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#191709 - 01/08/10 03:29 PM The Illusion of GFCI Protection
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5305
Loc: Blue Collar Country
That is the title of an article in the Jan/Feb 2010 magazine, by Thomas A. Rorro.

My report:
In this article, he discusses the discovery that many GFCI's near indoor pools were found to have failed in the 'on' position.

Investigation showed that corrosion had prevented the solenoid inside from moving. In general, the problems were discovered by using a plug-in tester, though in most cases the test button on the device also failed to operate.

The author seems to favor two changes to be made: that most GFCI devices, even indoors, have weathertight covers, and that GFCI protection is best provided at the panel.

The author does note that the GFCI's that failed were all made before 2003, when a major revision of GFCI standards took effect. He also notes that, more recently, a more corrosion-resistant "WR" GFCI has become available.

Edited by renosteinke (01/08/10 03:52 PM)

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#191711 - 01/08/10 03:52 PM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: renosteinke]
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5305
Loc: Blue Collar Country
My Opinion:

I object to, and disagree with, the authors' conclusions.

First, he asserts that the panel is a better place for the protection. I see this as forshadowing a proposal to ban GFCI dexices - which, IMO, is exactly the wrong conclusion. If nothing else, the ease of installing a device has led to their use in many places where they are not, strictly speaking, required.

The author refers to the cost of the "WR" devices as economic justification for mandating panel-only GFCI placement. This ignores the multiple situations where placing a GFCI in the panel is simply not possible.

Indeed, by reporting on the failures of devices, where the problem has already been addressed - by both standard and code - he's trying to fix something that has already been fixed.

His other point is to re-classify locations as 'wet' if the device might be subject to some splashing. He bases this on his assumption that the pool-area devices corroded because they had been splashed.

First, that's faulty logic. Had he consulted with the manufacturer od any sort of pool equipment, he would have learned that corrosion is, indeed, a major factor around pools. Since we place the receptacles far from poolside - one of the failed units was also sheltered by a water fountain - the conclusion he should have drawn was that chlorine, in the air, is more likely the cause of the corrosion.

He fails to recognize that chlorine treatment of pools water is very much 'old school,' and is quickly being replaced by ozone treatment. AFAIK, ozone treatemnt of the water does not release ozone into the air.

Of greater concern is his desire to put weather-resistant covers wherever 'spalshing' might occur. The covers might provide some protection when closed, but much less when they're in use. A 'bubble' cover won't keep corrosive gasses out at all.

Moreover, such a re-classification would result in wet-location covers being required on kitchen counters, bathroom sinks, and laundry rooms. That's one change that won't be welcome at all!

The author appears to be based in New Jersey, so these proposals may first be seen there.

#191718 - 01/08/10 09:05 PM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: renosteinke]
Trumpy Offline


Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8532
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Any safety device like a GFCI(RCD), can only be depended on if it is tested regularly.
They have a test button on the case of the unit for a reason, unless the end user is not being made aware of the need to test these devices (which is another issue in itself) monthly, of course the mechanism is going to freeze up, it isn't like a contactor that moves at least once or twice a day, every day.
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

#191719 - 01/08/10 10:04 PM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: Trumpy]
electure Offline


Registered: 12/24/00
Posts: 4226
Loc: Fullerton, CA USA

We've got about 11,000 miles of salt water coastline in the US, corroding the GFCIs, and this guy's concerned about indoor pools? crazy

#191722 - 01/09/10 02:47 AM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: electure]
sparky Offline

Registered: 10/18/00
Posts: 5545
myself i try to keep the gfi's inside , and/or out of the elements.

for instance , most of my new wire jobs have an exclusive outside receptacle circuit dependeant on a panelroom GFI

it's somewhat more economical too, given $$$ of wire vs. $$$ of the newer GFI's imho...


#191726 - 01/09/10 10:29 AM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: sparky]
Tom Offline

Registered: 01/01/01
Posts: 1069
Loc: Shinnston, WV USA
As far as I'm concerned, the subject of wet location covers is a minor issue. More important is the fact that there are so many GFI's that no longer provide protection. A couple of years before UL tightened the standards for GFI's, I believe there was a study that showed approximately 17 percent of the installed GFI's were no longer providing protection. The author should have come up with suggestions that would get the end user to actually push the test button once in awhile.

I personally do not like GFI breakers. If users are not testing the receptacle type GFCI as often as they should, if ever, then it is really unlikely that someone will actually go to the panelboard to test the breaker.
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.

#191730 - 01/09/10 11:40 AM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: Tom]
sparkyinak Offline

Registered: 07/08/07
Posts: 1288
Loc: Alaska
If the devices are corroding, it sounds like poor pool design to me.
"Live Awesome!" - Kevin Carosa

#191742 - 01/10/10 03:31 PM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: sparkyinak]
mikethebull Offline

Registered: 03/18/07
Posts: 101
Loc: Rhode Island
It seems to me people forget the only reason for GFCI's in the first place is people got careless with electricity. And now sad to say people have gotten careless with GFCI's.

#191747 - 01/10/10 06:26 PM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: mikethebull]
HotLine1 Offline


Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 6792
Loc: Brick, NJ USA
What we need is a 'use the test button onece each month' cop!!

#191768 - 01/11/10 06:49 PM Re: The Illusion of GFCI Protection [Re: HotLine1]
renosteinke Offline
Cat Servant

Registered: 01/22/05
Posts: 5305
Loc: Blue Collar Country
Sometimes it takes a while for the dots to connect ...

Some other posters have asked why, if AFCI's are so good, we don't mandate their use in kitchens and baths.

Others ask why there are still no AFCI devices available.

Now we have a guy arguing that GFCI protection be provided at the panel.

Please note that there are no breakers that provide BOTH AFCI and GFCI protection.

Now, gentlemen .... put on your foil beenies and wind up the black-helicopter sound effects .... could there actually be a concerted effort by breaker makers to legislate the GFCI device out of existance, and force ust into using their breakers - so EVERY breaker in the panel would have to be a full size $40 breaker?

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