Outlets play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of your home and loved ones, surpassing their perceived significance. These seemingly insignificant devices serve as the access point for electricity, a potent force that, if mishandled, can result in severe injuries or even loss of life. When functioning correctly, electricity follows a path from the right prong of a device’s plug and returns through the left prong. However, electricity tends to seek the shortest route to the ground, referred to as a “ground fault.” A ground fault can occur intentionally, with electricity redirected to the ground through a wire, or unintentionally. Regrettably, unplanned ground faults within a household can lead to electrocutions, as the current may inadvertently flow through a person’s body.
GFCI outlets are an important feature of any home or business, they protect users from electric shocks, fatal electrocutions, and electrical fires by using what is called a ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI.
What is a GFCI Outlet?
A ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI outlet serves as a vigilant guardian that continuously monitors electrical current and promptly cuts off power in the presence of a ground fault. With impressive responsiveness, GFCIs can deactivate electricity within a mere 1/30th of a second upon detecting a minuscule power imbalance of just 0.006 amperes. There exist three primary types of GFCIs: receptacle-type (resembling a standard outlet), circuit breaker, and portable units commonly employed in construction settings. The most prevalent variant takes the form of a wall outlet, and it can be easily identified by the presence of “Test” and “Reset” buttons adorning its surface.
GFCI outlet are meant to protect you
Due to its predominantly water-based composition, the human body presents minimal resistance to electrical currents. This inherent conductivity renders touching a faulty electrical device and inadvertently completing a ground fault’s circuit path exceptionally hazardous. Prior to the implementation of the National Electrical Code’s mandate for GFCI installation in homes in 1975, electrocution claimed the lives of over 1,100 individuals. However, since then, there has been a remarkable 80% decrease, resulting in an approximate annual death toll of 200. The risk of electric shock is particularly heightened in areas with moisture, as water serves as a natural conductor of electricity. Consequently, residential electrical codes require the installation of GFCIs in the following spaces to mitigate these dangers:
- Spas and hot tubs
- Unfinished basements
- Laundry/utility rooms
- Outdoor hardwired outlets
Protection from Electrical Fires
Apart from the risks of electric shock, electricity can also lead to fatalities indirectly through fire incidents. According to estimates by the National Fire Protection Association, there were approximately 47,600 house fires attributed to electrical failure or malfunction each year from 2015 to 2019. These unfortunate incidents resulted in 390 deaths and 1,330 injuries annually. Homes become susceptible to electrical fires when wires are left exposed without proper insulation, whether due to aging or potential interference from rodents. Fortunately, GFCIs play a crucial role in fire prevention as well. By promptly shutting off power upon detecting a ground fault, they effectively reduce the risk of electrical fires, making them an invaluable safety measure.
Protects Appliances for longer use
Over time, the insulation of appliances can deteriorate, leading to electrical leaks within the appliance itself. In cases where the outer shell of the appliance is made of metal, these leaks can result in electric shock if touched. Moreover, regardless of the outer material, such leaks can cause damage to the appliance. However, with the presence of a GFCI outlet, the power imbalance resulting from these leaks is detected, prompting the circuit to trip. This not only protects individuals from potential electric shock but also safeguards the appliances from malfunctioning due to wiring shorts caused by power surges. The GFCI acts as a crucial safety mechanism, preventing both personal injuries and appliance damage in such scenarios.
Testing Your GFCI Outlet
It is highly recommended for homeowners to test their GFCI outlets on a monthly basis and after experiencing electrical storms. Despite the fact that many individuals do not regularly perform these tests, the process is quite simple. By pressing the “Reset” button on the GFCI outlet and plugging in a nightlight, one can easily determine its functionality. The nightlight should turn on, indicating that the outlet is supplying power. Subsequently, pressing the “Test” button should cause the light to turn off. If the light fails to turn off, it signifies that the GFCI outlet is not effectively tripping power and should be replaced by a professional electrician. It’s important to note that GFCI outlets naturally wear down over time and typically have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years at most. Therefore, regular testing and maintenance are essential to ensure their continued effectiveness in protecting against electrical hazards.
Schedule an Electrician to Install GFCI Outlets
GFCI outlets serve as a straightforward yet highly effective measure to safeguard you and your family from significant electrical hazards. In addition to ensuring personal safety, these outlets play a crucial role in preventing property damage, including electrical fires, and preserving the longevity of appliances. If your home was constructed in 1975 or later, there should already be GFCI outlets installed. However, it’s important to note that the last adjustments to the National Electrical Code were made in 1999. Therefore, if your home was built before that year, there may be areas where GFCI outlets are absent and additional installation is necessary to enhance electrical safety.
Obrien Electrical Contractors are a perfect solution for your home’s electrical service in Aurora, Denver, Parker, and Littleton. Contact us for a free quote on installing or replacing your home’s GFCI outlets.