Electrical outlets are the devices that provide power to your appliances. Also known as receptacles, find them low on walls or just about a foot above the floor in most homes. Special versions for floors, ceilings or on the surface of countertops are available. Typically, outlets are in pairs so more than one appliance may have power at a time.
Overloading a circuit can occur by plugging in too many appliances into an outlet.. It is important to always use the proper plugs and correctly sized cords for the application. Some older homes are not equipped with proper grounded (three hole) receptacles. If you have older outlets without grounding openings, have a licensed electrician properly upgrade your electrical system.
Receptacles near water sources or mounted outside must be safety protected by a special sensor called a GFCI or ground fault circuit interrupter. GFCI’s detect shorts or grounds and turns off the power to the outlet.
Some newer building codes also require AFCI’s called arc-fault circuit interrupters. These outlets designed to prevent fires. When an arc is detected by an AFCI, the offending circuit is shut down. It can be reset similarly to a GFCI. AFCIs should be tested once per quarter.
- Inspect your electrical system and see if you have all grounded (three-hole) receptacles. If not, contact an electrician and plan make an upgrade.
- Locate and note the whereabouts of your GFCI/AFCI’s. Especially hidden or hard to locate units.
- If there are small children at home, use childproof plugs to cover the outlets and prevent tampering.
Common Problems and Troubleshooting
- Test all GFCI/AFCI’s by depressing the test button located on the device. If all is OK, the GFCI will reset and become useable again. Contact an electrician if a GFCI will not reset.
- Check wall switches first if an outlet is not working. Next, check the breaker. If you experience loss of power to any kitchen, bath, garage or exterior outlet then a GFCI/AFCI breaker has likely tripped. Search for the tripped GFCI/AFCI and reset. The reset button for garage and exterior receptacles are sometimes located inside the main breaker box or in one of your systems sub-panels.
- Call an electrician ASAP if an outlet produces a burning smell, noise, is warm to the touch or has scorch marks.
- 4x per year: Test each G/AFCI.
- 1x per year: Check the cover plate surrounding each outlet. Replace any cracked or broken covers. Tighten any screws that may have come loose. Do not over-tighten the screws! Outlets are not repairable. Replace defective outlets that operate poorly, break or feel warn to the touch.
- Replace any GFCI’s and AFCI’s older than 6 years. Get new replacements here.