Electrical outlet question

We have an electrical outlet in the garage, which was installed after the home was built (prior owners). It's the type that has a Reset and Test button. I've plugged both a rechargeable handvac and a cordless screwdriver into it, and now both don't work. However, the vac was a cheap one, so thought it might have just been it going kaput. When I tried the screwdriver, a day after plugging it in, it was very hot, so obviously had gotten electricity, but wouldn't work at all. So, can the outlet be delivering too much electricity? If so, could it have done so without tripping it's apparently built-in circuit breaker, or the main one? Is there an inexpensive way for me to test it? We now have a second refrigerator in the garage, and have had it plugged into it, apparently without a problem. Is this a problem? Just in case, I plugged it into a powerstrip/surge protector. Any help is greatly apprectiated!
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The outlet with a "Test" & "Reset" buttons is an outlet that senses ground faults. A refrigerator or freezer should not be plugged into one of these, or an outlet monitored by a GFCI outlet because interruption of energy will result in loss of food.
It is hard to imagine that "too much" electricity was supplied. The circuit is either 120 volts or 240 volts. If these voltages are exceeded your power company is at fault. My guess is that you had a defective screwdriver. Plugging a refrigerator into a surge suppresser is a waste of a surge suppresser.
Phil
enigma wrote:

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Thanks for the info. I figured that, too, about the screwdriver, but coming on the heels of the handvac also not working when plugged into that, and that the screwdriver was so hot, I thought it might be more. Obviously I'm not too electrically saavy. If you don't have time to teach the ignorant, I understand, but if you do: how is the ground fault interrupt different from the circuit breaker in the electrical panel? I take it a ground fault is different from a short circuit. What will cause the gfi plug to trip? Apparently something more common than will trip the circuit breaker? Thanks again for the help!

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wrote:

Your circuit breaker is what is called an over-current protection device. It only trips if current (amps) in the circuit exceeds it's rated maximum (i.e.: 15Amps for most house wiring). This is to prevent a fire from occurring. A fire can occur if more than 15Amps is being pushed through your 14-gauge house wiring, since 14-gauge wiring is rated for 15-Amps max.
Current (Amps, 'A', amperes) is a measure of how many electrons are flowing through a conductor at a given time. As more electrons flow through a wire (current) they produce friction, which is what causes wires and other electrical devices to get hot. The people who developed the codes long ago determined that 14-gauge NMD-90 wire (what's in modern homes) and it's connections can handle 15 amps before it'll start to heat up.
Incidentally, it's also current that kills, not volts. It only takes 50 mA (milli-amps, 0.05 A) to kill someone. At 18mA (0.018 A) you may have a hard time breathing, and if you're weak/sick/old even this level could potentially kill.
This is where the GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) comes into play. It's designed to trip if it detects a ground-fault (current not traveling through the neutral, but through the ground). It will trip if it detects a ground-fault of 5mA (0.005 A) or more, potentially saving a life. This is why they're installed outside and in the bathroom, because there's a much greater chance electricity will find a path to ground through a human being here, either through the plumbing, lawn, concrete floor, etc. They're also installed on whirlpools, spas, and pools for the same reason.
Hope this explained it.
-- Steve (Change two-thousand-and-three to numerical form in my email address to reply via email)

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You shouldn't leave rechargeable batteries connected to the recharger for long periods of time, unless the directions tell you to. Overcharging will lead to heat, which is not good for rechargeable batteries. Some higher end stuff have smart recharger units that contain circuitry that turns to current to the batteries on and off as needed - these can be left plugged in. Low end stuff usually don't have this protection and must be manually unplugged.
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In our old house I would leave it plugged in; my recollection is that it was the type that one could, but I'll check. Thanks for the feedback!
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Short: When electricity goes from the black wire to the white wire without having to go through the appliance it's supposed to power. Very often, a short will allow to much power to go through -- and then the breaker trips.
Open: Something is not connected, which oughta been connected. This is when the appliance seems "dead"
Ground Fault: When electricity leaks out of the appliance and goes into some path where it oughta not. Such as down the ground wire, or through the user, into the bath tub, or into the swimming pool.
A circuit breaker senses too much power being used.
A GFCI senses both "too much" power being used. it also senses power leaving the appliance. The GFCI also helps protect the user from electrocution.
--

Christopher A. Young
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Maybe the plugs are in backwards? Try reversing them. Advice on usent is worth about what you paid for it.
--

Christopher A. Young
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On Wed, 29 Oct 2003 12:16:12 -0500, "Stormin Mormon"

Thanks for all the feedback and education! Which plugs could be in backwards, though?
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