What Is a GFCI Outlet?

A GFCI outlet with a device plugged into it.

As a homeowner, you want the space you live in to be as safe as possible. Of course, it can be easy to worry about the potential dangers lurking inside your home, especially regarding your electrical system.

Fortunately, many safety devices will help protect your household against electric shocks and fires. A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet is one of these electrical devices. New construction homes are built and sold with GFCI outlets already installed. However, you might not be as familiar with these important safety devices if you have an older home. In fact — it’s possible that your home doesn’t meet GFCI outlet requirements.

What is a GFCI outlet? Fortunately, this question isn’t difficult to answer. Let’s discuss what a GFCI outlet is used for and why they are so important.

What Do GFCI Outlets Do?

When you enter a bathroom or kitchen, you might notice an outlet on the wall with “reset” and “test” buttons. These are GFCI outlets. Now you might be sitting there, asking, “What is a GFCI outlet, exactly? What makes these outlets so special that I need to have them inside my home?” Luckily, these safety devices are pretty easy to understand.

GFCIs, which are sometimes referred to as GFI outlets, are uniquely designed to protect your home’s electrical system. How? It’s simple. These devices measure the amount of current that flows from a hot to neutral wire. They will immediately cut off the flow of electricity when an irregular or high amount of electrical current is detected.

These outlets are integral to electrical safety because they help prevent electrical fires and electrocution. For example, if a ground fault occurs, the electrical current will flow toward the ground. When this happens, electrocution becomes a real possibility for those within its vicinity. The GFCI outlet will cut off the electrical current before this dangerous event can occur.

GFCI vs. Regular Outlets

You might be wondering: what is a GFCI outlet compared to a regular outlet? Really, the main difference is the safety component. Regular outlets simply don’t have the ability to cut off an electrical current in the name of safety.

However, some visual aspects set these two outlets apart as well. For instance, regular outlets are known for being smaller than their GFCI counterparts. You also won’t find any “reset” or “test” buttons on your regular outlets. Although these two devices might look fairly similar, one certainly shouldn’t be mistaken for the other.

How to Test a GFCI Outlet

There are a couple of ways to ensure your GFCI outlet is working correctly. For starters, you can press the “test” button. When you do this, the electrical current will shut off to the nearest appliance or device, and the “reset” button should pop out. At least — it should if everything is working properly. Once you’ve done this, you must press the “reset” button to restore the power.

You can also purchase a GFCI tester to see if the device works as it should. These devices are fairly inexpensive and can usually be purchased at your local home improvement store.

Where Is a GFCI Outlet Needed?

Now that you know what a GFCI outlet is used for, you are probably curious to know where they are needed throughout your home. When it comes down to it, these devices should be installed in locations prone to moisture. Think kitchens, bathrooms, garages, and laundry rooms.

Water is known to conduct electricity, and these safety devices are designed to help prevent a disaster before it has a chance to strike.

The National Electrical Code (NEC) has many requirements for GFCI outlets, so you should review these carefully to ensure your home is up to code. However, it’s also worth noting that the NEC requires GFCIs to be installed on exterior outlets.

Are GFCI Outlets Really Necessary?

There’s a reason why GFCI outlets are known as important safety devices. These outlets can be the difference between a safe home and a devastating electrical shock. Of course, you will also need to make sure your home is GFCI protected if you plan to sell it; these outlets are required by law — even in older homes.

While you can have typical GFCI outlets installed, you might want to consider the benefits of a GFCI circuit breaker. These devices protect the entire circuit instead of a single outlet.

Now that you know what a GFCI outlet is used for, it’s crucial to make sure that the outlets throughout your home meet the specified requirements. This simple upgrade can provide much-needed peace of mind regarding potential electrical dangers.

Schedule Outlet Services With Staley Electric!

“What is a GFCI outlet?” If you were asking this question before, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how these safety devices work. When these electrical outlets detect a shift in the electricity flowing to and from a circuit, the electrical current will shut off immediately — protecting you and your household in the process.

It’s incredibly important to know what a GFCI outlet is used for, especially if your home currently doesn’t have them. Now that you know how crucial these devices are, don’t hesitate to contact Staley Electric for outlet services.
Our professional electricians are proud to offer a wide range of solutions to fit your needs, from electrical home automation to landscape lighting in Little Rock, AR. Contact us to find out what our experts can do for you!

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Staley Electric Services, LLC, Electrician, Little Rock, AR
Staley Electric Services, LLC, Electrician, Little Rock, AR