two outlets in the wall

What Is a GFCI Outlet & What Does It Do?

One of the first things that most people learn about electricity is that electricity and water don’t mix very well. Water is an excellent conductor, and even a small amount of water can conduct an immense amount of current and voltage, causing electrocution and serious injuries or worse. This is particularly troubling in areas where electricity can help us but water might be present, such as in bathrooms, kitchens, or even outside where weather may become a factor.

As such, electrical safety is an ongoing battle and technology has continually evolved to make using electricity around water safer and less likely to cause a serious injury. Today, that technology can be found in ground fault circuit interrupter outlets, or GFCI for short.

What Is a GFCI Adapter?

A GFCI is a protection device designed to protect people against electric shock by essentially acting as a “kill switch” for the electricity flowing through an outlet if it detects a sudden massive burst of current. It does this by monitoring the current flow between the “hot” and the grounded “neutral” conductors. If there’s a surge on the “hot” side but not on the grounded “neutral” side, the electricity is flowing to the ground through a different source, which is usually causing a shock, or spark. Thus, the breaker trips and the safety trigger shuts off the outlet.

The hope is that by cutting off the current, the exposure to high voltage and current is so minimal that it limits the shock to nothing more than a simple jolt that does little to no serious harm or damage.

Outlets equipped with a GFCI are easy to pick out: they are outlets equipped with two buttons: one reading “test” and the other reading “reset.” Believe it or not, you probably have at least one of them installed somewhere in your house already, most likely in your bathroom, kitchen, or in an outdoor location that may be exposed to rain or other weather conditions.

Where Do I Need GFCI Outlets?

While GFCI outlets are a viable safety feature on every outlet in your home, they’re only really necessary in outlets where water or other electrocution hazards may come into play. We’ve mentioned the three biggest areas already: bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor outlet receptacles.

However, garages and laundry rooms are also areas where a GFCI adapter is a smart idea. Garages are particularly prone to frayed or damaged cords or cables and laundry rooms may deal with wet laundry or even a rare but still possible machine leak resulting in flooding damage.

Finally, any floor-installed outlet should be a GFCI adapter. You never know when someone walking along with a glass of water may trip, fall over, and spill the water, causing the circuit to short and cause a serious injury.

One thing is common with all GFCI outlet wherever you may install them: they need to be tested regularly. To test them, simply press the “test” button and the “reset” button should pop out. If it doesn’t, the GFCI is no longer providing protection and the outlet needs to be replaced. If it does, simply press the reset button back in and it should lock into place to bring power back to the outlet.

Do you need GFCI outlets installed in your home? Trust the professionals at All Pro Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical! Call us at (909) 253-0664 to request more information today.