Everything you need to know about GFCI outlets

Norman electrician, old home rewiring, GFCI outlet

The most deadly electrical current is 120 volts, and not because higher voltages won’t kill you. Every home is full of conveniently placed outlets to plug in your phones, computers, hair dryers, kitchen appliances and anything else that demands electricity to operate.

These outlets carry 120 volts, and when something goes wrong, it can be deadly. In fact, every year 200 people die because of the outlets in their home.

It’s good news that some outlets have built-in safety features.

Those small buttons ready to protect you on the outlets in the bathroom, kitchen or garage (or other rooms where circuits can regularly come in contact with water). They are called Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI), and they were invented in 1961 to help reduce deaths from electric shock.

GFCI outlets can cut the current

If there is an imbalance in the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral, the GFCI will trip the circuit and cut off power to the outlet before it results in an injury to the individual using the appliance.

It can sense even a four or five milliamp mismatch, and stop the current in as little as .025 seconds.

If you turn on a blender in the kitchen and the GFCI trips the circuit on your outlet, the appliance will stop before it causes an electric shock. The same is true for hair dryers and power tools. Spas also need GFCI protection.

Some appliances come with an integrated GFCI on the cord. If the current doesn’t return after resetting the outlet, make sure the appliance doesn’t also need a reset.

You tripped the GFCI outlet now what?

Most of the time, the GFCI doesn’t do anything because there aren’t any problems. If you do trip the circuit, you need to know how to get it back on, and the process is simple because it includes only two buttons (RESET and TEST).

The top button will reset the circuit after it is tripped. The bottom button is important too. It is a tester mechanism so you can ensure your outlet is working properly. When you push it, the power should stop, and it should need a reset. If not, then it needs to be fixed.

You should check the GFCI outlets in your home monthly to prevent electrical shock.

How to install a new GFCI Outlet

Step 1: Start by removing the outlet plate cover.

Step 2: Remove the wires in the following order: black (hot) wire, white (neutral) wire, and finally the ground wire.

Step 3: Strip the neutral wire and ground wire by approximately half an inch.

Step 4: Attach the GFCI in the following order: ground wire: white wire and then black wire. The white wire will attach to the silver screw, and the black wire will attach to the brass-colored screw.

Step 5: Gently push the wires back into the socket, replace the cover and test the new GFCI.

While it is possible to install your own GFCI outlet, we highly recommend you consider hiring professionals to do the work.

At A&P Homes Electric we have been keeping families safe for more than 50 years. Let us help you. We offer outlet and wiring repairs, so you can have peace of mind knowing your GFCI outlets are working properly. Call us today at 405-326-6117 to schedule a free estimate or fill out our online contact form.


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