What is GFCI protection, and why do homeowners need to know about it?

You’ll often know if your outlets have this protection from a simple glance. Nowadays, these features are commonplace, so you may not have given them a second thought. These outlets will have the Test and Reset button placed in between the outlet sockets. 

Look around your house right now. Do you notice any? How about outlets that don’t have this feature? If your outlets don’t have the buttons, that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have the protection. Only the first outlet in the circuit needs it, and then all other outlets downstream will also be protected. Plus in some instances, a GFCI breaker may be installed in the panel, in lieu of being at the outlet. 

GFCI protection has only been around a few decades, so if you live in an older home, you may find that most of your outlets don’t have these square buttons where we would expect them today. This poses a dangerous risk (which we’ll tell you about in just a sec), and you should consider an electrical upgrade as soon as possible. 

Even if you do have updated outlets, it’s not uncommon for these protections to become faulty. This is why you should be testing them in your home every month. 

But don’t scroll down just yet. If you need to know how to test a GFCI outlet, then it’s very important to understand what it is, why you need it, and yes— how it works.

 

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What is GFCI Protection  

gfci protection cost

GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters. In simple terms, this is just fancy electrical protection that prevents you from being shocked. That’s why NEC (National Electrical Code) requires GFCI protection for every room that is close to a water source. 

As of 2020, nearly all rooms should have GFCI protection. In 1971, the only rooms required for GFCI were bathrooms and construction sites. Now, all outlets near swimming pool areas, the exterior, kitchens, crawl spaces, garages, boathouses, basements, and laundry areas should be equipped with this protection.

Essentially, a ground fault circuit interrupters must be used for all of the following except:

  • Fixed electric snow melting equipment
  • Receptacles that are not readily accessible (such as ceiling mounts for garage door openers)
  • Some Receptacles tied to an outdoor dedicated branch circuit (e.g., a sump pump)

However, your local electrical codes may say differently, so consult with an electrician to ensure your home’s outlets are is up to date and up to code. The NEC also updates their GFCI requirements every three years, so be mindful of that if you’re a homeowner.

What Does It Do?

Have you ever been afraid of getting shocked while plugging in a hairdryer or maybe a toaster? GFCI protection directly addresses these concerns. 

Pretty much what it can do is sense a change in electrical currents that prompts the outlet to switch off immediately. Maybe you have you’re reading your Kindle in the bathtub, but you have it charging in a nearby outlet. To save you from potentially shocking yourself should you drop it in the water, the GFCI will turn itself off in about 20-30 milliseconds. 

125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-amp receptacles

What’s the Difference Between GFCI vs. GFI

Absolutely nothing. We sometimes use GFCI and GFI (ground fault interrupters) interchangeably, but they are the same device. 

GFCI vs. AFCI

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI’s) are even more modern than GFCI. They came into homes around 1999, and they look similar to GFCIs, with the same test and reset buttons. 

The main difference between these two is that GFCI’s protect you from an electrical shock, whereas AFCI protects your house from potential fires caused by arcing & sparking. 

GFCI’s keep control of ground faults while AFCI interrupts “arcing faults” that usually come from bad wiring. Ground faults can only cause bodily harm, whereas bad wiring (such as arc faults) is responsible for starting more than 28,000 home fires, according to The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

 

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How To Install a GFCI Outlet 

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Can you install a GFCI outlet on your own? Most of the time— yes. If any of these outlets stop working in your home, it’s crucial to replace them right away.

Especially if the faulty outlet is in a wet location such as a bathroom or kitchen. But if you have any doubts or discomfort working with electricity, an electrician really should perform this work.

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of how to install a GFCI outlet:

Step 1: Turn off the circuit breaker. 

