What are those weird outlets with reset buttons in my Kitchen and Bathroom? Those are called GFCI breaker outlets, and I am going to give you a few tips on how they should be maintained. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters or GFCI’s are electrical outlets installed in areas where there is water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and garages.
GFCI’s have been a United States requirement since 1973. They stop the flow of electricity to the outlet by interrupting or opening the circuit if it senses abnormal current to the circuit’s ground. This will prevent electric shock to someone that is using a device plugged into the GFCI outlet. These outlets are built to trip or turn off if it senses any abnormal flow of electrical current. It should be noted that GFCI’s are not for large appliances such as refrigerators or for equipment like power tools. The outlet will trip on these devices.
GFCI Service Life
Did you know that GFCI outlets save thousands of lives every year by Preventing electrical shocks caused by moisture, misused cords and many other factors?
Did you also know that GFCI’s have the average life span of 10 years? Or if you live in where there a lot of storms and power surges; your GFCI outlet could wear down in 5 years or even less than that.
Testing Your GFCI
You should check your GFCI’s monthly (If not monthly, at least quarterly) by pushing the red test button; easy right? This will trip the circuit so you can then reset it. If an outlet stops working, it may have tripped and the culprit may be a faulty appliance. Just one of these GFCI’s could control three or four of your nearby outlets. If you press the test button but it doesn’t trip, you should replace it.
Using an Electrical Plug Tester
Pushing the test button helps but if you want to get technical the best way to test a GFCI outlet is with an electrical plug tester. Electrical plug testers are fairly cheap and easy to use. Just plug a tester in the outlet, press the button on the tester, and see whether your GFCI will trip. The Indicator light on the tester can also show if an outlet is wired properly by finding key problems like reversed wires, an open ground, an open neutral or an open hot wire.
Now you know what GFCI’s are, how often you need to maintain them and what tools to use to check them properly. We hope this will help you keep your GFCI’s up to date!
Call our team of Seattle electricians today if you need to have a GFCI outlet installed or replaced in your home or business!