You’ve probably noticed that some rooms in your home, like the bathroom, garage, or kitchen, have slightly different outlets than other rooms in your house. They have buttons on them that say TEST and RESET. These are ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets.
Since they were introduced decades ago, in the 1970s, rates of accidental electrical injury have fallen drastically. But when these outlets trip, it can be a real nuisance. Fortunately, it’s usually easy to reset them.
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GFCI outlets have a safety feature that prevents damaged wiring or appliances from causing fires or electrical shocks. These outlets monitor the electrical current for changes that could indicate the potential for injury or worse. If something interrupts the circuit -- like, for example, an appliance that is plugged into a GFCI outlet and dropped into a bathtub brimming with water -- the GFCI detects the change in outgoing current and automatically cuts the current.That interruption protects you from getting an electric shock.
When a GFCI outlet is not working, chances are it was tripped. There are several reasons a GFCI outlet might trip, including an internal short in the appliance you’re using, moisture in the GFCI outlet itself, dust or debris in the outlet or around the plug, or worn insulation on the plug.
First, unplug the appliance you were using and any other appliances plugged into the same circuit as the GFCI. To reset a GFCI outlet, look carefully at the two little buttons on the front of the outlet. Press the one that says RESET. Usually, the RESET button is red, while the TEST button is black. If your GFCI outlet is older, the lettering and coloring may have worn down, and the TEST and RESET buttons may be difficult to distinguish from one another. If this is the case, you may want to replace the GFCI outlet.
You should hear a click when you press the RESET button, and your appliance should start working again. If the GFCI outlet keeps tripping, you may be overloading the circuit with too many appliances, or you may have a faulty appliance. Unplug everything from the circuit and plug the appliances back in one at a time to see which one is responsible for repeatedly tripping your GFCI. If you are using extension cords on the circuit, you may need to plug things directly into the wall outlet to avoid overloading the circuit. If you need more outlets in your home, a local electrician from the Candu Pro Network can install them for you.
If your GFCI outlet won’t reset, you should first check the breaker box to make sure you haven’t tripped the breaker for that circuit. Reset it if necessary. If it still won't reset, it may have moisture in it. Dry it with a hair dryer. When it’s thoroughly dry, try resetting it again.
DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations.
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