Step 2: Remove the outlet cover and the switch with a screwdriver (Pro-Tip: test the outlet with an electrical outlet testing tool to make sure it is completely off and no currents are flowing through the wires)

Step 3: Disconnect the “hot wire” with (right side, black wire, brass screw)

Step 4: Disconnect the neutral wire (left side, white wire, silver screw)

Step 5: Disconnect the grounding wire (green or tan insulation and screw) 

Step 6: Replace the outlet with GFCI, making sure to follow the instructions on the package and use the appropriate screws for each wire.

If you have fewer than 2 wires or more than 3 in your old outlet, call an electrician as these outlets will require a few extra steps. 

 

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GFCI Protection Cost

Ground-fault circuit interrupters

A standard GFCI outlet costs anywhere from $15 to $50 at your local hardware store. You’ll need to know the amp and voltage of each outlet you are replacing before going the DIY route.

Ground-fault circuit interrupters absolutely need to be installed by an electrician when there is anything more or less than three wires. We also don’t recommend installing these yourself if you have little home improvement experience (there’s still the risk of being shocked, after all!).

If you hire an electrician for your GFCI protection, the average cost to replace a single outlet with a licensed professional is about $120 per receptacle. 

 

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How To Test GFCI Outlet

GFCI protection outlet

You should be testing your GFCI protection outlet every single month. 

Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1: Plug a lamp, phone charger, or some other small electrical device into your outlet

Step 2: Press the “Test” button. If you hear a clicking sound, this indicates the circuit has tripped, and the lamp or phone should turn off.  

Step 3: Press the “Reset” button (it should have popped out when you hit “Test”). If the lamp or phone turns back on, then your GFCI protector is working just fine! If not, try these next steps:

 

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What To Do When Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Won’t Reset

If your GFCI button won’t push in, the solution may be as simple as pushing it harder to reach the unit. You can also try another nearby outlet if the reset button doesn’t help turn on the devices using the outlet. If it doesn’t, head to the circuit breaker to see if you need to flip a switch. 

But let’s say none of your outlets seems to be working in one room, no matter how many times you hit the Reset button. In this case, you might want to follow the steps for how to install a GFCI protector and see if there’s a broken or dislocated wire. 

 

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It’s pretty simple to find a stud in common drywall. But on some older homes from the 1970s and earlier, we didn’t have drywall yet. Learning how to find a stud in a plaster wall takes some patience, but we have a few tricks up our sleeve that will save you time.

Back in the day, home builders had to trowel the wall finish on with plaster and lath (kind of like how stucco is applied). These were “wet” applied walls (not to be confused with the similar-sounding “wet wall” that contains plumbing pipes).

Plaster can be too thick or dense to find a stud with stud finders, which is probably why you’re finding that these don’t work. And if the lath is a metal wire type, instead of older wood lath, a stud finder will produce false readings.

So what’s the solution to finding studs in older homes? Some people say to use a magnet, but that also won’t work if you have metal lath. But don’t worry— there are still ways to locate studs in these walls!

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Here are five ways to find a stud in a plaster wall:

How To Find a Stud in a Plaster Wall

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Vertical studs, wooden beams, and plaster make up the structure of older homes. This means that your standard stud finder won’t be able to detect a change in density because it’s all dense. 

Anytime you want to hang something on your wall— whether it’s 5 pounds or 50 pounds— you want it to be attached to a stud. Studs are the wooden beams that support the walls in your house. Imagine hanging a 50 pound framed piece of artwork on nothing but drywall.

It wouldn’t stay there for long!

Ensuring your wall décor is anchored to these studs means they’ll stay in place until you decide to take them down again. You can simply use a stud finder to find the perfect spot these days, but this won’t work on older homes.

So we have to find creative ways to figure out where these beams are.

With a couple of household items and a keen eye, you’ll be able to find your studs in minutes. 

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1. The Good Ol’ Fashion Knock

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This is the method you’ll find most professionals using to locate a stud in an old home. A simple double tab with your knuckle against a wall is enough to do the trick. 

