How To Reset a GFI Outlet

Bob and Sue’s Home Maintenance Tips

Part 1: How to reset a GFI Outlet
By Bob and Sue Russo

What is a GFI/GFCI outlet?

GFCI Outlet All new home built today are required by law to have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI, more commonly referred to as GFI outlets). In 1975, the NEC [1] required GFI Outlet installation in bathrooms, but it wasn’t until 2005 that that this Federal Organization instructed that GFIs should be installed in Laundry Rooms. Based on what we’d read, it seems that it was up to individual states to determine if they would comply with this regulation. If you are moving into your new home from an older apartment or home you may not be accustom to seeing or using these GFI outlets.

A GFI Outlet is a potentially life-saving feature in your home. The following example illustrates the importance of a GFI. If you were to plug in a small appliance with an electrical problem, the GFI outlet would trip almost immediately. You may be thinking, “okay, no big deal”, but if you attempted to plug in the same electrical appliance (without a GFI) while touching your water faucet, the electrical current would travel through your body and into the water faucet, which could result in burns, electrical shock or death.

One GFI outlet can protect multiple outlets in your home, therefore all your outlets may not look like the one pictured above.  Let’s think about a series of outlets like a row of lined up dominoes.  When you knock the first domino down, the subsequent dominoes will also fall. In this analogy, the last domino to fall is the GFI outlet. Let’s say that the electrician installed a GFI in the outlet that you plug your toaster into. He then connected the GFI outlet to the next outlet he installed, which is a non-GFI outlet. This happens to be the outlet you plug your coffee pot into. Both appliances are GFI protected because they are both linked to the original GFI outlet. So if your coffee pot has a short, the GFI Outlet that your toaster is plugged into will trip.

In the example in the video, we figured out that we had a defective appliance, because Bob knew that the coffee pot sparked when he plugged it in. So our plan was to reset the GFI Outlet, return the Coffee Pot to the store, get a new one and be back in business. A GFI outlet can also be tripped by an electrical storm, any odd electrical surge or even excessive moisture.

How to Reset GFCI Outlet

To locate the outlet with the tripped GFI, look for the one with a small button popped out. Remember, when a GFI trips, it will trip any and all outlets connected to that GFI. Most kitchen and bathrooms in new homes have multiple (visible) GFI outlets, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find the GFI that’s tripped in one of these rooms. Once you have located the outlet with the tripped GFI, simply push the button back into place.

In rooms other than your bathroom or kitchen or even outside your home, it’ may be difficult to find the tripped GFI. This happened to us in our garage and we had to call an electrician to come help us. He came and helped us move an antique wardrobe in a garage, thus locating the GFI. We all had a good laugh and fortunately, we got away with just buying the electrician lunch. Calling an electrician to reset a GFI could really be costly and unnecessary, so we strongly recommend taking the time to locate the outlet with the GFI!

In our situation it was easy to tell what tripped our GFI. But, if you are unsure why yours has tripped, we recommend you follow the steps listed below.

  1. Unplug everything on that circuit. (the things that aren’t working )
  2. Try resetting the GFI again. If the GFI resets, one of the items plugged in along the circuit may be bad.
  3. Try plugging the items back in one at a time until the GFI trips again. Whatever item trips the GFI is most likely defective. Don’t use this item again until it’s rewired.
  4. If you are able to reset the GFI and none of the items tripped it again, that’s okay too. Remember we said a storm or some other temporary electrical anomaly can also trip the GFI.
  5. If the GFI does not reset, you may have also tripped a circuit breaker. A GFI Outlet will not reset if it is incorrectly wired or doesn’t have power running to it.

Now we are going to look and the circuit breaker panel!

All of the wires in your home are run from a circuit breaker panel. This panel might be located in your garage or laundry room.   Prior to drywall installation, the electrician fed the wires from your circuit breaker box through your walls, which will eventually lead to your outlets.

After you reset the circuit breaker panel, reset the GFI and you should be in business!
We love helping first time homeowners and we want you to be safe! A GFI will not trip repeatedly unless you have a more serious electrical problem or a defective GFI. In the very unlikely scenario that the circuit breaker panel or the same GFI repeatedly trips it’s time to call a certified electrician.

Enjoy your new McKee Home! Bob and Sue


[1] 1 The NEC is published by the National Fire Portection Association (NFPA 70). It is the most widely adopted building code for requirements for electrical system installations in the U.S. It may be adopted into law by states, counties or local jurisdictions for enforcement by inspection authorities and is currently revised every three years.

