News Release

For Release Tuesday, June 27, 2000 12:01 A.M.



Electrical Safety Foundation Says Test GFCI Receptacles Monthly

(Rosslyn, Virginia) The National Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF) is reminding consumers to test their Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles today and every month, especially during the thunderstorm season.

An estimated 400-million GFCIs are installed across the country. Many consumers, however, dont check their GFCIs to verify they are working. GFCIs have a built-in test button, which should be used regularly every month according to experts.

"Regular testing of all GFCIs is an important part of protecting your family." according to NESF Executive Director Walt Biddle. "This is even more important in locations with frequent and severe electrical storms or power surges."

GFCIs are designed to minimize shock and reduce the chances of electrocution, especially when electrical circuits within appliances inadvertently come in contact with water. GFCIs are most often installed in kitchens, bath and laundry rooms, and out-of-doors, where electricity and water are most likely to be used in close proximity.

GFCIs are electronic devices, which can be damaged or wear out. The electrical receptacle in a GFCI may continue to function, even if the GFCI circuit no longer works. Most private residences, apartments, hotels, motels, and public facilities built since the early 1970s have one or more GFCI receptacles installed.

"GFCIs have probably saved hundreds of lives and prevented thousands of serious injuries in the last three decades," Biddle said. "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."

There are three types of GFCIs. The most often used "receptacle type" GFCI, similar to a common wall outlet, is the type with which most consumers will be familiar. Additionally, circuit breaker GFCIs are often used as replacements for standard circuit breakers and provide GFCI protection to all receptacles on that individual circuit.

Circuit breaker GFCIs should also be checked monthly by pressing the "Test" button on the breaker, which should disconnect power to all lights and appliances on the circuit. Temporary or "plug-in" GFCIs are frequently used in construction and in outdoor settings with electric tools, mowers, trimmers, and similar devices. They should not be used as a permanent alternative to a regular GFCI. Temporary GFCIs should be tested prior to every use.


Safety Group Recommends GFCI Testing 2

The trip button may activate when the test button is pushed, but the circuit may still be energized (connected). To be absolutely certain that your receptacle GFCIs are operating correctly, consumers should plug a nightlight or similar device into the outlet when conducting the following test:

    1. Push the "Reset" button of the GFCI receptacle to prepare the unit for testing,
    2. Plug in the light and turn it on. Light should be ON,
    3. Push the "Test" button of the GFCI receptacle. Light should go OFF,
    4. Push the "Reset" button again. Light should go ON.

A light plugged into the GFCI receptacle should go out when the test button is pushed. If the light remains on when the button is pushed, either the GFCI is not working properly or has not been correctly installed.

"Consumers should not rely on a GFCI that fails this test," Biddle added. "A qualified electrician should inspect, possibly rewire, and, if necessary, replace the unit." Proper installation of GFCIs requires significant knowledge of electrical wiring and should only be performed by a qualified electrician.

Consumers 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, consumers need heightened awareness and should follow the safety instructions that came with the appliance.

There are three steps to be sure of your GFCIs reliability:

    1. Use only GFCIs which have been listed or certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or certification organization;
    2. Have your GFCIs installed by a qualified electrician; and
    3. Test your GFCIs at least once each month or whenever there is an unusual occurrence such as a severe electrical storm.

An interactive demonstration of a proper GFCI test is available at the National Electrical Safety Foundation website ( along with other graphical support.

For more information contact:

National Electrical Safety Foundation

1300 North 17th Street, Suite 1847

Rosslyn, VA 22209



Fax 703.841.3311



Established in 1994, the National Electrical Safety Foundation (NESF) promotes the safe use of electricity in the home, school and workplace. NESF has three primary goals: to promote public awareness through on-going education; to sponsor May as National Electrical Safety Month; and to serve as a resource for electrical safety information.