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How Does a GFCI Outlet Work?

Posted on: June 3, 2015

You may have heard the term GFCI from your electrician before. But what exactly does it mean? And is that type of outlet really necessary in your home or building?

We all know that water and electricity don’t mix. That’s what makes electrical outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms where water is used so tricky. To reduce the chance of electrocutions, burns, and shocks, virtually all North American building codes require that ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (GFCIs) be installed where there is water nearby. GFCI outlets have a built-in circuit breaker that instantly stops the flow of electricity when it senses a surge.

The Importance of Your GFCI Outlet

A GFCI outlet not only helps keep you and your family or building occupants from getting shocks and burns, but it helps prevent electrical fires. In the even that there is an electrical fire, it can lessen the severity and any damage.

A GFCI outlet is important not only to meeting local building code requirements, but also to help prevent potentially-fatal accidents.

Testing your GFCI outlets

GFCI outlets are designed with a red button that activates the outlet after the built-in breaker is tripped, and a black button that tests the outlet to make sure that the breaker is working properly. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that all ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets be tested in the following intervals:

  • At least once a month
  • After installation
  • After any electrical power outage
  • Additionally, as recommended by the manufacturer

To test your ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets, plug a lamp into the outlet. Turn the lamp on and push the black test button. If the lamp goes out, the outlet is working properly. If the lamp remains lit, contact a licensed electrician to evaluate the problem. Electrical and wiring issues make poor DIY projects and are best left to electricians who are trained to safely handle electrical current and wiring.

Kolb Electric Offers GFCI Inspections, Testing & Troubleshooting for DC-Area Homes & Businesses

At Kolb Electric, we want to help you keep your home or building safe in the Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, DC areas. We can save you time by inspecting and testing all of the ground-fault circuit interrupter outlets in your interior space and addressing any electrical issues we may discover during the tests. To learn more about electrical safety and GFCI outlets and/or to schedule a service appointment, call us at 877 287-1179. We’ve been helping Mid-Atlantic homeowners like you with their electrical needs since 1925.

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