Electrical outlets near water sources like sinks and laundry appliances, as well as all garage and outdoor outlets, should have a ground fault interrupter (GFCI). These are the outlets with the "test" and "reset" buttons. If every home had GFCIs, deaths from electrocution in and around the home could be reduced by 50%.

A GFCI works by monitoring the flow of electricity through the outlet's circuit. If there is any variation in the current, the GFCI will automatically cut off the flow of electricity, preventing injury.

There are three different types of ground fault circuit interrupters:

  1. Whole-house devices for circuit panels that protect against external power surges. Only a certified electrician should install these.
  2. Receptacle-based protectors that replace standard wall outlets. You can install these yourself by carefully following manufacturer's instructions.
  3. Portable units that simply plug into a wall outlet. Any homeowner can use this type.

GFCIs should be tested every month. Plug a lamp or radio into a GFCI outlet and turn it on. Push the "test" button on the outlet; the lamp or radio should turn off immediately. If it doesn't, the GFCI has been wired improperly, and should be fixed by a certified electrician.

GFCIs are inexpensive and provide the best protection against electrical hazards, and we strongly recommend using them in your home. But remember, even the best GFCI can't offer 100 percent protection, so never forget other electrical safety rules.

More from this category

Garage door app

Pete and garage door specialist looking at garage door opener and phone app

A garage door app will alert you when the door is open and allow you to open and close the door from your smart phone.

learn more

Aging in place

Adjustable height kitchen sink

Using universal design principals, your home can adapt to your changing lifestyle needs.

learn more

Be prepared for bad weather

Flashlight

The best way to weather a storm is to have a safety plan in place ahead of time.

learn more

Gas appliance safety

Gas appliance connector cord

Keep these safety guidelines in mind when using gas-consuming products such as stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters and furnaces.

learn more

Cleaning dryer vents

Dryer vent hole on outside of house

Drying clothes takes a lot of energy. Keeping your dryer vent clean makes your appliance more energy efficient.

learn more

Wiring and grounding in older homes

Wires running through the walls of an older home

The wiring inside most older houses wasn’t designed to handle the electrical needs we have today.

learn more

Electrical safety and childproofing

Man installing childproof outlet cap

Make sure your electrical appliances, tools and outlets are safe, and be careful around electrical equipment outdoors.

learn more

Home security systems

Lit up house at night

Many homeowners are investing in home security systems to deter criminals, provide home protection and deliver peace of mind.

learn more

Carbon monoxide - the invisible enemy

carbon monoxide detector

Find out what causes deadly carbon monoxide poisoning - and how to prevent and detect it.

learn more