Since their introduction into the National Electrical Code (NEC), Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet location requirements have expanded way beyond the initial recommendations, and now include practically every outlet on your property, in and out of the house. These life-saving devices have improved to the point where they are, almost, tamper-proof, but they can still suffer the consequences of age, overuse, and/or incorrect installation.
SIMPLE GFCI TROUBLESHOOTING
GFCI outlets were initially designed to protect against electrical shock hazards in areas in and around your home where water is present, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outside pools. The very nature of this frequent exposure to moisture promotes internal corrosion in the outlet that can cause any number of internal parts to fail. The GFI (ground fault interrupter) has a built-in sensor that is highly sensitive any small changes in the line source current and ideally will trip the breaker inside a GFCI outlet if anything irregular is detected.
Most GFCI outlets in use today come with two buttons: one black and the other red. The black button is for testing the outlet, and the red is for resetting the internal breaker after it has tripped. A quick way to tell if your outlet is working correctly is to press the test button and listen for an audible “snap.” This usually means the circuit is broken, but just to be sure, plug some device like a lamp into the outlet to see if indeed the power is off. If this is the case, the device left plugged into the outlet should come to life after the reset, or red button is pushed.
Ground fault interrupter outlets manufactured after 2006 are often designed with no external test buttons. These type of outlets should be tested with a separate plug-in circuit tester with its built-in GFCI. Whether dealing with either button or non-button types, this circuit tester is an excellent way to tell if something inside the outlet is causing the break.
REASONS FOR GFCI OUTLET FAILURE
Don’t ignore occasional GFI trips in your home, but don’t get too concerned that it’s the fault of just one outlet, either. There can be any number of reasons for these breaks that sometimes originate far beyond the outlet in question, such as distant line surges and accidental current leakage. Often, a faulty appliance “downstream” will cause any of the GFI outlets in your home to trip.
Like most things electrical, GFCI outlets do have a life expectancy. The industry standard for change-outs is typically every 10 to 15 years, but you really should have a qualified electrician inspect any outlet that has been exposed to excessive UV light, heat, moisture, or chemical vapors, as all these factors can cause a ground fault interrupter to fail prematurely. If the internal circuit is still working, one tip-off that you have a worn-out GFI outlet is when it continually trips when you try to use an appliance.
You should test any GFCI outlet you have outside your house at least once a month. Even if they are carefully protected from the elements, the constant exposure to nature makes them more vulnerable than those indoors. Pay particular attention to the outlets that are near swimming pools and hot tub/spas, as the inherent danger of these features is often amplified by the use of radios and other plug-in devices around the area.
While there are a few genuine GFCI protected power strips on the market today, most are just glorified extension cords, and will not block any surge in voltage or current unless they have a built-in breaker. Careful thought should be utilized when giving the GFCI powerstrip an amperage load. Just because the device is protected doesn’t mean it’s immune from misuse.
LEAVE IT TO THE EXPERTS!
Mister Sparky electricians are your local GFCI outlets expert!Replacing bad GFCI outlets is not a recommended DIY project! When you’re dealing with the lethal current present at an outlet, the potential for disaster is quite high. If anything is incorrectly wired up or improperly grounded, you could expose yourself or anyone else in the house to deadly electrical shock. It’s also true that electrical fires can and do happen with alarming regularity, and all it takes to start a raging blaze is one tiny spark. If you find after doing the aforementioned simple tests that a GFCI is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced, please call Mister Sparky electricians immediately for prompt, professional electric service!
Mister Sparky Electrician Houston, America’s On-Time Electrician, serves Houston, Texas and the cities of Katy, Sugar Land, Cypress, Spring, The Woodlands and others with a team of certified electricians. In addition to emergency electrical repairs, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections. Call us today at: (281) 907-8418.
On Time Guarantee
We’re Here Whenever You Need Us
“We’re on time you’ll see or your electrical repair is free”. We back our superior electrical service with not only integrity, transparency, and dependability, but also our On Time Guarantee. We understand your time is valuable which is why we guarantee we will be there when you call.
When you need expert electrician services in Houston or surrounding areas, just give us a call at (713) 428-2120 or click here to book your appointment online so we can send a Mister Sparky technician to help you as soon as possible.
Red Carpet Treatment
The Respect you Deserve
Our technicians understand the value of being neat and considerate while working in your personal space, which is reflected in how we leave your home after solving eletrical issues.
Mister Sparky protects your home while he’s working: he slips on shoe covers (“floor savers”) and will even go the extra mile and roll out a red carpet to protect your flooring from dirt, scuffing, and scratches. Work completed, he vacuums the area to ensure that he leaves your home as clean or cleaner, than he found it.
Starched White Shirt
The Mister Sparky Standard
Because of Mister Sparky’s commitment to excellent service, we believe in hiring only the most professional and knowledgeable Houston Electricians. This means that in addition to technical excellence, all Mister Sparky electricians must uphold our Starched White Shirt standard for conduct and professionalism.
You can easily recognize a Mister Sparky electrician by his clean-cut, freshly shaven appearance and his signature starched white shirt and gray pants.