A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a device that shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person. You probably have one in your bathroom.
GFCI outlets are very important. They protect you from electrical shock.
Electrical code in Ohio requires that these outlets are located in places within your house where there’s an increased risk of electrocution. Typically, these locations are in bathrooms and kitchens where water is present.
How Does A GFCI Outlet Work?
GFCI outlets have a sensor designed to identify minute changes in current, which can indicate unsafe conditions or the risk of shock. A breaker inside the outlet trips when there is a surge in current. Within milliseconds the power to the outlet is shut off and the threat of shock is gone.
GFCIs are equipped with two buttons. Usually one is red, one is black. The black button is used to test the outlet and the other for resetting it after the breaker inside has tripped.
All outlets wear out over time. This includes GFCIs. If your GFCI outlet is tripping much more frequently than it should, it could mean it’s nearing the end of its lifespan. For example, if your outlet breaker is tripping when you use a hair dryer, and it never did that before, it’s a sure sign you have a bad GFCI outlet.
Did you know that after about 10 years the sensitivity in the circuitry wears out and renders it unable to trip in an emergency?
What about the test button? The test button on the GFCI doesn’t tell you there’s anything wrong. When you press the button, it shuts off the power as always. So, the only reliable way to check an older GFCI is to use a circuit tester that has its own GFCI test button. If you have questions about your GFCI outlets, call Clover Electric. We can test them to make sure they’re all operating as they should.
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