The terms GFCI and TR may seem overwhelming, but don’t fret; these designations refer to safety features in your home’s electrical system. Without the proper safeguards, simple use of an outlet may lead to an electrical shock or burn due to improper use or to adverse conditions like damaged cords or appliances and the presence of water or dampness. That’s why GFCI outlets are essential – and required – safety devices for every home. They keep you from being electrocuted.
With the latest code in place, even GFCI protected outlets need to be tamper-resistant. According to 406.12, all types of outlets 15A and 20A, 125V receptacles in wet areas must be tamper-resistant to reduce the risk of electrical hazards.
The current National Electrical Code (NEC) requires GFCI protection in wet areas, including bathrooms, swimming pools, jetted tubs, crawl spaces, kitchens, laundry rooms, garages, exteriors, hot tubs and any areas that could come in contact with moisture. The devices help prevent you from being electrocuted in the event of a short circuit or ground fault.
What is a GFCI?
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is a device that instantly shuts off the power when it detects an imbalance in current.
When there is a difference between how much electricity goes out and comes back from an appliance or tool through its hot wire (the wire carrying voltage), this indicates that some of the electrical currents are going somewhere they are not supposed to go.
When this happens, the GFCI senses it and shuts off power before an electrical problem becomes a more significant issue and someone gets hurt.
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GFCIs work by comparing how much electricity is coming in (the line voltage) with what’s going out (the load or “neutral” wire). If there is a difference, the GFCI turns off the power, so you don’t get shocked.
Did you know? NEC requires you to install GFCI outlets in new construction, and some remodel jobs near water sources like sinks and tubs or outside walls that might contact rainwater. You can also use them as a safety measure in your home’s electrical system.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires all 15 and 20 amp, 125-volt receptacles within six feet of a water source like sinks or tubs to be protected by GFCI outlets and those installed outdoors an exterior wall that could come into contact with rainwater.
Types of GFCI Outlets
There are different types of GFCIs. The three most common include:
- The GFCI Outlet is the standard TRR outlet you are most likely to see in your home. It has two buttons on the front that you can press to test or reset the outlet. The outlet protects any appliance plugged into it, and you can also wire it to cover other outlets connected to it.
- The GFCI Circuit Breaker– A GFCI circuit breaker is used with large electrical equipment to protect. It controls and covers the entire circuit. It works by constantly monitoring the power going through it and turning it off if something goes wrong.
- Portable GFCI– A portable GFCI is a device that you can plug into any standard outlet. It protects an entire cord or piece of equipment. Contractors often use portable GFCIs on worksites.
How Does a GFCI Work?
A GFCI outlet monitors electricity flowing out of an outlet and on its way back into the source. It immediately shuts off the power if it senses a difference – meaning some current is going somewhere it’s not supposed to go. The circuit breaker’s purpose is to block electric power in the event of a ground fault in under 1/40th of a second.
How to Test a GFCI Outlet?
Most GFCIs have two buttons on the front labelled “TEST” and “RESET.” To test your GFCI, press the test button. You will hear a click sound that trips the outlet and cuts off the power to the two plug connections.
On the other hand, you can check for voltage with a multimeter or voltage tester; this test also should signal no power. Once you’ve proven that the safety function is working correctly, press the reset button to restore power to the outlet.
Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRRs)
Tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles, sometimes called “childproof” receptacles, prevent objects like paper clips or bobby pins from being inserted into the outlet.
TRRs may look like standard outlets, but they are different. You can identify them by their unique shape or “TR” marking on the outlet’s face. TR receptacles also have two small notches or grooves at the top and bottom of each slot where a plug would typically go.
Only a pin that applies simultaneous, equal pressure to both spaces will disengage the cover plates, allowing access to the contact points. Without this synchronized pressure, the cover plates remain closed
Do GFCI Outlets Need to be Tamper Resistant?
GFCI outlets are essential – and required – safety devices for every home. They keep you from being electrocuted. GFCI outlets need to be tamper-resistant as well as the latest code requires that even protected receptacles require some tamper resistance feature.
Benefits of TRR and GFCI Outlets
- Prevent Fire– TRRs prevent electrical fires caused by small objects like paper clips, bobby pins, or other metal objects that could fall into the outlet. GFCI outlets stop any electrical current “leakage” in its routes before it has the chance to spark an electrical fire.
- Protect Children– TRRs protect children from electrical injury by automatically closing their plates when not in use. It prevents curious kids from sticking things into the outlet or inserting foreign objects.
- Prevent Electrical Shock– GFCIs protect you from being shocked and injured in the event of a short circuit due to water damage or damaged cords. GFCI outlets have sensors inside of them that scan the flow of electricity. If even an insignificant amount of electrical current travelling along an unintended path is detected, most three-prong outlets will redirect it into the ground.
- They are Modern Electrical Codes– the National Electric Code requires you to install GFCIs and TRRs in all residential homes. It is because they help reduce injuries, fatalities, and damage that electrical malfunctions cause.
Check for a tripped circuit or a blown-fuse- Using a voltage tester or multimeter, you can if the GFCI is receiving power. After checking for electricity at the outlet with both devices, press the reset button on your GFCI device and plug in an appliance.
If there is no longer a problem when using machines after pressing reset, faulty setup or wiring might be the cause of the problem
- Check the GFCI outlet– With a circuit tester, you can check if your breaker and outlets are working correctly by testing for hot wires and electrical current. If all of these tests show no power running through the device, it will need a replacement.
- Check for loose or bad connections– There may also be a loose connection between the GFCI and the wiring if you are not getting power to your outlets. It can be fixed by tightening or replacing any damaged wires connecting your home’s electrical system to the outlet itself.
- Reinstall the connector– If you’ve disconnected the GFCI outlet by accident or because it needed repairs, reattaching it should solve any issues.
If you are unsure of what is wrong with your electrical system, calling an electrician will ensure that everything is in safe working order for both yourself and your family members. Leaving a faulty circuit can lead to fire or electrical injuries.
Things to Know About Electrical Outlets
These indispensable necessities (electric outlets) of our modern-day lives can cause severe injuries with fatal consequences?
According to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), home electrical problems account for more than 51,000 fires each year, resulting in more than 490 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage in the United States (US). In 400 electrocutions, 180 relate to consumer products in the US, and more than 200 people die annually.
One hundred forty thousand fires are caused by electricity each year, resulting in 400 deaths, 3,000 injuries, and $1.6 billion in property damage.
The total economic losses due to electrical hazards are estimated to exceed $4 billion annually. NEC ( National Electrical Code) came up with safety rules for electrical installations to prevent electric hazards.
In the US, these Electrical Codes apply to all types of buildings and wiring in mobile homes. GFCI and TRR are the two most important safety features for electrical installations in dwellings. If your home does not currently have TR receptacles of GFCI outlets, you can easily replace existing receptacles with them for as little as $2 per outlet
Outlets with a TR and GFCI rating are the safest outlets that you can install in your home, as they protect against potential electric shock. For all new or replacement outlets, the NEC (National Electrical Code) requires that they be tamper-resistant and labelled “No Equipment Ground” and “GFCI Protected.”
These requirements ensure that the devices cannot easily be damaged and provide protection against electrical dangers, such as ground faults and shocks due to exposure to water – all of which can happen through regular use or external damage.