building and electrical codes now specify the installation of GFCI outlets and circuit breakers in certain locations throughout the home, in bathrooms, at kitchen counter level, laundry rooms, garages, basements, and even outdoors around the house.

Does Your Home Have GFCI Outlets?

In older homes across Atlanta, GFCI outlets may not be installed. The National Electric Code did not require GFCI outlets or circuit breakers to be installed in new construction or major home renovations until the 1970s. Ground fault circuit interrupters were first required for bathrooms in 1975; kitchens in 1987; unfinished basements in 1990; and near laundry or utility sinks in 2005.

If your home does not have GFCI outlets installed, it’s wise to make this upgrade for your safety and the safety of your loved ones. A licensed electrician can install GFCI outlets and circuit breakers in the proper areas throughout your home and ensure they work correctly.

GFCI Outlet Testing

To ensure GFCI outlets are working correctly, regular testing is necessary. You should test each GFCI outlet at least once per month and after any power failure in the home. To test your GFCI outlets, follow the manufacturer’s instructions or the steps below:

  1. Take a lamp and plug it into the outlet, then turn it on.
  2. Push the GFCI outlet’s TEST button – this should cause the lamp to turn off, as it cuts off power to the circuit.
  3. Push the GFCI outlet’s RESET button, which should turn the lamp on again.

If the lamp did not turn off when you pressed the GFCI outlet’s TEST button and/or did not come back on when you pressed the RESET button, the receptacle needs to be replaced. 

GFCI Outlet Installation in Atlanta, GA

What GFCI outlets are important for Atlanta homeowners to know. If your home is missing these important safety devices, contact Estes Services today. Our licensed Georgia electricians can install GFCIs throughout your home and make sure they work correctly to protect you and your loved ones.