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Scherer Electric Blog

Do I Need GFCI Outlets for My House?

GFCI outlet

If you’re asking this question, it probably means that you know what GFCI outlets look like and you know your home doesn’t have them.

The simple answer to the question is “yes.” You don’t need these outlets in every room (in fact, we don’t recommend that), but they are important safety devices to have in some key rooms such as the kitchen and bathrooms.

What Does a GFCI Outlet Do?

GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It’s a type of three-prong outlet that’s designed to prevent people from receiving dangerous electrical shocks from the outlet, either by direct contact or through an appliance or device plugged into the outlet. 

The way a GFCI outlet works is that it has a sensor that monitors the flow of electricity from the hot side of the outlet to the neutral side. When the electrical flow between the two becomes imbalanced, it means the electricity is escaping through something else—i.e. a person. This is what is known as a “ground fault”: the electricity isn’t going through the regular grounding of the outlet but is taking a shortcut, and this is often because of an electrical shock. 

As soon as a GFCI outlet detects a ground fault, the sensor in the outlet cuts off the electric flow. Essentially, it’s a local circuit breaker activated in case of an electrical shock. People will still feel a slight jolt before the GFCI cuts off the power from the outlet, but it prevents far more dangerous shocks.

How Can I Tell If I Have GFCI Outlets?

They’re easy to identify visually, and you’ve likely seen them in other buildings before. A GFCI outlet has two buttons between its two sets of outlets: one marked “TEST” and the other “RESET.” In the event a GFCI outlet activates because of a ground fault, the reset button will pop out. Electricity can be restored by pressing the reset button.

Where Do I Need GFCI Outlets?

The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires GFCI outlets in new construction for any area that is in close proximity to water, which is where dangerous electrical shocks are most common. If your home doesn’t have GFCI outlets, they aren’t required by law unless you have a wiring upgrade. However, we recommend you have them installed no matter what. You’ll need GFCI outlets for all bathroom outlets, on kitchen countertops outlets, in garages, in unfinished basements, and in any room where there is an outlet within six feet of a washing machine, sink, wet bar, or water heater. 

Can I Install GFCI Outlets Myself?

Any important electrical installation that requires tools to install is something you should leave to professional electricians. A mistake in connecting a GFCI outlet can make the outlet dangerous, which is the opposite of its purpose. 

You can call us to install both GFCI and AFCI outlets in Depew, NY or elsewhere in our wide service area. Our electricians know exactly where you’ll need these outlets for the best safety.

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