Unless your name happens to be Benjamin Franklin or you have never used an electrical appliance before, you are probably familiar with electrical outlets that have little “test” and “reset” buttons in them. But did you know that those buttons are there for a very important reason; perhaps one that could end up saving your life?
Ground-fault circuit-interrupters, better known as GFCIs or GFIs, are electrical safety devices that are designed to trip electrical circuits when they detect ground faults or leakage in current. In other words, if the electricity coming out of a GFCI outlet flows someplace it’s not supposed to, for example into your body after dropping your hair dryer in the bathroom sink, the GFCI will detect the interruption in current and cut the power. But GFCI’s can only do their job of protecting you and your family if they are installed correctly in every location as required by current code and are functioning properly. Which is why they need to be tested often!
Where to Install/Use GFCIs
According to the National Electrical Code (NEC), circuits that require GFCI protection include:
Underwater pool lighting (since 1968)
Outdoors (since 1973)
Bathrooms (since 1975)
Garages (since 1978)
Kitchens (since 1987)
Crawl spaces and unfinished basements (since 1990)
Wet bar sinks (since 1993)
Laundry and utility sinks (since 2005)
Test every GFCI:
At least once a month
After a power failure
According to the manufacturer’s instructions.
How to test a GFCI:
If you do not have the manufacturer’s instructions the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you follow this procedure:
1) Plug a lamp into the outlet and turn the lamp on.
2) Press the GFCI’s test button. Did the light go out? If not, the GFCI is not working or has not been correctly installed. Contact a qualified electrician to correct the wiring and/or replace the defective GFCI.
3) Press the reset button. Did the light come back on? If not, replace the GFCI