How Does A GFI Outlet Work?

If you’ve ever suffered an electrical shock, even a minor one, you may be cautious when working with electricity. And you don’t need to be an electrician to be at risk. Each year, there are news stories about the tragic consequences that can come from dropping hair dryers or other electronic devices into bathtubs. However, the advent of GFI outlets has majorly reduced the number of fatal electrocutions each year in the U.S.

What is a GFI Outlet?

A GFI outlet protects you from sustaining an electrical shock. Because electricity constantly searches for the ground, you could be seriously or even fatally shocked if you find yourself in the middle. Accordingly, a ground fault interrupter (GFI) is built into an outlet or the device’s plug itself. The outlet constantly monitors how much power is going to the device. After the circuit is interrupted for any reason, the GFI immediately cuts the power to it.

To tell if an outlet is GFI, look for test and reset buttons. If the outlet has tripped and shut off the device, just hit the reset button to get it working again.

When Should You Replace a GFI Outlet?

If your GFI outlet malfunctions, it could put you at risk of a shock. When this happens, get an electrician to test and replace your outlet. Replace your outlets regularly (usually around once a decade) to compensate for the wear and tear they go through.

But how do you know if your outlet is working correctly? You don’t need to be an electrician to perform a short check-up on your outlets.

First, hit the test button. It should light up or make a short beep to indicate it’s working. To confirm that it’s not just a glitch, hit the reset button, then try the test button again. Finally, if this test button still doesn’t work, contact an electrician to discuss your replacement options.

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