Will GFCI outlets protect you from deadly electrical accidents?


Lightning is electric finding its way home—and it will always find the shortest path. It’s the same with electricity in your home; get between the source and the ground and you could be that path. That’s why GFCI outlets make electricity safer.

What are GFCI outlets?

GFCI stands for ground-fault circuit interrupter. Here’s how they work: outlets in your home have two vertical slots. One is “neutral.” The other is “hot.” When an appliance get plugged in, electricity used flows from hot to neutral. A GCI outlet monitors that flow. If there’s an imbalance, it trips and stops the flow of electricity as quickly as one-thirtieth of a second.

How do GFCI outlets work?

Let’s say you’re in the bathroom with a hairdryer. You’re standing on the ground. Since you’re probably wet from the shower, there’s a path from the hairdryer to you to the ground—a potentially fatal path. If electricity starts down that path, instead of hot-to-neutral, the GFCI will sense the change and trip, cutting off the flow of electric. Your hair stays wet, but you stay alive.

GFCI outlets are not 100% protection

19% of GFCI outlets failed a 1999 study by the American Society of Home Inspectors. Circuits can fuse or switches themselves fail. The only way you can be certain your GFCI outlets are operating properly is to test them. You can purchase a GFCI tester at most hardware stores. Or, conduct a simple test using an appliance such as a lamp, radio, or hairdryer.

Test your GFCI outlets periodically

GFCI outlets have two buttons; one marked TEST, the other RESET. Plug in an appliance to the outlet and turn it on. Press the TEST button. The appliance should turn off. If it doesn’t, the outlet is either mis-wired or defective.

In either case, once you determine GFCI outlets are not working correctly, stop using the outlet and contact our Trusted Company, Right Touch Electric to inspect and possibly replace your GFCI outlet.

Electricity can be deadly if not treated with respect. GFCI outlets give you a layer of protection from electric in your home.