Self-Test GFCI Receptacle: What Is It?

Before I talk about the self-test GFCI receptacle, it’s important to know what a GFCI is. If you don’t know what a GFCI is, then you haven’t read our GFCI blog! Shame on you! It’s okay, we forgive quickly here at KB Electric LLC. So here is the short definition: GFCI stands for Ground-fault Circuit Interrupter. Basically, it is a device (like an outlet, also known as a receptacle) that can detect when an electricity current is flowing through an unintended path, like water or through a person. When this detection occurs, the power to the GFCI outlet will shut off, preventing electrical shock from occurring. Please visit our GFCI blog for more detailed information as to why it’s important for your home to be grounded and equipped with GFCI receptacles.


What Is A Self-Test GFCI Receptacle?

A self-test GFCI receptacle is a receptacle that regularly tests the ground fault circuit interrupter function by itself, and then cuts off the power to that receptacle when the ground fault circuit interrupter function fails. The UL (Underwriters Laboratories) made it a requirement that all manufacturers of GFCI receptacles make them self-testing after June 28, 2015 in order for them to be UL listed. This is a pretty cool concept because most people don’t test their regular GFCIs often, or even at all. When a regular GFCI receptacle isn’t tested by the end user (you, Aunt Suzy, mom, dad, your daughter, Uncle Fred, etc.) for the ground fault circuit interrupter function, it may not be doing it’s job correctly, and could cause electrical shock. The solution for the people in the world who don’t set reminders on their iPhones to check all of the GFCI receptacles throughout their homes on a monthly basis to ensure proper shock prevention (enter drumroll here): A SELF-TEST GFCI RECEPTACLE!!! Note: it’s still not a bad idea to manually test a self-testing GFCI receptacle. The name brands that manufacture them still recommend it.


How Does A Self-Test GFCI Receptacle Work?

There are many brands of self-test GFCI receptacles on the market. They all pretty much do the same thing: they automatically test themselves for the ability to respond to a ground fault, like mentioned above. Some will even check themselves every 3 seconds! According to the UL guidelines, a self-testing GFCI receptacle must notify the end user in some way that there is a problem with the ground fault circuit interrupter capability. If the capability is not working, the GFCI receptacle must produce an alert visually or audibly, and then shut off power to that receptacle. For added safety, ones like the Leviton SmartLockPro have a reset/lockout function that does not allow you to use the reset button on the receptacle if the ground fault function isn’t working. There are many self-test receptacles out there that will flash a red light on the receptacle if the ground fault circuit interrupter function fails. You can also purchase ones that signal both a sound and a light indicator when the GFCI is not working. If the self-test fails, it’s time to replace the receptacle.


What If I Don’t Have A Self-Test GFCI Receptacle?

Regular GFCI receptacles that aren’t self-testing are required by the end user to conduct tests once a month to ensure they are still properly working. This holds true for GFCI receptacles that were manufactured prior to 2007, since GFCI receptacles roughly last anywhere between 10-15 years. Regardless of the year manufactured or when you installed your regular GFCI receptacle, it’s still a good idea to test these once a month. It’s not mandatory to switch out all of your regular GFCI receptacles with self-testing GFCI receptacles, but if you don’t want the hassle of testing every one of them on a regular basis, it’s not a bad idea. Even though manufacturers are now required to produce self-test GFCI receptacles, people can still buy the regular ones until the inventory of them becomes depleted. With that said, if you would like KB Electric LLC to install self-test GFCI receptacles, let us know! We take the safety of you and your family seriously, and recommend the self-test GFCI receptacles over the regular ones. This will ensure the proper prevention of electrocution in any part of your home.