What You Should Know About GFCI Outlets

We inspect several homes that do not meet safety guidelines when it comes to GFCI outlets. lightswitch GFCI outlets are specifically designed to prevent potential electrocutions caused by accidents or equipment malfunctions.  Sometimes homes are still within code requirements and do not have GFCI outlets, because code requirements at the time of construction did not require GFCI outlets.  Integrity Home Inspections reports the lack of GFCI outlets as a SAFETY HAZZARD.  If you purchase an older home where GFCI outlets were not required then we highly recommend you have them installed at some point in the near future.

How do GFCI outlets work?

There are two wires carrying power to each outlet, a black wire and white wire.  The black wire carries power to the outlet while the white wire carries power from the outlet to complete the curcuit.  The GFCI mechanism is basically a breaker at each outlet.  The GFCI monitors the flow of current between the black wire and white wire.  If the current flow does not stay equal then the GFCI will trip, cutting the power in .04 seconds.  If, for example, you would come in contact with either the hot side OR neutral side of the outlet then you would change the rate of flow, causing the power to be cut by the GFCI.  If, however, you would come in contact with both sides of the outlet at the same time then the flow would remain equal and the device might not trip.  These devices are intended to prevent electrocutions, but any outlet, GFCI or not, should be treated with respect and care.

Where should you find GFCI receptacles?

GFCI receptacles should be found in the following areas:

  • Bathrooms and Kitchens

  • Garages and outbuildings

  • Unfinished Basements and Crawlspaces

  • Outdoor Receptacles

  • Any area with sinks or wet-bars

We want to see GFCI protection (or outlets slaved into GFCI receptacles) in all counter high outlets or near a water source.  GFCI protection can be found in the breakers installed in your electrical box.  In this case, GFCI outlets are not needed.  

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