GFCI Outlet Explained

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GFCI Outlet Explained

No GFCI Outlet in the Kitchen and/or Bathroom

This is a common safety-related item discovered during a home inspection.  Many older homes did not have a GFCI outlet installed in the kitchen, bathroom or garage of the home.  Upgrading the outlets in moisture prone areas to GFCI protected units is a good safety improvement in any home.

Why is this safety item always pointed out by inspectors?

A “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter” outlet is a special receptacle that provides a safety mechanism to prevent any of us from electric shock. A GFI receptacle will sense the current flow into the outlet and the current flow out of the outlet. These 2 should match each other – if they do not, there is a “leak” in current, which will most likely run through the person as a shock. In this case, the GFCI outlet will immediately trip to eliminate this shock hazard. Bottom line – they are there to protect us.

Where to install and use a GFCI Outlet?

GFCI Outlets are required to be installed in bathrooms, kitchens and garages. Often times, older homes do not have GFCI outlets, since they were built before this code was established. In these cases, most inspectors will recommend installing GFCI outlets, for safety and protection.  Starting in 1968, the National Electrical Code (NEC) began mandating the use of GFCI Outlets in certain circumstances and areas.  The required locations for these outlets have gradually increased over the years, and typically have only applied to new construction and major renovations.  This means you will see a lot of older homes that don’t have GFCI protection on outlets, which is where the home inspector comes in.  During a general home inspection we will look for the presence of GFCI outlets in recommended locations and where missing, we will recommend upgrading those outlets to be protected.  For more information read the GFCI Fact Sheet from the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

GFCI Outlet Example

Testing a GFCI Outlet

It is generally recommended that you periodically test your GFCI outlet to ensure it is operating properly.  You can plug in a device like a lamp to the outlet – then push the test button.  This should trip the outlet and the lamp will go out.  Press the reset button to reactivate the outlet and the lamp should come back on.  Be aware that there is a risk that the outlet may not reactivate indicating the GFCI was likely bad and would not have provided proper protection to you in the event of a ground fault condition.  If that happens, replacement of the outlet will be needed.

The ASHI Inspectors at Scott Home Inspection take safety concerns seriously – you should too.  Review where GFCI outlets need to be installed in your home and work with an electrician or qualified person to help update those outlets – your life may depend on it!  For more information on what is included in an ASHI Home Inspection, visit our Inspection Services page.

By | 2017-11-14T17:10:38+00:00 November 14th, 2017|Ask Your Inspector|0 Comments

About the Author:

George founded Scott Home Inspection in 2006, and has grown the business into a multi-inspector firm serving the Colorado front range, from Fort Collins down to Castle Rock. As an ASHI Certified Home Inspector and Certified Energy Rater, George is an excellent resource to help with inspection and energy-related requirements.

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