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How To Replace an HVAC Air Filter

Bob and Sue’s Home Maintenance Tips

Part 1: How to replace an HVAC air filter
By Bob and Sue Russo

The “return air intake” in your home sucks the air from inside your home back into your HVAC unit, which keeps your house toasty in the winter and cool in the summer. If the air filter is clogged, your HVAC unit needs to work harder to keep you toasty or cool and your utility bill will take a hit. Note:  You may also hear the term “return air intake” referred to as the “cold air return”. Old-time, northern transplants may use the second term, because they are more accustom to using furnaces. If you have a new home in North Carolina you have an HVAC system. This article with video will show you how to replace an HVAC air filter in just a few minutes.

We just heard a story tonight about a young couple that called their HVAC repairman because their house wasn’t staying a comfortable temperature, only to find out that they needed to change their air filter. They were charged $100 for this service. You can do this yourself for just a few bucks.

The return air intake has a filter that (according to most manufacturers) should be changed monthly but you can purchase filters that are rated to change once a month or every three months.  The return air intake filter reduces dust particles in your home, so if you can write your name in the dust on your coffee table, you’re probably overdue.  Another dead giveaway, is if your return air intake looks like the photo on the right below. YIKES!

HVAC air filter cover

You might want to put this job on your calendar just like you would a doctor or dentist appointment. We change ours about every three months because we buy three-month filters.

If you have a large or multi-level home, you most likely have more than one return air intake.  The same information will apply to all of them.

(PLEASE NOTE In some older homes, the air filter is located directly in the HVAC Unit or furnace. Please refer to your owner’s manual for your HVAC Unit or furnace if you do not have a filtered return air intake as shown above.)

To change the HVAC air filter, please follow the steps below.

  1. Locate your return air intake and open the door by releasing the clips usually located at the top of the frame.The disposable air filter rests just inside the frame.
  2. Make note of what size filter you have. Ours is 20 x 25 inches. You will need to do this for every return air intake in the house. They may not all be the same size.  Leave the filter in place, close the door and latch…we’re ready to go shopping.
  3. Go shopping! You can buy air filters at Target, Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes etc. We like to buy several and have them on hand. We personally prefer to use the mid-priced filters, but you can buy washable filters for a little more money.

HVAC air filters

We just got back from shopping and realized how confusing this would be for first time home owners. Here’s the net of it. Any of these filters that are the right size, in our case 20 x 25 inches will work. The bottom shelf of this display shows the least expensive filters. These filters need to be changed on a monthly basis. The middle and top shelf filters are three-month filters. The only difference between the middle shelf filters and the top shelf filters is price and how much gunk they actually filter out of the air in your home. We have tried the higher priced filters, but in our experience they clogged up faster and seemed to diminish the air intake slightly. (We are not professional HVAC repair people, so if this point troubles you, you can always refer to your HVAC manual to see what they suggest.)  There is one more option that we have never tried; washable filters. The mid-range filters that we buy cost about $4.00. The washable filters cost about $10.00. With the washable filters, instead of changing the filter, you remove them, separate the screening from the frame and hose the screening off until it runs clear and then reinsert the same filter. This idea sounds like it would be good for the environment, but we looked these up on several HVAC sites and they were not recommended. They indicated that your filter traps bacteria and fungus as well as dust. Rinsing these off does not remove the bacteria and fungus. If you really want to go green there were some suggestions to get around this, for example buy two sets of filters for every return air intake in your home and alternate the washed filter out every other change.  Since we lack the experience with washable filters we would suggest that you follow the recommendations in your HVAC owner’s manual. If they tell you not to use them…don’t use them.   

We should also note that most HVAC Manufacturers don’t recommend HEPA filters because of the dense filtration material used in HEPA filters. Your HVAC units may not be sized to handle the pressure dropped caused by a HEPA filter. The more your filter filters, the harder your HVAC system needs to work. This could cause wear on your HVAC unit and/or your house may not stay so toasty or cool.  Your best bet is to go with the least expensive standard three-month filter. 

  1. Okay now comes the easy part….Installation! Open the door on the cold air return and remove the old filter. Place the new filter in so that the arrows for “air flow” are pointed into the opening. Guide the filter back into the frame and close the door and latch. That’s it!

Change HVAC air filter

Enjoy your beautiful new McKee Home! Bob and Sue

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Planning for Your Move-Part 4 (Moving Day)

Moving 101

Planning For Your Move, Part 4
by Bob and Sue Russo

Moving day is finally here. You’ve gathered boxes, made lists, sorted items and packed a bag. But did you remember what to put in the bag?

