What is the Purpose of a GFCI

What is the Purpose of a GFCI

The purpose of a GFCI is to potentially save your life or the life of a loved one. It is a type of outlet that gives you an extra layer of protection against shock because it is susceptible to the slightest variation in the current blowing through it. For example, a regular grounded outlet is protected by a circuit breaker designed to cut power to the outlet when the current outreach the breaker’s capacity is typically 15 to 20 amps.

In the case of a bathroom outlet, let’s say you’re filling the sink with water and drying your hair when your friend walks into the bathroom and scares you. You drop the dryer into the water, and without thinking, you climb into the sink to get the dryer. Suppose the breaker works correctly in a situation like this. In that case, it will cut off the flow of electricity to the regular outlet but not before giving you a potentially healthy shock that, in some cases, could be fatal.

Now, the same scenario in a case like this with a GFCI plug would trip as soon as it detected the slightest variation in the current, which could save your life. That’s why this type of outlet GFCI is required in the kitchen counters, bathrooms, around the pool, or in any source of running water in common areas. If you have GFCI outlets, you can test them by pressing the test button in the center. 

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How Do GFCI Outputs Work?

With the GFCI outputs, you can see that it has a red button if you can read it, which is very difficult to do, you see that this button says reset. The black button below says test. Now, you may not realize that the GFCI outputs perform an essential function in your home. So, what happens is that if a scenario arises, that can create a discharge, the socket will trigger itself and cut power not only to this socket but to any other socket that is on the same circuit.

You’ve probably had this scenario before when you’re in the bathroom, you’re going to plug in your hairdryer. You don’t have power, or you’re in the kitchen, and you want to plug in the blender, you know, to make a little frozen drink, and again no power. When this happens, your first reaction is often to call an electrician, which seems logical. Still, it could end up costing you a lot of money for a minimal and easily solved matter. Usually, when you have an issue with your outlets in one of these areas that I described earlier, without power, it is most likely caused by a GFCI plug that trips. 

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What to Do When a GFCI Outlet Trips?

The first action you should take is to inspect all your GFCI plugs in the performance area. If the problem was in the kitchen, the plug is most likely in the kitchen. If the problem is outside, the outlet may be in the garage or even the basement. Sometimes it may take a little searching once the output is found that is triggered. You will notice that the reset button protrudes more than usual, which means that this output has been fired. Basically, you lean over and press the button; now, I bet once you’ve done that, you’ll realize that your blender works like your hairdryer, and you’ll be able to get back to work. 

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How to Test and Reset a GFCI Outlet

To test it, press the test button, and you will hear a click that indicates the output has been turned off. And then, to restart it, press the reset button. If the reset button comes in and clicks in place, you will know that your outlet is working correctly. When your GFCI is working correctly, it’s probably not a bad idea to be tested out regularly. This is a relatively simple process that anyone can do at home.

The process for testing the output of your GFCI is straightforward. As I mentioned earlier, you have a test and a reset button. So, you have tested the outlet, and everything seems to be working correctly. You are ready; however, there are a couple of scenarios where you will find that the outlet is not working the way you expect it. In each case, you may need to call a professional electrician. Still, before you do, I will explain three straightforward steps you can take to fix these problems yourself as follows: 

  • Step 1: When the reset button is initially pressed but then immediately triggers again. Usually, this means that something in the circuit is causing the trigger switch to trip. Now, the way you can solve this is to unplug everything else in that circuit first. If you’re in the kitchen, that means unplugging the various appliances connected to the sockets on your counter. Once you’ve done that, reboot and see what happens; if it still doesn’t reboot, then you’ll probably need professional help.
  • Step 2: You press the reset button, and nothing happens; in this case, there is either no power in the outlet or the GFCI has failed.
  • Step 3: Before you pick up the phone, check that there is no switch tripped on the main electrical panel. If the switch in that area trips, then the GFCI plug will not work. Once you confirm that the switches are in the [ON] position and everything else has been checked, if your outlet is still not working correctly, it’s time to call the professionals. 

Why Don’t Older Houses Have GFCI Outlets?

Suppose your home initially did not have GFCI outlets when it was built. In that case, it is probably an exception to the electrical code that was not required when the house was built. However, as soon as you upgrade the outlets, you must upgrade them to the GFCI type. Home inspectors look for safety issues when they inspect your property and will look for the presence of improper operation of these outlets. 

Where Do GFCI Outlets Need to Be Installed?

As I mentioned earlier, it is recommended that you install GFCI outlets in the bathrooms, kitchen countertops, and any wet bars, especially if the outlets are within six feet of the sink. Generally, all outdoor outlets should be GFCI-type, especially if they are within 20 feet of a pool, hot tub, or spa. It’s common to find a beautiful new kitchen where the landlord doesn’t update the outlets.

Home inspectors look for safety and functionality issues and don’t necessarily allow weatherization items correctly or not. That’s why you should always do a search of the permit history on a property you are about to purchase. Now, less than $15 per GFCI outlet is a real bargain. If your home doesn’t have GFCI outlets, I recommend you consult your electrician today to have them installed.