Testing GFCI Protected Outlets
Monday, July 12th, 2010 at 7:09 am.
Testing is of primary importance with GFCIs since their sole purpose is to save lives. All GFCIs should be tested monthly with their own TEST button and the receptacles they protect should be tested with a plug-in GFCI tester. Besides having the push button for testing the life-protection circuitry, most GFCI testers also have light indicators to analyze the wiring attached to the unit itself. This is also an important test because sometimes a GFCI may test right even though it is wired wrong. In situations like this, the manufacture will not warranty the unit.
The test buttons on a GFCI breaker, a GFCIsreceptacle, and a GFCI tester all work differently. The tester places leakage current to bare wire, grounding system. Therefore if the ground is missing, the GFCI outlet may not trip when the TEST button on the plug-in tester is pressed. When the TEST button on the breaker is pressed, it places a leakage current from the line-side hot directly to the neutral bus. Therefore, a GFCI breaker only needs to have a pigtailed wire connected to the grounding bus for it to be tested. A GFCI receptacle places leakage current from load-side hot to line-side neutral to simulate a fault condition. When the test button opens the circuit, the circuit is opened differently when comparing the breaker to the receptacle. A receptacle GFCIs will open both neutral and line terminals. Therefore, even if the hot and neutral wires are reversed on the GFCI, it doesn’t make any difference since both lines are opened. However, the GFCI breaker only opens the hot line-the neutral stays intact. If the breaker has been wired backwards, the intact line is now the hot line and current can still go to the load.
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