Safety "Outlet" - Electrical Testing

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

All homes have electrical outlets connected to the main electrical panel or circuit breaker box. These outlets provide electrical power for all of our connected devices. They are used for lights, fans, flat screen TVs, audio & video components, and maybe most importantly - our hand held devices.

They can help or hurt us. Know the condition of yours.

Something got hot!!

The location of outlets is closely defined in Chapter 39 of the International Residential Code (IRC) or National Electrical Code (NEC). A few requirements will be discussed here with some information on how to check or test the outlets in your home.

There 2 types of outlets - Standard outlets and GFCI outlets. A GFCI outlet is an outlet that prevent people and animals from being electrocuted in the event they become a path to ground. GFCI outlets are required in kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, garages, outside, crawlspaces, and unfinished basements. A GFCI will have 2 buttons in the middle for test and reset. If you own an older home without GFCI outlets, it would be a good idea to have them installed by a licensed electrician.

Standard outlets do not have this protection function and should not be used in wet area. Both outlets should have the middle ground lug and a larger blade opening on the left as shown in the pictures.

It is also important to note that outlets also are used to identify the circuit. IRC requires kitchens to have a minimum of 2 separate 20 amp circuits for servicing appliances. The outlets shown in the images above are 15 amp outlets. A 20 amp outlet will have a horizontal opening on the left blade opening. Homeowners must first confirm the circuit in the kitchen is protected by a 20 am p circuit breaker before installing a 20 amp outlet. Bathrooms also require a minimum of 20 amp circuit. 15 amp standard and GFCI outlets are shown in the images below.

In standard rooms, general purpose outlets are required in every "kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, parlor, library, den, sun room, bedroom, recreation room, or similar room in a dwelling".1

  • "Receptacles shall be installed so that no point measured horizontally along a the floor line of any wall space is more than 6 feet from a receptacle outlet."2

Wall Space is defined as:

  1. "Any space that is 2 feet or more in width, including space measured around corners."

  2. "The space occupied by fixed panels in exterior walls, excluding sliding panels"

  3. The space created by fixed room divider such as railings and free standing bar-type counters."3

Testing Outlets

If not familiar with electrical safety, contact a licensed electrician for inspection and repairs. In order to test an outlet, ensure power is on by checking all breakers are on in the electrical panel.

Once that is verified, use a outlet tester shown below that are readily available from hardware stores and electrical supply stores.

The outlet tester will have 3 lights that can illuminate when inserted into an outlet. Which lights illuminate depends on the outlet tester so refer to the diagram on the top. Some outlet testers have a button that will allow testing of GFCI circuits. It is recommended to use that style as both standard and GFCI outlets can be checked.

If a wiring issue are detected, the lights will illuminate in a pattern to indicate the issue. In the images below, the tester identifies (left to right) correctly wired outlet, open ground, open neutral, swapped ground and neutral.

Electrical outlets are very important to our lifestyle and safety in a home. Ensure your keep your home safe!

Call Boxer Inspections at 281-783-3030 to help with all your home inspection needs.

Copyrighted material. Not for use without written permission. Aug 2018

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Sugar Land, Texas 77487