In the past week I have found two bathroom GFI’s that where either wired wrong, or where faulty; in both cases the receptacle was live and there was no protection from electric shock/electrocution. This type of failure is quite common in exterior receptacles. These type of failure can lead to loss of life, therefore test monthly.
You may have two devices that should be tested on a monthly bases. Every house should have Ground Fault Current Interrupter(s), (GFCI or GFI) in the bathroom(s) and exterior outlet(s), and in newer homes they may also be found in your kitchen and laundry room. The other device, an Arch Fault Current Interrupter (AFCI) will be used to protect the bedroom receptacles in newer homes.
The propose of a GFI is to protect you from an electrical shock, a fuse or standard circuit breaker will not protect you from possible electrocution. In order to ensure that GFI is working properly it is recommended that it be tested monthly using the “Test” button on the device, ideally you will have a light or other device plugged into the GFI to ensure power is truly off. Once you have determined that the GFI is working, you can depress the “RESET” button. Most GFI’s are installed in the wall receptacles, however they may also be found in the breaker panel (see below).
Arch Fault Current Interrupters (AFCIs) are always found in the breaker panel. There propose is to detect arching between the two wires in the circuit. If the arching goes undetected there is a high probability of a fire. This special breaker(s) found in the panel will a have a “TEST” button that should be tested monthly. When you depress the test button the breaker handle will jump to the centre (tripped) position; to reset the breaker move the handle to the “Off” position and then back to the “On” position. Note: You test a GFCI breaker the same way.
If you have any questions about this article or any other issues around your house please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post on Final Say Home Inspection page.