• IES Home Services

Ask the electrician: do you need a GFCI Outlet?

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are special outlets designed to prevent injury from electrical shock. You might better know them as the outlets with the TEST/RESET button in the middle. Since their invention in 1971, electrocutions from consumer products have dropped by 95%, so there’s no doubt they’re good at what they do.

While they’re not necessary for every outlet in your home, the short answer to the question is yes; you absolutely need GFCI outlets. Not only are they required by law, but they’re the best way to prevent electrocutions from electrical appliances and equipment.

How Does a GFCI Work?

Ground fault circuit interrupters are designed to do just that: interrupt ground faults. Electricity follows a circuit. Power comes from the outlet, through your appliances, and then back into the outlet to complete the circuit. Sometimes, that circuit can be interrupted by a grounded conductor. Sometimes, that grounded conductor can be a person.

Imagine you’re using a hairdryer in the bathroom. Electricity is flowing from the outlet, through the dryer, then back into the wall. The circuit is safe and contained. Now, what happens if there’s an exposed wire inside the handle and you touch the sink faucet? The metal pipes running throughout your home are likely grounded, making an attractive path for electricity. Instead of completing its safe circuit, the electricity could jump to your hand, run through your body, and down into the pipes, causing electrocution.

A GFCI will detect this power imbalance and shut down the current in 1/40 of a second, reducing the chance of electrical shock. The hairdryer shuts down, you press the RESET button on the outlet, and continue with your day (and your life).

The Best Places to Install a GFCI Receptacle

GFCI outlets are best installed near sources of water like sinks and showers, and in damp locations like crawl spaces and outdoor spaces. The National Electrical Code

(NEC) requires GFCI protection in the following locations:

  • Bathrooms

  • Garages

  • Kitchens

  • Outdoor receptacles

  • Crawl spaces

  • Laundry rooms

  • Wet bar sinks

You should also plug into a GFCI outlet any time you’re operating electrical appliances or equipment, especially if you’re using an outdoor extension cord. You never know when you could accidentally ground yourself.

Who Needs a GFCI?

Everyone! Not only will they help to keep you and your family safe from electrocution, but GFCIs are required by law under the National Electrical Code. Regulations have changed over the years, so if you live in an older home (especially if it was built before 1975), you might not have the recommended GFCI protection.

Luckily, installing a GFCI outlet is a quick and easy process. Electrical work—no matter how simple—can be dangerous, so it’s highly recommended that you hire a professional to install your new outlets. If you live in an older home or just want some additional protection for you and your family, contact the experts at IES Home Electrical Services. We’ll make sure your house is up to code. As always, if you’re not completely happy with our service, we’ll do whatever it takes to make it right. That’s our guarantee!

Image courtesy of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

IES Home Electrical Services is a McKinney-based electrical company dedicated to providing area homeowners with the best quality of work and unparalleled customer service, backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Proudly serving McKinney, Frisco, Prosper, Celina, Gunter, Anna, Aubrey, Bonham, Crossroads, Melissa, Sherman, Farmersville, Little Elm, Princeton, Prosper, Van Alstyne, Hackberry, and Denison.

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McKinney, TX 75069

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