Whether you’re looking to redo your current electrical wiring for a new home or old one you may have heard of GFCI outlets. Primarily, you may be wondering are GFCI outlets required in older homes?

Once you better understand what these outlets are and how they can help you’ll see why they’re so important.

What are GFCI outlets?

A simple definition of a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) is a device that saves lives by interrupting the path of a circuit. For instance, if you were to try and remove your breakfast from a toaster with a knife or fork while it’s still plugged in you better hope that it’s plugged into a GFCI circuit. If so, it will detect an electrical leak and disconnect the power in a little as 1/40th of a second. This way your body won’t become a conduit for the circuit of the metal hits the sides of the toaster. This reset switch ensures better protection and is a standard in most home outlets. In fact, they are listed in the National Electrical Code of 2011 as being mandatory in any location that is considered a wet location. This usually means kitchens and bathrooms but can also include garages, laundry rooms, and pool or spa areas.

As such, installing GFCI circuits should be a primary concern of anyone building or remodeling a new home or office. These devices are vital in maintaining safety in any room or office that could be dangerous when wet. You should ask your electrician about these circuits. They’ll be able to explain where they need to go and why. When it comes to safety in your home, you should take no chances.

How do GFCI outlets work?

A GFCI outlet works the way it does thanks to a safety switch. The outlet measures the voltage on the hot and neutral wires, if there is any difference in the voltage it trips the switch. They come with two buttons. A ‘Test’ switch and a ‘Reset’ switch. When you press the ‘Test’ button, you will trip the outlet and open the circuit. Pressing the ‘Reset’ button restores the circuit. If this does not restore the circuit, the GFCI outlet needs to be replaced. If on pressing the ‘Test’ button you hear the circuit pop, but it still has power then that means it has faulty wiring. This can be very dangerous and should be fixed a soon as possible.

It may happen that you have an outlet, or series of outlets, which are not working. The first thing everyone check is the circuit breaker but if that isn’t tripped then you know it must be a GFCI outlet. If you don’t know which one then you’ll need to do some searching before you find it. This is where it helps to know exactly where all your GFCI outlets are located. Once you’ve located it just hit the reset button and everything should return to normal.

Considering the safety benefits of GFCI outlets, it makes sense to understand them better which any home inspector will be happy to do. In answer to the earlier question, are GFCI outlets required in older homes? Yes, they most certainly are. A qualified electrician will be able to explain everything to you, but it helps to have a basic understanding first.