What Are GFCI Outlets and Why Do You Need Them?

What Are GFCI Outlets and Why Do You Need Them?

You may not know what they’re called, but you’ve seen them.

GFCI outlets (also known as ground fault circuit interrupters) are wall outlets with two buttons in the middle, often red and black (for reset and test). Some also have a green light to indicate the GFCI is working – as in the photo here.

GFCIs protect you from electrical shock and are usually found in kitchens, bathrooms, unfinished basements and garages. They’re also used for outdoor outlets on porches, decks and boat ramps, as well as with pool lights and pumps. In each location, there’s a risk of water coming in contact with the circuit, which would put you at risk of electric shock.

Homes built prior to the 1980s most likely will not have GFCI-protected outlets unless they have been renovated. If you have an older home, it’s a good idea to have GFCI outlets installed – and the good news is that it’s not necessary to change every outlet: up to six receptacles can be protected from the same circuit.

If you have GFCI outlets, you should test them once a month. If an outlet isn’t working, try resetting it. If that doesn’t work, try resetting the circuit breaker or the outlets in nearby rooms before making a service call.

If the outlet still won’t respond, it probably needs to be replaced. Call an experienced electrician — our staff at Hawkins certainly qualifies — to do the work and keep your home safe.

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