I have been running into this particular GFCI outlet safety issue quite often lately, and since it can easily stay undetected creating serious safety hazard, I’ll explain it for you. This safety problem applies to older receptacles, manufactured before 2003 – the year when “Smart Lock” type GFCI receptacle has been introduced by Leviton. GFCI receptacles equipped with the “Smart Lock” feature include a small padlock sign on the face of the device.
So, if you have any of those outlet receptacles without the “Smart Lock” logo, make sure that you test them properly / don’t just assume that they are functional.
The GFCI outlet hidden safety issue
GFCI outlet receptacle has two pairs of terminals to connect wires. One of them is called LOAD, and second pair of terminals LINE. For the outlet to protect you from a ground fault, power-supplying wires (hot and neutral) must be connected to the LINE side of the device.
- What is Ground Fault? If you touch an appliance with some failing electrical components, the electricity might pass through your body to reach the ground, instead of following its normal safe path.
With an old GFCI outlet receptacle that does not include the “smart lock” technology misplaced power supplying wires (hot and neutral power supply installed on the LOAD instead of a LINE side) would not prevent the device from operating.
Improperly wired GFCI outlet would still provide power to any device plugged in into its socket, and it would trip when tested. The dangerous part is that after it tripped, which should disconnect the power to its socket, the power actually stays ON.
Such condition could be also a result of a high-voltage power surge or corrosion / damaged device, in which case the outlet receptacle would have to be replaced. However, start from checking the wiring, and test it properly.
This GFCI outlet safety issue explanation is worthless unless you go and check all of your GFCI receptacles – good luck.
For more valuable information from Dariusz Rudnicki, on how to maintain your real estate property, correct most common problems, and prevent serious disasters by doing repairs the right way.
Dariusz is a licensed Illinois home inspector who has been in this business for over eleven years, crawling through the areas you’d newer expect that even exist in your house… just to let you know that everything is working properly… or not. If you need a home maintenance advice, you can always ask him for help.