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Tips from Arizona Home Inspectors

Have you ever experienced an electric shock? If you have, it probably occurred because some part of your body contacted a source of electrical current and your body provided a path for the electrical current to go to ground. This “leaking” of electrical current from the circuit to ground is called a ground-fault. If your body is the path for the ground-fault you could be shocked, burned or even electrocuted. Take the following examples:

  • Two children, ages five and six, were electrocuted in Texas when a plugged-in hairdryer fell into the tub in which they were bathing.
  • A three-year-old Kansas girl was electrocuted when she touched a faulty countertop appliance and the water faucet.
  • A 52-year-old man was working outside when he went to switch on a lamp located on the wet ground. When he touched the case of the lamp he received a shock but was not electrocuted because the lamp was plugged into a GFCI protected receptacle. Within one second, the flow of electricity was halted and the man survived. The lamp was later tested and found to be faulty.

The National Electrical Code has been requiring GFCI protection for most outdoor receptacles since 1973, in bathrooms since 1975, in the garage since 1978, in the kitchen since 1987, and in crawl spaces/unfinished basements since 1990. A properly functioning GFCI device constantly monitors the electricity flowing in a circuit. If even a tiny amount of current escapes, the GFCI assumes you are at risk and it shuts off the circuit in a fraction of a second. It does all that for about ten dollars each. In the field, we often find GFCI devices that are improperly wired or failed. We recommend that you plug in a night-light and use the test and reset buttons provided to confirm operation of each GFCI device monthly. Approximately 200 electrocutions each year could be prevented by the installation of this ten dollar device. Tomorrow is too late.

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