From the video you can tell that Bob thought barbecue-stained beer shirts with holes in them were the way to go. Maybe he just planned to party. We also failed on the moving company-inventory process or Bob’s shirts would have made it to our new home!

The inventory process I am referring to can be tedious and time consuming, but it is well worth the effort.

Inventory Process When Using a Moving Company-

  1. The moving company places a numbered tag on everything that’s being moved (boxes, furniture, lamps…)
  2. The moving company creates an inventory list of every item going into their van.
  3. When the van gets to your new home, you will be handed the inventory list.
  4. You will check off the items as the movers bring them into your new home.
  5. Check the inventory list to be sure all items are accounted for.
  6. Sign receipt indicating that all items are in your new home, only if all items are accounted for.

When you signed the contract with the moving company, you had a choice of getting “full replacement value” or a “flat rate by weight replacement value.” The “flat rate by weight” replacement-moving fee will be quite a bit cheaper. If you do choose this option and your item gets lost, you will be reimbursed by the weight of the item, not its actual value. We have always chosen this option and historically it has worked out for us, however our last move from Florida back to North Carolina did not go so well. We had both, a long distance moving company and many willing family members to help unpack in our new home. The “inventory” person changed several times and one of us (Bob) signed off on the inventory as being okay. We lost several sentimental items as well as many decorative pieces…oh and as Bob mentioned, he doesn’t have any summer tee shirts. Remember, checking inventory and making sure furniture is placed in the right room are extremely important. It helps to have one “go to” person for each job.

If you have decided to make the move without the help of a moving company, I hope you have some help! If you have followed the process in Parts1-3 of the Planning Your Move Series, you have labeled each box with its contents and location (for example grandma’s clothes/upstairs room to the right). Doing this will ensure everyone knows where to place each box and will eliminate hearing, “where does this go?” over and over. Keep the stronger people moving boxes and let the other people start unpacking. We do the kitchen first and work from there.

Don’t forget to stop by the store on your way to your new home and pick up some food for your helpers. Deli meat, chips, cookies, paper plates, napkins and liquid refreshments will do nicely. As a courtesy, we also provide food and beverage for the professional movers.

No matter how careful everyone is. Moving boxes and furniture into a home may cause scuff marks on your walls or baseboards. A Magic Eraser or the generic version will do the trick!

Don’t worry if you got a little ding in your wall. We’ll tell you how to fix that later.

You’ve got this! Enjoy your new home! Bob and Sue

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Planning For Your Move Part 3 (Packing and Sorting)

Moving 101

Planning For Your Move, Part 3
by Bob and Sue Russo

Packing and sorting are important aspects of planning for your move. This article will help you prioritize items so you know what to keep with you, what to pack, and what items you might want to consider getting rid of.

Maybe you don’t have an “ugly chicken conversation piece” like Sue, but you get the idea. While you’re packing is the perfect time to do a good spring cleaning. When you pick up something decide which of the following groups your item belongs in:

  • Must Haves: Things you will need in the next few days/weeks. Some of these items will need to travel with you instead of with the movers so keep them handy. See Planning For Your Move, Part 1.
  • Need Later: What you need to keep, but won’t need for the next few weeks. Pack these now. Make sure you label all boxes clearly. What’s in the box and where does it go? For example: KITCHEN- GOOD GLASSWARE.
  • May Not Need: Finally, what you haven’t used for the last six months. Seriously! Think about donating or selling the items that you haven’t used in the last six months. Yes, we know that there will be things that you haven’t used in the last six months that you will want to keep, but this is an exercise to make sure what you move (lift, carry or pay to move) doesn’t just end up in the trash at the other end. (We’re keeping the chicken!)

While you’re doing all the prep work make sure all of your important documents are packed together. If you don’t have a desk file or alphabetized flexible file, now is the time to get organized. Your birth certificate, house deeds, passports, insurance papers, car titles, checkbooks and any other legal documents need to be gathered and these should not be packed for the move. These documents should remain with you during the move.

The final step is to pack the “must haves” we discussed above and referenced in Planning For Your Move, Part 1 (Pack a bag). If at all possible these, as well as your important documents, should travel with you to your new home.

Moving does not need to be stressful and scary. With thorough planning and preparation, moving can be a pleasant and rewarding experience. Stay tuned for the next article in our Planning Your Move Series Part 4 – Day Of.

