When I bought my house, almost 3 years ago now, one of the first things that I did was to upgrade all the outlets in the bathrooms and kitchen with ground fault circuit interrruptors (GFCI). Why? Because GFCIs are able to detect the difference between the hot and neutral wires that come when electrocution is present. Simply put, they turn off the current when your toddler decides to put a fork in the socket.
GFCIs are especially important in areas where water is present (like the bathrooms and kitchen areas, as mentioned) because of the increased problem of electrocution in water but if you have small children, it’s a good idea to have all the outlets replaced. It has been estimated that there would be almost a third less electrocutions in homes if this was done.
Once you’ve installed (or had them installed), you need to know how to test them regularly to make sure they are working correctly.
To properly test GFCI receptacles in your home:
- First, push the Reset button located on the GFCI receptacle to assure normal GFCI operation.
- Plug a nightlight (with an ON/OFF switch) or other product (such as a lamp) into the GFCI receptacle and turn the product ON.
- Push the Test button located on the GFCI receptacle. The nightlight or other product should go OFF.
- Push the Reset button, again. The light or other product should go ON again.
If the light or other product remains ON when the Test button is pushed, the GFCI is not working properly or has been incorrectly installed (miswired). If your GFCI is not working properly, call a qualified, certified electrician who can assess the situation, rewire the GFCI if necessary or replace the device.