What Are GFCI Outlets?
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets, also known as GFCI outlets, are specially designed to prevent you from dying of electrocution or suffering a severe injury. You’ve most likely seen these outlets in “wet rooms,” next to the bathroom or kitchen sinks (as they should be), and they’re actually required in any new home construction.
When Were GFCI Outlets Required?
GFCI outlets were first required in 1971 by the National Electrical Code (NEC). What many people don’t know is that laws have expanded the number of locations where these outlets should be located for safety.
Since then, they have become increasingly more common and are now required in all wet and damp locations, such as:
- Unfinished basements
- And outdoor locations
Water and electricity make a dangerous combination, and when you think about it, there are a lot of places in your home where the two can come into contact. These are the places where it’s most important to have GFCI outlets.
Whether you’re building a new house or updating your current home, make sure to equip it with GFCI outlets in these critical areas:
- Your home’s exterior. Exterior outlets are located on the outside of your home. Not only should they be GFCIs, as required by the National Electrical Code, but they should also have watertight covers that protect the outlets when in use and not in use.
- Your bathroom. This doesn’t just apply to outlets by the sink. All outlets in your bathroom should be GFCIs.
- Your garage. Though we don’t typically associate a garage with water the way we do kitchens and bathrooms, water and electricity-related accidents are prone to happen in this area, as water heaters are typically located in the garage, and electric garden equipment is often plugged into the garage outlets.
- Key areas in the kitchen. Not all your kitchen outlets need to be the GFCIs, but they are required to be if they’re within six feet of a kitchen sink or if they serve a countertop.
- Near laundry room sinks. Any receptacles within 6 feet of a sink or washing machine should be GFCIs.
- Near your water heater. Similarly to your washing machine, outlets within 6 feet of your water heater should also be GFCIs.
- One basement outlet. If you own an unfinished basement with outlets, at least one of them needs to be a GFCI.
- The crawl space. While it’s rare to find receptacles in a crawl space, if you have one there, it’s definitely at risk of coming in contact with moisture.
- Wet bars. If you own a bar with a sink, only GFCI outlets should be serving the counter.
- Radiant floor heating systems. Floor heating systems need to be GFCI protected. This can be done by using a GFCI circuit breaker, using a thermostat with the GFCI incorporated into it, or having the system tapped off a GFCI outlet’s protected side.
Professional GFCI Replacement in Columbus
Keep in mind: when you’re dealing with older wiring, trying to swap a traditional outlet with a GFCI replacement without professional training can be risky business. Instead, trust a licensed electrician to update your outlets in a way that’s safe and up to code.