You’re trying to get the last little bit of vacuuming done, and the cord is almost at its limit. The last strip of carpet is half done, and boom! the plug pulls out of the outlet again. We’ve all been there, and it gets old after a while. What are you to do? Call an electrician and pay several hundred dollars to have a 70 cent outlet installed?
Luckily, the National Fire Protection Agency’s National Electric Code (NEC) and all local building authorities allow homeowners to change outlets without pulling a permit or hiring a licensed electrician.
Now that you know that replacing an outlet is a DIY project, the next question is: which type of outlet do you need?
GFCI versus standard three-prong outlet
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets detect unintentional diverging of the electrical path to ground (such as a hairdryer falling in water) and immediately break the circuit, meaning power will be turned off to the outlet.
A standard three-prong outlet has 3 contacts: power, neutral, and ground. The ground does provide some protection, but will not completely prevent injury and only provides protection for electrically-grounded equipment.
Grounded Equipment ID Tip: If your equipment (vacuum, hairdryer, etc.) has a three-prong plug (3 terminals sticking out at the end of the cord) from the manufacturer, it is electrically grounded. If it has a two-prong plug (2 terminals sticking out at the end of the cord), it is not electrically grounded.
Pro Tip: If you want ground protection for your non-electrically grounded equipment, you should install a GFCI outlet or breaker.
Places you need a GFCI outlet
The NEC is the authority on where in the home GFCI outlets (or breakers) are required. They specify in the NPFA 70 Code Book that GFCI outlets are required in the following locations:
Kitchen, Laundry, and Utility Rooms – Any outlet within 6 feet of a water source and the dishwasher circuit must be GFCI protected.
Bathrooms – All outlets must have GFCI protection.
Basement and Crawl Space – All outlets in crawl spaces and unfinished basements that are below grade (ground level) are required to have GFCI protection. The exception to this rule is for dedicated circuits that run the equipment.
Garage – If the garage is on ground level or below and the space is intended for storage or a work area, all outlets must have GFCI protection.
Outside – All outdoor outlets with the exception of dedicated circuits for snow abatement must be GFCI protected.