Your home most likely is equipped with GFCI outlets. These outlets normally have two buttons, in the middle, one marked “test” and the other marked “reset.” Our company, Magpie Property Inspections inspects homes throughout the Denver Metropolitan area, and we check the functionality of these devices during each home inspection. You may find them in some or all of these locations of your home:
A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is an electrical outlet with a device that shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, and/or in an unbalanced level. They are placed in areas, for example, where water sources are present and it is possible for current to contact water which will draw the current outside its intended route, normally the wiring and/or the appliance being used.
A GFCI works by monitoring the current which leaves a power source, such as the ungrounded or live wire and checks it against the current which returns to the neutral wire in the electrical system. If they become unequal due to a fault in the system, or an unusual demand on the system, or the current is somehow leaking in an unwanted way, the GFCI shuts the power off. The outlet will keep shutting off until the source of the problem is corrected. If this is occurring in one of your outlets, a qualified should be consulted to evaluate the outlet and system. These units can become damaged or wear out, so it is recommended that they be tested monthly.
The use of GFCI’s has evolved over the years, and current electrical codes require that GFCI outlets be installed in more locations that in years past. You can check with you local building department or a qualified professional for current requirements. Although GFCI protection may not have been required at the time your home was built in all of these areas, for safety reasons, consider upgrading the electrical system to include GFCI protection at the following locations:
- Crawlspace (at or below grade)
- Unfinished basements
- Laundry rooms
- Within 6 feet of all plumbing fixtures