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What Is a GFCI Outlet & Where Is One Needed?

Stray electrical current from a damaged appliance, improper wiring, or accidental contact with water while using an electrical device can use serious injuries or even death. That is why the modern National Electrical Code (NEC) requires GFCI outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas where exposure to moisture is possible. They are an inexpensive and effective way to provide basic protection against electrical shocks, and they are required in all new homes or when doing renovations in older homes.

What Is a GFCI Outlet?

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. A GFCI outlet takes the place of a standard outlet in any location that may be exposed to moisture. It is identifiable by the addition of two buttons to control the GFCI functions, labeled “Test” and “Reset.”

A GFCI outlet constantly monitors the electrical current on the hot, neutral, and ground lines, and it can physically turn off the circuit if it detects any abnormalities in the flow of electricity. It can respond in 30 milliseconds or fewer, greatly reducing the risk of injury from electrical shocks. For instance, if you touch the metal case of an appliance with a damaged ground connection or drop a radio in a sink of water, the GFCI outlet will shut off the power before significant injury can occur.

A single GFCI outlet can protect multiple outlets on a circuit by connecting one or more standard outlets downstream from the GFCI outlet. Additionally, GFCI protection can also be added directly to the service panel with a GFCI breaker, protecting an entire circuit.

Where Are GFCI Outlets Required?

Code requires that GFCI outlets be used in any location that is six feet or closer to a plumbing fixture or moisture source. This includes multiple areas of a typical home, such as:

  • Kitchens
  • Bathrooms
  • Wet bars
  • Laundry rooms
  • Utility rooms
  • Garages
  • Crawlspaces
  • Unfinished basements
  • Exterior outlets
  • Pool, spa, and hot-tub outlets

They can also be used in older homes in certain circumstances to replace non-grounded outlets, providing some level of protection without a complete home rewiring.

Testing GFCI Outlets

GFCI outlets combine both electrical and mechanical components to shut off the circuit when a problem is detected. Occasionally, a GFCI outlet can fail, leaving the circuit without power or without protection from ground faults. It is important to test your GFCI outlets periodically, about once a month or so. Follow these steps to test each outlet:

  1. Press the “Test” button, which should turn off the circuit
  2. Make sure the power is off by plugging in a lamp, radio, or something similar
  3. Press the “Reset” button, which should turn the circuit back on
  4. Check the power by plugging your device back in

If any of the outlets fail the test, have them replaced by a professional electrician as soon as possible.

GFCI Outlet Installation & Replacement in Maryland

When you need a GFCI outlet installed or replaced, an arc-fault outlet installed, rewiring services, or any other home electrical services, contact our licensed, professional electricians at GAC Services. We offer electrical repairs, installations, and upgrades throughout Frederick County, Montgomery County, and the surrounding areas. With up-front pricing, a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and a superior customer service experience, you can count on us for all your electrical needs, as well as quality heating and air conditioning services!

Contact us online to schedule GFCI installation or replacement in Maryland!

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