GFCI Testing

National Electrical Safety Month - Focus on Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Testing

The National Electrical Safety Foundations (NESF) and Siemens is reminding homeowners to test their ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) every month - especially during thunderstorm season.

GFCIs are an effective means of preventing severe electrical shock. GFCIs are installed to protect areas of the home, such as the kitchen, bathroom or laundry, where electrical appliances or products may come into contact with water. They are designed to protect against severe electrical shock or electrocution from ground faults. Ground faults occur when the electrical current in an appliance strays outside its normal path, and the human body becomes part of the path through which the electrical current may flow.

An estimated 400 million GFCIs are installed across the country. However, many homeowners don't check their GFCIs to verify that they are working. GFCIs can be damaged (by lightning or electrical surges during storms, for example) and thus must be tested regularly. In fact, a recent industry study showed that roughly 10 percent of the GFCIs in the field may not function properly.

"GFCIs have probably saved hundreds of lives and prevented thousands of serious injuries in the last three decades." according to NESF Executive Director Walt Biddle. "An improperly installed or non-functioning GFCI offers no protection against accidental shock. All these devices must be tested regularly to verify that they are working correctly."

Each GFCI circuit breaker or receptacle has a built-in test button to test the device. It is very important to test each and every GFCI in your home once a month. To test a Siemens GFCI circuit breaker, make sure the breaker handle is in the "ON" position. Depress the "TEST" button. This will cause the handle to move to an intermediate "tripped" position indicating that the GFCI is functioning properly. Reset your circuit breaker by pushing the handle to the "OFF" position first, then "ON." If the circuit breaker fails to trip, it must be replaced.

By the installation and monthly testing of GFCIs in every home in the United States, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than two-thirds of the approximately 200 accidental residential electrocutions that occur each year in the United States could be prevented. Homeowners should consider the GFCI as a back-up safety device, and not a replacement for common sense and prudent behavior whenever using electrical products. Wherever water and electricity are present, homeowners need heightened awareness and should follow the safety instructions that came with the appliance.

GFCIs are crucial to you and your family's safety at home. Although May is National Electrical Safety Month, a simple test once a month can help insure that the GFCIs are working properly to protect you when you need them.