Over the years I’ve heard people call GFCI outlets all kinds of crazy names! It doesn’t matter what you call them, as long as you have them in the correct locations in your home. They are recommended in wet or damp locations, such as around your kitchen and bathroom sinks, exterior outlets, and in garages and unfinished basements. You should contact an electrician for the correct locations in your home.
A GFI is actually an extremely sensitive electrical plug that is designed to stop the flow of electricity at the smallest sign that something could be wrong in your kitchen and bathroom. It wasn’t that long ago, that people were getting electrocuted, from hair dryers falling into their bathtubs.
How Does a GFCI Outlet Work?
A GFCI outlet measures the voltage on the hot and the neutral wires, if there is any difference, the outlet will trip. This type of outlet is more sensitive than a breaker and acts faster, which is an important safety feature. A GFCI outlet has a “Test” and a “Reset” button. Pressing the “Test” button will trip the outlet and open the circuit. Pressing the “Reset” will restore the circuit. If pressing the test button does not work, then replace the GFCI outlet. If the outlet does pop when you press the “Test” button, but the outlet still has power, the outlet is wired wrong. A GFCI outlet that is not wired correctly is dangerous and it should be fixed immediately.
If you have an outlet, or a series of outlets that do not work, it may be because a GFCI outlet is tripped. Check the circuit breaker first, if that is not tripped, then look for a GFCI outlet. Sometimes this can be an adventure in itself. I once tripped a GFCI outlet during an inspection and spent the next twenty minutes trying to find it! Turns out, the homeowner, who was not home at the time, had built storage racks in the garage in front of the tripped outlet. I had to remove the storage from the racks just to find the outlet, then reset it and put the storage back in its place. I told the buyers that I was doing the inspection for, to leave this area clear once they move into the house!
Another thing to remember about GFCI outlets is that they may trip without you noticing. Why is this important to know? Well, here’s a lesson that you can learn from my misfortune as a new inspector. I tripped a GFCI outlet on the exterior of a home while checking the outlet with my tester. Once inside the house, I forgot to check the location of the outlet and reset it. Bad move, bucko! There was a deep freezer in the garage with around $450 of meat inside. Once the homeowner realized that the freezer was not on anymore, this turned into $450 of spoiled meat. Who do you think paid for the new meat? Right, me! Expensive lesson, and they never even invited me over for dinner!
Experts you Can Trust
Price is important, but when choosing an electrician judge the entire picture an electrician is showing you character, expertise, the ease of working with him or her, and overall value. A large part of an electrician’s value is that he/she gets the job done right and safely without taking too much of your time and inconveniencing you. A very competent electrician can save you money by suggesting more efficient ways to do a job or to save on electricity. When you enjoy a good relationship with your electrician, it can save you both time and money. Give us a call about your next electrical project and we will be happy to help.