Last updated: 9/12/2023
Inexpensive and easily installed, GFCI outlets are essential for safety and required in today’s homes by National Electrical Code. Why are these devices so important? The experts at Mr. Electric want you to understand why GFCI protection in moisture-prone areas should never go overlooked.
What is a GFCI Outlet?
Unlike regular outlets and circuit breakers designed to protect your home’s electrical system, GFCI outlets, or ‘ground fault circuit interrupters,’ are designed to guard people against electrical shock. Easy to identify, GFCI outlets are recognizable by the ‘test’ and ‘reset’ buttons on the outlet face.
What Do GFCI Outlets Do?
GFCI outlets prevent serious electric shock and reduce the risk of electrical fire by monitoring electrical current, cutting power or ‘tripping’ when the outlets detect an imbalance or excess current flow down an unintended path. Super-sensitive and with a far faster response time than circuit breakers or fuses, GFCIs are designed to respond before electricity can affect your heartbeat – in as little as one-thirtieth of a second – and will even work in outlets that aren’t grounded.
Where Should GFCIs Be Used?
GFCI outlets required by code in moist or wet locations of the home to protect people from being shocked, including:
- Kitchens (including with dishwashers)
- Laundry and utility rooms
- Garages and outbuildings
- Crawlspaces and unfinished basements
- Wet bars
- Spa and pool areas
- Outdoor areas
Why are GFCIs a Safer Outlet Option?
Before GFCI requirements, nearly 800 people died annually from household electrocutions, versus less than 200 people annually today – and that’s not the whole story. On average, electricity causes more than 140,000 fires, 4,000 injuries, and 400 deaths annually. How low would these numbers be if all homes employed proper GFCI protection? Inexpensive and easily swapped for run-of-the-mill outlets, even older homes ‘grandfathered in’ by code should swiftly swap traditional – and especially ungrounded 2-prong outlets – for GFCI protection. GFCIs have been required by code outdoors and in bathrooms since the 1970s, and are hardly a new concept. Designed to safeguard people, not wiring, they are an essential safety feature today’s homeowners and homebuyers look to for protection, and can make or break an electrical home safety inspection.
Half of All American Families Fail to Test Properly - Don't Be One of Them
What you don’t know can hurt you. Nearly half of all American families fail to properly test their GFCIs according to operational and safety recommendations. How can you avoid becoming a statistic? Test all GFCI outlets in your home regularly, at least once a month at a minimum, and after storms as well. Testing is fast and easy, simply press the ‘test’ button, ensuring electrical flow has been cut off with a nightlight or other small appliance, then press ‘reset’ to restore power to the outlet.