Clients and real estate agents often have questions about GFCI protection and what its purpose is. Simply stated, GFCI protection is the protection of an electrical outlet or circuit against ground faults that can lead to electrocution or electrical fires. A GFCI protected outlet or circuit will automatically disconnect from the power source if it detects a defect in the grounding. This will prevent the person using an electrical device connected to the outlet or circuit from becoming the ground for the circuit if the wired ground fails, thus protecting that person from harmful electric shock.
Electrical circuits located near water sources are recommended to have GFCI protection either by a GFCI protected receptacle or by an entire circuit being protected by a GFCI breaker in the electric panel. Outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, garages, crawlspaces, and all exterior outlets should be GFCI protected according to modern code.
Since the 1970’s GFCI protection has been added as a requirement to electrical codes for new construction of residential properties. But what about homes that were built before this requirement? Well…since these properties were built before the code existed, GFCI protection is not required by municipalities to transfer ownership of, or transfer utility service to, the property. BUT, as home inspectors, we do not report on code requirements. It is our duty to report on the presence of, or lack of, safety systems in a home, and give our recommendations to offer the best protection to our clients. Therefore, when we see a lack of GFCI protection in the recommended locations, we will always call it out as a defect, regardless of the age of the property. This way we give our clients the best information to make decisions about making their home as safe as possible.