You want to look out for a faint echo behind each knock. Move horizontally along the wall (giving a couple of raps along the way) until that echo dissipates. Eventually, what you’ll hear instead is a high pitched sound reverberating off the studded pole. That means you’ve found the stud!

Take your time with this method. Figuring out how to find a stud in a plaster wall this way takes some patience because the changes in density can be difficult to discern. Try to find a few stud poles along the same wall and mark them as you go. If you notice they’re generally 1-2 feet apart, then you’ve definitely found your marks. 

Pro-Tip: Use a trim nail to double-check. Mark where you think you’ve found the stud, and slowly hammer the nail into that area. It should only go in about half an inch if there’s a stud there.

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2. Use a Metal Detector

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Some people suggest using a magnet to find the screws in your home’s studs. This can work sometimes, and only if you use a heavy-duty magnet.

The next best trick to find a stud in a plaster wall is to use a metal detector. If you have one lying around the house, use it to scan the wall to detect those screws. 

Again, if your home is coated in metal lath, a metal detector can also give false readings. If this is the case, #3 will be your next best bet. 

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3. Measure From An Electrical Socket

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Most electrical sockets are fastened to a stud. So, if you take the cover off one of your electrical sockets, then the stud is pretty easy to spot. Be careful when you’re doing this, and go ahead and turn off your breakers first when looking for studs this way. 

Studs in older homes are generally 16 to 24 inches apart. Check which side of your outlet is attached to the stud and measure off the next 16-24 inches to find the next one. You can use any of the above methods to ensure you’ve found the next stud on your wall. 

From there, write down how many inches it is from each stud. If it’s 16 inches, use a measuring tape to find the next one, then the next, and so on. If you need to find studs in another room in your house, it’s safe to assume they will also be 16 inches apart. 

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Why Won’t a Stud Finder Work on Plaster Walls?

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Stud finders work in one of two ways. It uses an electrical sensor to determine:

  1. The density of your wall;
  2. Where there are nails driven into a stud.

As we mentioned, the plaster walls’ density is too thick for a stud finder to work. This density also hinders the electronic sensor’s ability to accurately pick up on nails in your stud. The magnet in a stud finder is simply not large enough.

As long as you work diligently, you can find your home’s studs behind the plaster in a matter of minutes!

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You’ve heard of the Grammy’s Artist of the Year, the Oscar’s Film of the Year, and Time magazine’s Person of the Year— but do you know about the 2021 Color of the Year?

This tradition goes back decades. Pantone, a New Jersey company that started as a printing service in the early 1950s, made a name for themselves with their Pantone Matching System (PMS).

You may recognize their innovative system if you’ve recently made a trip down the paint aisle at your local hardware store. PMS presents customers with a color-coordinated booklet with more than 500 color swatches to choose from. If you’re looking for red paint for your new accent wall, Pantone is the reason why you’ll know whether you’re looking for more of a Chilli Pepper Red than a Ruby Red. 

The demand for this simple concept was, unpredictably, overwhelming. By the 80s, Pantone began working with Adobe and Microsoft to help give their users an unlimited way to design. 

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Why Home Buyers and Sellers Should Care about the Color of the Year

color-of-the-year-2021-pantone

So why does anyone pay attention to this company’s color of the year? 

Well, because they’ve turned this tradition into a million-dollar marketing gimmick.

Each year, Pantone introduces its new “official” color of the year. The Pantone Color Institute’s executive director, Leatrice Eiseman, decides the color (or colors) every year.

And the 2021 Pantone Color of the Year award goes to Ultimate Gray and Illuminating Yellow. 

 

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When Did Pantone Start Color of The Year?

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Pantone began publishing a color of the year in 2000. The first nominee, Cerulean, celebrated the new millennium with this calming, powered blue. 

Each color of the year loosely ties with color psychology. According to Eiseman, the reason they choose this particular shade of blue is because it, “brings a sense of peace and tranquillity to the human spirit.”

