When we have time during the holidays, we usually get those outdoor chores done. Unfortunately, the outdoors can hold many dangers. One of those is mixing damp conditions and electricity. If you plan on using electrical equipment while you work outside, it is important that your equipment is plugged in to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI).
A GFCI monitors the flow of electricity in a circuit. If there is an irregularity, even a very small one, the flow of electricity is shut off, preventing an electric shock. GFCIs are recommended anywhere where water and electricity may meet—such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, garages, and outdoor receptacles.
GFCIs come in several varieties. One type is a circuit breaker with a built-in GFCI that a qualified electrician can install in a home’s panel box to add protection to the circuits it supplies. Others come in the form of a receptacle that fits into a standard outlet box. For outdoor chores it is important to also be aware of the portable GFCI. A portable GFCI is a specialized extension cord with GFCI abilities that can be plugged into an outlet and used to power your electrical equipment, such as hedge trimmers, edgers, drills, and saws.
“Fortunately staying safe is as simple as plugging in an extension cord,” says Molly Hall, Safe Electricity program director. “Portable GFCIs are available at most hardware stores and are a worthwhile investment.”
Although a GFCI can protect you from dangerous conditions when water and electricity meet, there is no reason to push your luck. If it is raining or still damp outside from raining, postpone your outdoor chores that involve electricity. If there is standing water in your workplace, wipe it up before you begin working.
If you have receptacle or portable ground fault circuit interrupters, you should test them after installation, after power failures, and on a monthly basis. They will have test and reset buttons for this purpose.