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Planning for Your Move Part 2 (Lists)

Moving 101

Planning For Your Move, Part 2
by Bob and Sue Russo

We have found that creating lists is a vital part of the moving process. List are helpful for a variety of reasons. Creating a detailed list of everything that you need to do will help reduce the stress of the move. If it’s on the list, it’s off our mind until you complete the “to do.” You can keep this list on a piece of scrap paper, your iPad or smart phone if you like, but we have found it very helpful to go “old school” on this one. We purchase a “move” composition notebook, which serves as a temporary file for all our move documents and receipts.

making a list

Yes, just like the type of notebook we used in school. Write down everything you need to do in this notebook. The more detailed you are in your list, the less you need to think about it on the spot. Don’t just say, “call utilities”, write them all out. For example:

  • Does my new home have the same cell service (depending on the move you may need to change providers).
  • Create staging area for our packed boxes.
  • Call old cell provider and cancel service.
  • Call new cell provider and establish service.
  • Cancel old electric service.
  • Call new electric service.
  • Add line item for every utility both old and new.
  • Clean out master bedroom closet (we will talk more about this in item 3 below).
  • Add line item for every room and closet in your home.
  • Take donated items to the Salvation Army.
  • If you are not making a local move, check your calendar for all future appointments and cancel them.
  • Do you need a referral for doctors, etc. in your new area?
  • If you are moving local, and are not planning to hire someone to help, tell friends and family the date you are moving (hopefully you have some volunteers).
  • Don’t forget to check ISP, TV, insurance, USPS address change notice, notify bank regarding address change (some bank documents will not get forwarded), etc.

You get the idea! You may be thinking you can handle a lot of the utility transfers online, but based on our experience some providers insist on talking to you regarding canceling or starting new service. Can’t tell you how many hours we’ve been on hold with utility companies. (Maybe you can be cleaning out the closet while you’re waiting on hold.)

When you make contact with old and new providers, make a note next to your line item in your notebook such as: method of contact, date of contact and results of contact, for example, I called on Monday, June 10 at 11:00 and was on hold for 20 minutes, got tired of waiting and hung up.

This does help! When your significant other asks, “did you call the internet service provider?” You can say, “yes I called on 4/30 at 2PM and they said they do provide service at our new location.” Don’t you look smart. Good for you!

Okay, so one of the best reasons we like the detailed list idea, is the satisfaction we feel when we cross items off the list. If you clean out a closet today or called one utility, cross it off your list! If you leave it on there, it might feel like you didn’t accomplish anything, when in fact you actually did.

Making a list is a tried and true practice. Our teachers and councilors alike have told us if it’s on your mind, write it down. We take this advice to heart when it comes to planning a move.   We recommend that you do the same. Happy planning!

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Planning for Your Move Part 1 (Pack A Bag)

Moving 101

Planning For Your Move, Part 1
by Bob and Sue Russo

Moving can be a stressful experience. We have made many local as well as cross country moves over the years. We’d like to share some things that we have learned that may help reduce this stress. One of the first things you should do when planning for your move is to decide whether you will be moving yourself or if you are going hire a mover. If you are going to be moving yourself, start gathering boxes. You can buy boxes and packing tape at Lowes or Home Depot, but it costs about $3.00 for one large (18”x 24”) packing box. To save money, start collecting boxes from friends, family, the liquor store or any other source you have for free boxes. Doing this could save you up to a few hundred dollars. You can also get end-rolls of news print paper from the local newspaper printing department for about $1 per roll to use as packing paper. It’s the same paper they use to print the newspaper but it’s clean and free of printing. If you hire a mover, the mover will generally supply boxes, packing materials and tape to you as part of their package.

Whether you decide to use a professional or move your things yourself, it’s important to remember to pack a bag.

To avoid the embarrassment of having to wear a Hawaiian shirt that may only be appropriate in Hawaii or the possibility of walking around with “mossy” teeth. It’s important to pack a bag for each family member a few days before you move. You should think about it as if you are going on vacation or a business trip for a week. Make sure you think about everything you would need. Don’t forget the cosmetics, medicine, cell phone chargers and little Susie’s favorite blanket. These items should stay with you, not with the moving truck. You may also want to pack a few basic items for the kitchen, like the coffee pot, especially if you are making a local move.

When you get to your new home it’s important to bring these items in first. They should be placed in a safe spot that will not get buried under a pile of boxes. You may need to eat take out for a few days, but at least you’ll have clean clothes and fresh breath. If you plan ahead you can ease the stress and not end up like Bob on his first day in his new home

There are a lot of other things that will help you make the transition from one home to another home go as smoothly as possible. Stay tuned for more Planning Your Move Tips from Bob and Sue.

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