Think about it: what scenes do you imagine when you see this color? Perhaps you see yourself walking along a Florida beach or enjoying the outdoors near a lake or spring. Blues bring about feelings of relaxation, reminders of adolescence, and even symbolizes manners of empowerment.

In the years since, colors have ranged from 2006’s Sand Dollar to 2016’s duo winners, Rose Quartz and Serenity. The colors essentially “set the tone” for the upcoming year. 

And since 2020’s color of the year, Classic Blue, was a hard miss (the color represents dependability and reassurance), we can only hope that the 2021 color of the year is more telling of the future ahead of us. 

Even if you’re not interested in the meaning of colors, you’ll still see Pantone’s color of the year play out into marketing around the globe. These colors become popular players in everything from fashion and footwear to home decor and automobiles. 

 

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The 2021 Color of the Year

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Pantone announced two contenders for their 2021 color of the year: Illuminating 13-0647 and Ultimate Gray 17-5104. 

These colors represent resilience and hope for our future. On choosing these two colors, Eisman noted they are “Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic… We need to feel encouraged and uplifted, this is essential to the human spirit.”

Because of last year’s disparaging views, Pantone decided to choose two colors that represent different things and yet, mold well together. 

“The selection of two independent colors highlight how different elements come together to express a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting, conveying the idea that it’s not about one color or one person, it’s about more than one.”

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Ideas For How To Incorporate These Colors Into Your Lifestyle

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While Pantone isn’t the only company to claim their own 2021 color o the year, it’s certainly the most popular. Because so many consumers will be seeing this color this year, it’s a smart move to incorporate these hues into your own home— especially if you’re looking to sell.

So whether you’re planning on putting your home on the market this year, or you simply want to impress your guests with your contemporary style, here are five ways you can use Pantone’s 2021 color of the year into your life:

1. Accent pieces

Not everyone is a fan of bright yellow, but it’s a nice way to make your place look lively. So start small. Look for a gray throw blanket with hints of that Illuminating yellow in its design. Then, place it at the end of your bed or across your couch for an easy accent decoration.

Yellow framed pictures, kitchen utensils, and small yellow vases or flowers are also easy ways to bring some modern color into your home. 

2. Couch

If you’ve been thinking about refurbishing 6your home this year, keep an eye out for that Ultimate Gray color. 

You’ve probably noticed that grays and whites have been the epitome of modern design these last few years. So sofas, coffee tables, and dressers in this shade of gray will be easy to come by. 

If you’re feeling particularly bold, why not try to find an armchair or a full love seat in Illuminating yellow? This bold pop of color can really play into the psychology that your home is up-to-date, fresh, and ready to buy.

3. A garden 

For spruced up curbside appeal, think about planting a garden under your front window sills. Sunflowers, daffodils, and tulips are all terrific light yellow colors that coincide with the 2021 color of the year. 

And forget the mulch— that Marsala color is so 2015. 

Instead, ease your garden around a pool of Ultimate Gray pebbles or rocks.

4. New comforter 

Looking for a more private way to plant these colors into your living quarters? Try out a new comforter for your primary or guest bedrooms. Go for the gold with a bright Illuminating yellow bedspread, or keep it sleek with a gray comforter with the yellow accent pillows. 

5. Appliances

What color are your kitchen appliances right now? We’re willing to bet they’re either white, black, or gray.

If they’re gray, then you have significantly more remodeling money in your pocket. However, homeowners see black and white appliances of the 1990s and early 2000s as outdated. Think about getting that gray appliance upgrade if you really want your home to feel updated and ready to sell.

Retro home decor lovers can rejoice as well— bold color appliances were a hit back in the 1940s (and much more durable, too). See if you can find an antique yellow refrigerator to add some life back into your kitchen!

Or you can always settle for a nice yellow toaster. 

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Are you looking to buy or sell your home? Make sure we inspect it first! Contact Stephen of Whitt Inspections to set up your inspection date.