We all know how important electricity is in our homes. Electrical outlets are used to plug portable appliances, lights, heaters, etc. Without these, our homes would not be nearly as comfortable. Jeff, the FYI home inspection guy, has been a licensed electrician for over 20 years, and he wanted to share some top issues he has seen with outlets while doing home inspections.

GFCI, a ground fault circuit interrupter known as GFI (ground fault interrupter), is not working properly.

GFIs improve the safety of regular circuit breakers and fuses by reducing electric shock hazards. Instead of looking for too much current flowing, they look for current going where it is not supposed to. Under normal circumstances, the same amount of current would flow at any point in the circuit. If 5 amps are flowing out through one wire, there should be 5 amps coming back through the other. If there is a difference, the GFI will trip (turn off) in less than a second, as this difference in current can be dangerous.

Identifying outlet types

Electrical codes require ground fault protection where there is potential for water to come into contact with electricity. This includes kitchens, bathrooms, outdoor outlets, and the like. It is recommended to check the function of the GFI at least once a month. The GFI has a test button that simulates a fault. The GFI will trip (turn off) if the outlet is working properly. It can be turned back on by pressing the reset button. If this test button does not trip or does not reset, the GFI outlet should be replaced.

Ungrounded outlets

One way to identify an ungrounded outlet is by looking at the plug slots. Ungrounded outlets usually only have two slots to plug into, versus grounded outlets, which have two slots and the grounding prong’s hole. Grounded outlets provide additional protection for the home. A ground wire is a third wire that usually does not conduct electricity. It serves as an escape route for stray electricity that may occur when something goes wrong with an appliance. When an issue occurs in an appliance, a person touching a live electrical component may get a shock. The ground wire diverts that electricity, so it does not affect the person touching the system. If an ungrounded outlet is found where an appliance with a grounding plug is needed, removing the grounding prong from the appliance’s plug is not recommended.

If you’re unsure if the three-hole outlets in your home are properly wired, a great device to test to see if the outlets are wired properly is an outlet tester found at any hardware store! Jeff uses an outlet tester at every inspection to test if the outlets in your prospective home are wired correctly.

Missing covers

Outlets, especially near the floor, should be covered for safety. If covers are missing, this provides access to wires for little fingers. Covers protect the family from coming into contact with the circuit, preventing a bad electric shock. Covers should not be cracked and should be tight to the wall.

Whether you are buying or selling a home, checking the outlets’ safety and function in the home provides the ease of mind that your family is safe. Jeff uses his 20 plus years of experience in the electrical field to inform you and your family of your home’s electrical situation. He then provides cost-effective solutions to improve the safety of your system to protect your family.