Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's That Thing?

When we conduct a home inspection, one tool we use to test the electrical circuits is a GFCI Arc Fault Receptacle Tester and Tripper. It looks like a toy and it’s small enough to fit in a pocket, but it tells us quite a bit.

The warning lights can confirm faulty wiring, GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interruption), correct polarity, ungrounded outlets and more.

Why is this important to you?

Remember – we look for things that may cost our clients money or are unsafe.

When we test a three- prong outlet that is located near water – such as a bathroom or kitchen – it must be properly grounded to prevent shock or worse. We have encountered many instances where a three- prong faceplate is present, which leads you to believe that you can plug in a three- prong plug and be safe – but once the outlet is tested - there is no ground present. Someone swapped out a two-prong faceplate for a three-prong without the ground!

Now we have a safety problem.

Almost every major appliance – computers, hair dryers, televisions, curling irons, radios, toaster ovens, coffee makers, etc. have a three-prong plug. It is there for a reason. It is used to prevent shock or electrocution or electrical fire. How many times have you seen a house fire in the news where the cause was attributed to faulty wiring?

If an appliance or other equipment is plugged into the outlet, and that appliance has a three-pronged plug, then it also has metal that is capable by being touched by people when they use it. The ground wire in that appliance is connected to that appliance metal.

Now, when you plug a three-pronged appliance into a receptacle that has three slots but does not have a ground (green) wire, the circuit breaker will not trip and when you touch the metal – ZAP. You may walk away (if you’re lucky) with Don King hair.

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