We all use electrical outlets. In fact, most of our lives revolve around them—at home and at work. And while we don’t give much thought to how we use electrical outlets, it’s an important thing to consider. Especially if your outlets are not GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruption) outlets. But what is a GFCI outlet? And how do you know if it’s time to use them?
GFCI outlets are considered to be safer than a standard electrical outlet. Most homes and businesses have standard outlets unless they’ve had their electrical source updated within the last few years. That’s because GFCI outlets didn’t become popular in the mainstream market until the 1980’s. With standard electrical outlets, you have hot wires and neutral wires. Electricity comes into whatever you’re powering (like a phone, computer, or curling iron) through the hot wire and goes back through the neutral wire. But the problem arises when electricity goes beyond hot and neutral—and where there’s a water source.
With a standard outlet, the electrical current follows the path of least resistance. This means that if, for example, an appliance is faulty, a standard outlet could not protect someone from being electrocuted in the event the person was also wet—say from having recently taken a shower. However, a GFCI outlet will “trip” or turn off if there is a disruption in the normal flow of electricity. This happens within seconds—so quickly that a user would have no idea what just occurred! In fact, many users of GFCI outlets have become mildly annoyed with their electricity at some time or another. This is mainly due to a particular outlet continuing to trip when a certain appliance is used. But what most people don’t realize is that the GFCI outlet is actually, in many cases, saving them from serious injury or even death.
Today, it’s standard code for outlets being installed to be GFCI outlets. However, this wasn’t always the case, and many older homes do not have GFCI outlets. But they’re something every single homeowner should have. And they should only be installed by someone who understands electricity—such as a wire-savvy friend or a professional electrician. How do you know if you have GFCI outlets? It’s easy to tell them apart from standard outlets because they come equipped with two small buttons. One will say “reset” and the other will say “test.”
Be sure to walk through the rooms of your home where there’s a water source and check for GFCI outlets. Your kitchen, bathrooms, and even basement outlets, for instance, should be GFCI.