With or without adequate surge protection on the service?
WITH, they probably last 30-40 years or the first bolted fault.
WITHOUT, When is your next butt kicking thunderstorm?
That seems a bit flimsy, but is that how things are made these days? I've stuck some of the GFCIs here with multiple bolted faults (some intentional, some not ) and they don't seem to be all that worse for the wear... they're a bit less sensitive, but they still trip within the margin of safety.
I would agree on the surge protection though... I've seen some very heated discussions on other forums about about the effectiveness of surge protection systems, so many cases being cited of the surge protectors themselves being disintegrated. There isn't much that one can do to mitigate a strong, direct hit!
That seems a bit flimsy, but is that how things are made these days?
Older GFCIs could fail and remain conductive. Therefore not trip when most needed. Newer designs will not reset once damaged.
Damage is typically due to a different type of current. Current does not enter on one AC wire and leave on another. A GFCI destructive current enters on any or all wires in the same direction. And then finds some other and destructive path outgoing from the GFCI.
Protection from that type of current means every wire connects low impedance (ie 'less than 10 feet') to a common earth ground before entering. One 'whole house' protector is typically best protection for a GFCI.
Protection increases as distance between the protector and GFCI increases. Protection increases as that wire to earth is every foot shorter. Yes, foot. Because distance to earth and quality of the electrode(s) is critical. That protection is necessary so that even direct lightning strikes do not cause damage.
A GFCI is an important safety device. Effective surge protection for a GFCI means protection exists later for a human.
Mine have been in for 15-20 years(?) and I don't think I remember a problem with any of them. Maybe I lost one but I can't remember. Being I am up in the mountains and in the woods, my trees take lots of hits from the lightning. Just walk out in the back yard and you see trees with large scars on the bark where the lightning flowed. In the old house ( right next door to me) one large lightning bolt hit a tree on the property and took of 5 light bulbs and 3 dimmers in my house.
When personal body armor ("bulletproof vests") first became common, someone wondered how the standard army "flak jacket" would perform. I mean, they were never presented as any form of bullet protection, but still ....?
Well, it took a good fifteen years or so until, around 1990, someone actually tested the army flak jackets to the vest standards. (Answer, btw: just under 'level 3' protection).
The GFCI receptacle has never been tested as a surge suppression device. Yet, we regularly see them die when exposed to significant surges. Wire one to 240 and see, if you doubt me!
Let's see: $16 receptacle of $500 digital TV? Which do I want to replace?
I'd like to see the ordinary GFCI tested to surge suppressor standards, and find out where they really come out. Maybe they're really a useful alternative to 'proper' surge suppression.
Why did surge suppressor receptacles never catch on? Well, when they came out, they cost $40, quite a bit more than a $15 power strip with built-in surge suppression. Since you'd need the power strip anyway, why bother with the receptacle?
GFCIs offer virtually zero surge protection. There may be some small attenuation of a low level transient in the toroid current transformer but it would be about what you get from an overhand knot in the power cord.
Effective surge protection is based on several levels of protection, coupled to a good ground electrode system.
Let me restate the question if I can: At our last IAEI seminar in March here in Michigan, a statement was made that GFCI receptacles needed to be replaced similar to smoke alarms. In the case of smoke alarms the manufacturers say in their poop sheet that 10 years is end of life for their smoke alarms and they need to be replaced. In fact some will sound an alarm when they need to be replaced (so they say). The question becomes is the same true of GFCI receptacles based on their poop sheet? We asked the UL guy art our seminar and he didn't know.