Safety is the biggest concern when it comes to electricity. The risk of getting severely shocked or electrocuted from a ground fault have been greatly reduced since ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) were developed. Since the 1970s, electrocutions have been reduced by 83% with the introduction of GFCIs. The law requires all new homes to have these outlets installed. Older homes should also have them installed because 47% of today’s electrocutions could be prevented in older homes if GFCIs were installed.
What is a Ground Fault?
There is a flow of energy present within a home. This flow of energy is contained within wires that are covered with plastic or rubber-based insulating material. This electrical flow will move through these wires to the switches, outlets, gadgets and appliances in your home. However, electricity can have a “mind” of its own. A ground fault happens when electricity takes an unintended path to the ground, like with lighting strikes. It can also happen when electrical currents escape through insulated wires from a cord that is damaged, faulty wiring or when it flows through a different conductor. Unfortunately, this different conductor can be a human and can result in electrical shock or electrocution. Water is great at conducting electricity and increases the chances of ground faults in areas where water is used in the home. GFCIS should be installed in outlets that service kitchen countertops, laundry rooms, utility rooms garaged and unfinished basements They should also be installed on outlets that are within six feet of sinks, washing machines, water heaters or a wet bar.
How Does a GFCI Work?
The sole purpose of a GFCI outlet is to prevent electrical injury to humans. This is something that regular outlets just can’t do. A regular outlet has two, three-prong plug-in slots. GFCI outlets have the same but they also have a “TEST” button and a “RESET” button. When the normal flow of electrical currents is interrupted by a ground fault, the flow of electricity surges and jumps to the unintended conductor. A GFCI outlet has a sensor built into it that monitors the electrical flow through the wires. If a ground fault is detected, the GFCI will shut the flow of electricity to the outlet with an internal switch that is built into it You may still experience a painful shock but the GFCI will prevent a prolonged surge of electricity that can cause injuries and can kill.
Can I Install a GFCI Outlet Myself?
These outlets can be replaced by someone with basic knowledge of electrical wiring when swapping out a three-prong outlet, those that have two plugin slots and a hole. If the outlets only have two slots without a third hole, it indicates that older wiring is present and needs the experience of a licensed electrician. There is no additional care of GFCI outlets but it’s a good idea to test them from time to time. Simply press the Test button. You will hear a snap sound that trips the outlet and cuts off the power. You can plug a lamp into the outlet to confirm the power is off. The lamp should not turn on.