Wow! I'm glad that's over.Winter, that is. Now we can get outdoors and have some fun. But wait, is it safe out there?
Electrically safe is what I'm talking about. Are your outdoor electric outlets ground-fault protected? GFCI is a term that should be familiar to everyone. It stands for "ground-fault circuit interrupter". A GFI is an automatic device that offers personal protection against electrical shock. GFI's are required in any area where water may come in contact with electrical devices. They are normally found in areas of the home such as bathrooms,kitchens, basements, garages and outdoor areas.
How can we receive an electric shock? Well, generally, an electric shock happens when a person becomes part of an electrical circuit. A severe shock can cause the heart to stop, and also cause severe burns. Most electrical shocks happen to adults who should know better, but they also happen to children who are unaware of the danger and should be protected. Any electrical device or appliance connected to ordinary household current can, under the right conditions, deliver a fatal shock. Remember also, that it's not the voltage, but the current that kills, and it dosen't take much.
How does a GFI work? Simply put, a GFI compares the amount of current in the hot conductor, with the amount of current in the neutral conductor. If there is an imbalance of as little as 4-6 milliamps, the GFI will interrupt or open the circuit, preventing current from flowing. An imbalance indicates that the current has found another path to ground, perhaps through the person holding the electrical device.
GFI's can be located in different places. They can be built into the receptical, or be built into the circuit breaker in the elecrtic panel, or they can even be a portable device.
Make sure all tools, appliances and other electrical devices are properly wired and in good condition. Unless it's a double insulated device that dosen't require one, be sure that the third wire for grounding is in place. In case of fault, the current will flow to the ground through the third wire.
Think of all the things you do outdoors that involves electricity. Electric lawn mowers, leaf blowers,hedge trimmers, paint strippers, holiday decorations, hot tubs, swimming pools,outdoor lighting, etc. Music anyone? Ever park the car on the grass to vacuum, wax, or buff it? Was the grass wet? How about a bouncy-bounce for the kids birthday party. The list goes on and on.
Don't take a chance. Take a few minutes to check out your outdoor electric outlets, and then get out there and have some fun. But never, ever, use electrical devices outdoors in bare feet. Ever!
GFI's are required by code in new construction, but many older homes have not yet been converted. Home inspectors, during a structural inspection, will reveal an improper situation, and recommend that it be corrected.
Be pro-active. The life you save may be your own, or one of your children.