What is a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) Device?
Many times, a home inspector will include in his report that no GFCI protected outlets were present in the kitchen or bathrooms near the sink or a wet area. While home inspectors are not code inspectors, and in many areas existing homes are not required to have GFCI outlets or breakers, they are safety devices that are highly recommended.
A ground fault circuit interrupter is an electrical outlet or breaker designed to break the circuit any time there is an imbalance between incoming and outgoing current. The GFCI outlet protects electrical wiring and receptacles from overheating and a possible fire. They can also greatly minimize the risk of shock injuries and burns. They work by detecting ground faults or shorts and turn off the current to the outlet.
Because of the sensitivity to electrical imbalances they make an effective safety device around wet areas where wet hands can encounter electrical appliances or outlets where a shock hazard is present. They provide protection if electrical devices such as hair dryers or curling irons are dropped into a bathtub or a sink full of water. The GFCI detects the difference in the flow of the current and immediately shuts the current off.
More on where they are needed?
GFCI outlets are important, especially when the electrical outlets are positioned close to water or areas that can become wet. Installing GFCI outlets in your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry rooms, basements, garages, or outside is a very good idea. According to the National Electric Code (NEC), all new homes must be equipped with GFCI protection. GFCI outlets should also be installed on temporary wiring during construction, renovation, or maintenance of structures that are using temporary power. Considering the cost of a GFCI outlet, usually only about $15.00, and the ease of installation, and the safety they provide, it just makes since to have them installed and maintained in your home.
How they work and how to test them.
As mentioned, the ground fault circuit interrupter is designed to avert ground faults by immediately disrupting the flow of current from the outlet. Therefore, periodic testing is very important to ensure that the GFCI outlet is always functional. A GFCI protected breaker works just like any other breaker. If the breaker trips it will be in the off position. Some breakers will show a red signal, or the lever may be part way to the off position. To reset the breaker, it will need to be moved all the way to the off position and back to the on position. The breaker will have a test button that should be actuated occasionally to make sure the breaker is working properly. When you push the test button it will trip the breaker and it will need to be reset as mentioned. A GFCI outlet will have two buttons between the two receptacles. One button is a test button, the other is to reset the outlet. Some outlets will have a light that indicates whether the outlet is tripped or working. If the breaker trips the reset button many times will be protruding and will need to be pushed back in. The outlet should be tested periodically. This will not only insure the outlet is working properly but will also familiarize you with the outlet. One outlet can protect several outlets down line and even in different bathrooms. If you find that some of your outlets are not working check the GFCI outlets.
Make sure your outlets are protected
It is recommended that GFCI outlets should be tested every month or so and replaced every ten years. You can follow these simple recommendations to make sure your circuit interrupters are working properly:
As mentioned, the face of the GFCI outlet features two small buttons that are labeled test and reset. Simply press the test button and this will trigger a snap sound which indicates that the outlet has tripped. Once the outlet trips, reset it.
Now plug a device into the outlet, such as a hair dryer or light, turn it on and press the test button. If the outlet is properly working the device will stop or go off immediately. The same procedure can be followed with breakers. With the breaker you may be running up and down steps or to wherever your electrical panel is located to test and reset it.
Once you know the CFGI outlet is working at peak efficiency, you can press the reset button and the circuit interrupter will be turned on once again.
While these DIY instructions are easy to follow, they do require that you become somewhat familiar with and understand how your home’s electrical system works. I recommend this for most home owners. If you don’t feel confident try YouTube. There are many electrical tips and tricks that can help a home owner feel comfortable with his or her electrical system on line. It is always recommended however, when making repairs or adding GFCI outlets or breakers consult a qualified electrician or home inspector who can ensure that your system is safe.
More benefits of GFCI protection
Electrical shocks and electrocution are the major risks that you can be exposed to through electrical devices in your home. This becomes a bigger concern if you have children who can unwittingly receive a shock. A GFCI outlet helps prevent shocks and electrocutions as it has a built-in sensor that monitors the inflow and outflow of the electricity from any appliance. If a live wire inside an appliance meets the metallic surface of the appliance, it may not be enough of a short to trip a standard breaker but can still provide enough current through the metal housing of the appliance if you touch the appliance you can be shocked. This can be especially serious if you have wet hands. However, if you plug appliances into a GFCI protected outlet, then it will notice if there is any change in the electrical flow which may occur due to the short and it will instantly shut down the power.
Avert Fatal Electrical Fires
One of the main functions of a GFCI outlet is to detect the ground faults, which occur when the flow of electrical current leaves a circuit or is interrupted. When you install GFCI outlets, you are effectively reducing the chance of electrical fires from occurring. While AFCI protected outlets are the primary protection for electrical fires any additional protection for the home is highly recommended. See my article on this blog site about AFCI protection.
Install GFCI outlets, both at your home and workplace for safety. Remember to get them installed professionally. I welcome your questions or comments. If you need a home inspector to evaluate the safety of your home, please contact me. Visit my website for more information. www.laselleck.com
6 areas where home inspectors can help home sellers
No matter how much a buyer loves your property, a home inspection that reveals major problems can change their mind about buying your home. The buyer’s contract usually allows a time period, commonly ten days, to get a home inspection and back out of the contract in the event unacceptable problems are discovered. Commonly, the buyer may still want your home, but a bad report will move them into the driver’s seat as far as negotiations are concerned.
