Is Your Home Equipped With Safety Outlets – GFIs?

gfi, gfci outlet, gfi receptacle

Let’s say your teenager is using an electrical drill outside and is standing with their bare feet in a puddle. That’s not a very good idea. Let’s say the electrical drill malfunctions and leaks electricity out of its proper circuitry. Electricity takes the path of minimum resistance, which just might be from the electrical drill, along the arms and legs of your teenager, and into the puddle. If the drill were plugged into a regular outlet, this would probably be a fatal incident.

In the recent years, the Electrical Code has included requirements for special safety outlets where incidents like this could happen. These special outlets are called “GFIs” (Ground Fault Interrupters) or “GFCIs” — two slightly different names for the same object. They are required by the Electrical Code in all garages, kitchens, bathrooms, pools, spas, and in a few other outdoor areas where water might be present.

A GFI, or safety outlet, notices that the current in an appliance is no longer flowing through its proper circuit. It immediately shuts off the current within milliseconds. In the case of our teenage friend, if the drill were being plugged into a safety outlet, electrocution would be avoided — and a life would be saved.

appear different from other outlets. They have two buttons with the labels “Test” and “Reset.” You can check that the outlet will cut off current when needed for safety by pressing “Test.”The Test button will shut off current to the outlet so that it no longer gives power. After the test, you can restore the current to the outlet by pressing the “Reset” button.

Newer versions of also have a small green indicator light that tells you it’s providing power. This is a useful feature when you are conducting your test. It’s also useful because from time to time, safety outlets may be triggered without your knowing and may no longer be providing power. The absence of the green light will alert you to this problem.

A Downside

This is the bad side of safety outlets — they can be switched off without your knowing, or they can become faulty and can trip repeatedly for no apparent reason. Let’s say you have an electrical toothbrush charger plugged into a GFI  outlet in your washroom. The outlet has somehow been switched off and no longer provides power. If it’s equipped with a green indicator light, the light will be off. In any case, if it’s lost power, press “Reset” and power will be restored.

Another possibility is that a receptacle in a kitchen, bathroom, garage, or outdoor area is not a safety outlet but is being “protected” by a GFI elsewhere in the home’s circuitry. If a non-GFI outlet in your house has lost power, you can check this situation by making sure that all the GFIs in your kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas have not been switched off and are still providing energy.

Home Safety Check

Make sure that your kitchens, bathrooms, garage, and outdoor areas are equipped with functioning GFIs. (Refrigerators are incompatible with GFIs and should not be plugged into one or protected by GFIs elsewhere in the circuitry.) If you have GFIs, remember that they have a limited lasting time, so press the Test button of each GFI at least once a month to check that they shut off power as meant to.

If your house doesn’t have GFIs or they are no longer working, call a professional Vancouver electrician to get an estimate for the installation. GFIs are a relatively inexpensive investment in your family’s safety.

 

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