GFCI maintenance is a very simple and extremely important procedure. Just like many other house maintenance tasks, maintaining functional and properly operating GFCI outlet receptacles will ensure that you and your family are protected from a ground fault.
Ground Fault – it’s when the electricity, instead of following its normal path – electrical wire – passes through a person’s body to the ground. That person becomes a conductor (wire) and you may know this condition as an electrical shock.
* Never paint GFCI outlet receptacle! If you’ve just moved into the house and installed GFCI’s are covered with paint – replace them immediately. Removing paint from their surface is not enough, even if Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter appears to be responding to the test buttons.
* Never insert into an outlet receptacle objects other than a plug designed for its configuration.
* Avoid spilling liquids onto the device – it could result in permanent damage or malfunctioning.
Testing is the most important part of the GFCI maintenance routine and it should be performed on monthly basis. The reason is very simple – Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlet receptacles are just like any other electronic devices – sometimes they fail.
There are two simple ways to perform this test:
GFCI Testing Method #1
1. Plug a lamp into the GFCI outlet receptacle.
2. Push the “TEST” button on the GFCI – it should trip and cut the power to the lamp. In some devices the RESET button will pop out, in others the button will appear to be staying in the same position, you just hear the click immediately after depressing “TEST” button.
3. If the lamp is still ON after pressing “TEST” button (some devices also have an indicator light), your GFCI outlet receptacle could be improperly wired or damaged, and you are not protected – call a licensed electrician.
GFCI Testing #2
This will cost you a few bucks (literally), but with a simple testing device you’ll be able to detect a potential life threatening problem immediately, and test all of your outlets – it’s worth it! Basic GFCI testers can be purchased in any local hardware store or online for under $10.00.
1. Insert your tester into the GFCI outlet (or GFCI protected outlet).
2. View the indicators on the tester and compare them with the chart attached to its body – this is to verify that the power is ON and that the outlet is wired properly.
3. If the readout indicates a problem, consult a licensed electrician.
4. If circuit appears to be wired properly, push the GFCI TEST button on top of the device – the GFCI outlet should trip and tester lights go OFF.
5. If the tester fails to trip GFCI outlet, there is either some wiring problem or faulty GFCI outlet – call a licensed electrician
I highly recommend to familiarize yourself with currently required GFCI locations and if you decide to upgrade your home with those safety devices, I have a GFCI installation manual ready for you – enjoy it.