Because so much rides on a successful home inspection many experts recommend you have an inspection performed before even putting your home on the market. Hiring a licensed inspector to perform a prelisting inspection may identify any surprise issues you don't know about which could delay your closing date or, worse, cause your buyer to walk away.
The following 6 items are common areas of a home where inspectors find problems that can be taken care of prior to listing with a realtor.
Flickering or dimming lights could indicate your electrical system is not working properly. This could be a poor connection or one of several other common problems. Since it can be dangerous further evaluation is warranted.
Electrical outlets near any wet area such as in the kitchen or the bathrooms should not be within 6 feet of water unless they are GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets. These electrical outlets are designed to trip at the slightest hint of a short that can be caused by wet hands or electrical items such as hair dryers falling into the water. They are a very effective safety device. Modern building codes require the outlets outside, in garages, and basements. While existing homes are not required to be brought up to modern codes a knowledgeable home inspector can identify the need for necessary safety repairs.
“Many older homes have two-prong or non-grounded outlets which are safe and widely used. A qualified inspector can inspect these outlets and make necessary recommendations. Having a qualified inspector or electrician inspect and certify the electrical system is safe can prevent an overzealous home inspector working for the buyer from recommending major, expensive repairs, that your buyer may insist on.
I am frequently surprised by the cost of common plumbing repairs. A plumbing inspection is not very complicated. Sinks, tubs, and showers should drain properly. Drain stoppers should work properly. Faucets should not leak and the same goes for the drains and supply lines under the sinks. Toilets should flush properly and should not continue to run. Around the toilet should be inspected to insure the toilet tank or the bowl seal is not leaking. The inspector will look at the exposed water supply lines including the main water line and shut-off. The hot water heater will be inspected. The exposed drain lines will be inspected. Many times, a knowledgeable inspector can make recommendations for repairs that a handy home owner can handle.
When a home inspector looks at your roof, he is inspecting everything from your roofing material to your gutters, vents, and downspouts. He is also looking at the roof’s structure and the chimney. If there are any signs of cracks and leaks, or shingles that have blown off, this will be noted.
It is common for home owners to have no idea of the condition of their roof. Many times, I have inspected roofs to find hail damage that the owner’s insurance can take care of. Other repairs that are needed are as simple as applying some caulking or the replacement of a few shingles. Common roof maintenance can extend the roof’s life expectancy by years if needed.
In this article the natural succession of problems your home may have is mold. The common symptom of plumbing or roof problems is water leaks. A mold problem is a water problem. Mold must have it to exist or grow. One of the top deal breakers for a home sale would be suspected mold. Because of the attention it has received from the media people are terrified of it.
Accompanying mold is a musty odor. Home inspectors certified to inspect for mold are trained to use their nose first. That musty smell can be responsible for turning the prospective buyer off the home before the contract is even considered. Any issue with mold should be addressed prior to selling.
The good news is mold is not nearly as difficult to deal with as might be expected. In many instances it can be cleaned up with soap and water. Find an inspector that is well educated on the subject. Be careful consulting a company that specializes in mold remediation and may be after an expensive remediation job.
For more information see www.laselleck.com/mold-and-allergen-testing.html.
5. Window and doors
Don't forget the simple home components that could prove problematic during a home inspection. An example is your home's windows and doors.
During the inspection of the windows and doors, the home inspector will be looking for the ease of operation and defects. It goes without saying broken windows should be repaired. However, don’t under estimate cleaning and WD 40. Check weather stripping, door knobs, and door stops.
6. Floors walls and ceilings
Most any home owner can look around and tell if new carpet or flooring is needed and the same goes with paint and wallpaper. A home inspector will look beyond finishes. He will look for cracks in the walls and ceilings and help the seller understand the difference between common cracks and those that might show movement in the home’s structure. Some cracks may be easily repaired with caulk and paint while others may require replacement of wall or ceiling panels.
While walking through the home an inspector will look for uneven areas in the floor that may be more than just worn out flooring. An alert home inspector many times can pick up on evidence of structural problems.
The bottom line
It is understood that many times when getting ready to sell a home, sellers do not have or don’t want to use the money needed to call in a home inspector and make repairs recommended on the report. The fact is though, sellers who do get the needed help and make the needed repairs find the property sells faster and for more money.
Realtors are aware of the need to have the property in tip top shape. Realtors will often recommend repairs when they meet with you for the listing. I have seen many realtors play the part of a home inspector. The simple reason is they make their living by selling your property and as stated a home in tip top shape sells for more money and brings bigger commissions.
You no doubt have heard of or watched programs on television about house flippers. The ability to flip a house for profit is because a house in excellent shape brings more money than one in need of repairs. The profit is from the difference in price above the cost of the repairs and the final price of the home. That is the situation in a standard home sale as well. The question is are you going to put that money in the bank or is the buyer?
You may notice in my articles I usually refer to a male home inspector. It is just habit and ease of writing. While most inspectors in my area are male there are good female home inspectors. When choosing an inspector, it is my opinion he or she should have an extensive background in the construction industry. It is especially helpful for sellers if they have experience in selling homes. An unqualified inspector can recommend unnecessary repairs that can eat up your profit. I welcome your comments and would be happy to answer your questions. www.laselleck.com
My goal is to have a series of articles that deal with items that may be found on the home inspection report. There will also be articles on choosing a home inspector and a realtor. This information will be based on my experience in the construction industry as well as information I research. I welcome your comments. If you have a question or would like to see an article on a particular subject please ask.