We’re getting ready to sell our home and had a pre-sale inspection. The inspector says that we need GFCI receptacles in a number of different places, required by electrical codes. What are these for and can I do it myself?
A GFCI stands for a Ground-fault circuit interrupter. This is a receptacle that has a “test” and “reset” button in between the areas where you insert a plug. To combat the danger of a combination of water and electricity, a GFCI is required in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, workshops, and outdoor areas. Basically, a GFCI monitors current flowing through the hot and neutral wires. In normal situations, the current is the same in both wires. Any change in this will cause the GFCI to cut the power in a fraction of a second to the protected receptacles. In most cases, pushing the reset button will restore power. If it won’t reset, the GFCI should be replaced.
Most homeowners don’t realize that a GFCI In their bathroom will likely be connected to other outlets in the house. In other words, if the bathroom GFCI fails, you might find that an outlet in the kitchen, garage, or outside may also be inoperative. So, if you ever find an outlet in the house that is not working, go and check all of the GFCI’s in your home, including the garage and outside. See if any of them have tripped by pushing the reset button.
A tricky part about installing a GFCI in your kitchen where you have more than one outlet near water, is that, depending upon the wiring, one GFCI may protect the others. However, this is not always the case, so I would recommend contacting a qualified company to have this work done.
A GFCI is the only way to convert a 2-prong outlet to a 3-prong outlet by code. If your home is not grounded and you need a 3-prong outlet for a computer in your bedroom, a GFCI is the only legal way to do this. However, having a computer plugged into a GFCI can cause problems if the GFCI trips. Therefore it is always best to have your computer plugged into a surge protector with battery back up, with the surge protector plugged into the GFCI.
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