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Home Buying and Selling 101 - Inspection Tips, What is a GFCI?

On a recent call from a client I was told about an interesting electrical issue. She had lost power in her garage, bathrooms, and outdoors. My immediate thought was to have her check the GFCI. Unfortunately she didn't know what a GFCI was. It occurred to me that she is probably not alone. It's important for home owners and buyers to understand the basics of how the systems in their homes work. There's no need to be an electrician, but if the system provides a safety feature in your home it's probably best to understand how it works. This is also a great tip for buyers that will soon hear about the need for GFCIs during their inspection.

GFCI is an acronym for ground fault circuit interrupter. They provide a safety measure against shock hazards in your home and are most commonly located in your kitchen, bathrooms, garage, and outdoors or wherever water is most likely present. GFCIs are typically located at the first outlet on a circuit and can control the flow of power to all outlets that are installed down circuit. The GFCI measures the amount of power traveling out through the black or hot wire and back through the white or neutral wire. These two amounts should always be equal. When a shock hazard occurs, such as an electrocution, the GFCI can measure the difference between the two wires and it will turn off the circuit almost instantaneously. Hopefully preventing any injury or death.

GFCIs should be tested once a month. Each GFCI will have two buttons on it. A "test" button and a "reset" button. To test the unit, press the "test" button. A click or a pop will occur and the circuit will go dead. Then press the "reset" button. Another click or a pop will occur and the circuit should power back up. In the event that the "reset" button does not reset the circuit then you most likely have a bad unit.

If you have a failed GFCI, it is highly recommended that a professional replace it. Electricity is not something to be meddled with by the inexperienced. Serious injury and death can easily and quickly occur.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I'll do my best to answer. Thanks for reading.

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We are John and Catie Douville, real estate agents from the Tacoma area. We love exploring the South Sound and sharing our experiences through this blog. Sign up and never miss a post.

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