Ground fault circuit interrupter receptacles, otherwise known as GFCI’s, help prevent electrocution by stopping the flow of electricity through an outlet when a problem is detected. GFCI’s do however eventually wear out.
Most GFCI’s are designed to last no more than 10 years. Follow these steps to ensure you are as safe as you think you are.
Step 1: Install GFCI’s for outlets located within 6 feet of plumbing appliances and for outlets located outdoors or in wet areas, such as kitchens, bathrooms, garages and unfinished basements. Do not use GFCI’s for refrigerator, freezer or sump pump outlets.
Step 2: GFCI’s are equipped with a test and a reset button. The only way to be sure a GFCI is functioning properly is to test it. Test GFCI outlets manufactured prior to 2007 at least once a month.
Step 3: Start by plugging a night-light into the GFCI outlet. The night-light will need to be on. Use painters tape to cover the photo sensor on automatic night-lights.
Step 4: Press the “test” button on the GFCI outlet. The night-light should turn off. If it does not turn off, the GFCI outlet is no longer working and will need to be replaced.
Step 5: Press the “reset” button on the GFCI outlet. The night-light should turn back on. If it does not turn back on, check to make sure the circuit breaker in the electrical panel has not been tripped. Also check to see if there are additional GFCI receptacles that may have been tripped during the test. If the night-light does not turn back on, the GFCI outlet should be replaced.
Step 6: As a safety measure GFCI outlets manufactured between 2007 and 2015 are designed to automatically cut the flow of power through the outlet when the ground fault interrupter function stops working. Test GFCI’s manufactured between 2007 and 2015 at least a few times a year to be safe.
Step 7: GFCI outlets manufactured after 2015 no longer require regular manual testing. These new hybrid outlets are equipped with a self-testing feature that regularly checks the ground fault interrupter function, sometimes as often as every 60 seconds. If a problem is detected, the GFCI will cut the flow of power through the outlet. Choose self-testing GFCI receptacles when replacing older GFCI outlets to ensure you are as safe as you think you are.
— Have a home improvement question for the Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at email@example.com.