Before you can test a GFCI, you should know what one is and what it is designed to do. A GFCI, ground fault circuit interrupter, is a safety device that monitors the flow of current to and from an appliance.
A GFCI receptacle is different from the traditional receptacle in your home or office. If there were to be a ground fault, the GFCI will trip and quickly stop the flow of electricity. It will prevent serious injury.
To test the GFCI, you will need to look at the face of the GFCI outlet. You can see in the middle (between the two places to plug cords into the outlet) there are two small buttons. They are labeled test and reset. To test your ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), just press the test button in. You will hear a snap sound that trips the outlet and cuts power off to the two plug-in connections.
You can double check this by plugging in a light or appliance into the outlet to be sure there is no power to the appliance once you’ve tested it. After you have verified that the light/appliance is not working, press the reset button and the outlet should once again be on. Check the GFCI receptacle once a month to ensure the outlet is providing protection for your family. There is no doubt that GFCI outlets save lives. Water and electricity don’t mix and that is why these safety devices were developed, to save lives! A final note: GFCI’s must be used with Copper wire, not aluminum wire. They should NOT be used on circuits supplying life support equipment. If installed outside, be sure it has a weather proof cover.
The chart below shows the year of the National Electric Code along the left side. Across the top is the area of your home and when it became required to use GFCI’s in your home.
*A ground fault occurs when electricity travels outside an intended path and tries to get to the ground by the shortest route. If you touch electricity while you are grounded (touching the ground or something resting on the ground, like a ladder), your body becomes electricity’s shortest route to ground. You could also become part of electricity’s path to ground if you touch water that touches electricity. In either case, you could be hurt or even killed