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How Long Do GFCI Outlets Last?

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A lot of questions come to mind when a GFCI outlet is purchased. Questions such as how long does it last? What can I do to prevent it from being bad? How do I know it is bad?  When these questions are answered, confidence is then restored in the use of these appliances.

A good GFCI outlet can last for a range of 10 – 15 years. This depends on other factors like exposure to the elements such as sun, rain, humidity, heat, and electricity surge and whether or not the GFCI outlet was installed properly.

Do GFCI Outlets Get Weak?

GFCI outlets, like every other electrical switch, get weak over time. This can occur due to constant usage, a power surge that constantly overpowers the capacity of the circuit, and exposure to elements of nature.

It is important to know when a GFCI outlet is weak, it will allow for an immediate replacement without the risks associated with the use of faulty electrical appliances.

One simple way to know if a GFCI outlet is getting weak is to observe changes in its operation from the time of installation and the present time. This change, no matter how little, tells you that a GFCI outlet no longer works optimally.

When a GFCI outlet begins to show signs of becoming weak, it’s ideal to replace them immediately. This will prevent the weak GFCI outlets from further deteriorating hence, affecting other electrical appliances. 

How Do I Know My GFCI Outlet is Bad?

You would know your GFCI outlet is bad if you observe any of the following: visibly cracked surface, constant tripping, melted surface, constantly feeling hot to touch, fluctuating power, smoke, production of sparks, and inability to reset.

I would now explain all these signs.

1. Visibly cracked surface

When a GFCI outlet is bad, it tends to show visible cracks. An ideal GFCI outlet is supposed to have a continuous surface without any cracks or holes.

Cracks seen on the surface of a GFCI outlet could result from a power surge, sparks, or electrical burn. Once a crack is seen, it is only ideal that the GFCI outlet is replaced.

2. Constant tripping

When plugs inserted at the GFCI outlets begin to trip, then it means the GFCI outlet needs replacement.

A GFCI outlet that works normally usually has receptacles that hold plugs tightly. Constant tripping of plugs could mean that the GFCI outlet may have lost its circuit-breaking capacity.

3. Melted surface

An obvious sign of a bad GFCI outlet is one that begins to melt. Once a melting outlet is observed, there is an immediate need to replace that outlet. A GFCI outlet can melt because of an increased power surge or from a loose connection.

4. Hot to touch

Usually, the heat generated from an outlet is not always felt. Whenever a GFCI outlet becomes significantly hot to touch, it indicates that a replacement is required. Most times, the increase in temperature usually precedes a melting outlet.

5. Fluctuating power

When the power supply from a GFCI outlet begins to fluctuate, it may indicate that it is bad and must be replaced. Fluctuating power from an outlet can be seen as either when the power goes on and off or the electricity supplied by the outlet to the appliance increase or declines in intensity.

6. Smoke

Smoke can be seen when a GFCI outlet in use increases in temperature, melts, or begins to spark. In any of these cases, the GFCI outlet is bad and needs replacement.

7. Sparking outlet

Once a GFCI outlet begins to spark, that is a sign that it has gone bad. Sparks do not only originate from power surges.

They also arise from a faulty outlet. With a spark, the risk of injury and damage to other electrical appliances is higher. Once a spark is noticed, every appliance must be unplugged and the outlet replaced.

8. Unable to reset

Most GFCI outlets come with two buttons; a test button and a reset button. In case of an interrupted power supply, the GFCI is made to return to normal function by using the reset button.

When the reset button no longer restores the normal function of the GFCI outlet, then the outlet is bad and needs replacement.

Can a Bad GFCI Outlet Cause Other Outlets Not to Work?

Yes. A bad GFCI outlet can cause other outlets not to work. The GFCI outlet normally breaks the circuit. In a condition where the GFCI outlet is bad, the circuit is broken, and so the other outlets connected in series will not work.

The other outlets to be protected from damages are usually connected in series to the GFCI outlet. Such damages can be caused by electrical surges, electrical shortages, moisture, heat, and humidity.

The other outlets are not necessarily bad, but they are just deactivated temporarily pending when the GFCI would be replaced.

What Causes a GFCI Outlet to Go Bad?

A GFCI outlet could go bad due to conditions such as electrical surge, moisture, overheating, improper connections, and long-term usage. These factors can occur singly or combine to make a GCFI outlet go bad.

1. Electrical surge

An electrical surge occurs when there is a sudden increase in the voltage supplied. The sudden increase overpowers the ability of the outlet to break the circuit. This can cause the outlet to go bad.

There is a risk of injury and damage to other electrical appliances connected to that GFCI circuit.

2. Moisture

Water has an adverse effect on GFCI outlets. It is frequently noticed that outlets located in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, and any other household location where water runs tend to get damaged quickly.

Water and electricity do not mix; the combination is usually fatal, often leading to electrical fires, damage to the internal wiring, burns, and electrical shocks, in extreme cases, loss of life.

3. Overheating

When a GFCI outlet continually feels hot to touch, there is a danger of the outlet getting spoilt. The heat does not necessarily come from external sources because most GCFI outlets are heat resistant.

The excess heat is generated from within the outlets due to a fault arising from the composing parts of the outlets. This can cause a GFCI outlet to go bad.

4. Improper connections

Like every other electrical appliance, GFCI outlets require installation by a professional. This is because an improper connection can cause damages to the outlet. When this occurs, it usually exhibits a burning smell, melting of the outlet, and constant tripping.

5. Long term usage

Like every other material, the GFCI outlet also possesses a life span beyond which it may seize to function properly. On average, a properly installed GFCI outlet may work within the range of 10-15 years. It is advised that these outlets be replaced every 15 years.

Conclusion

A GFCI outlet can last for a period of 10 – 15 years. Within this period, several things can either make them weak or damaged. Once an outlet begins to get weak or damaged, it is advisable to replace them to avoid injuries and damage to other electrical appliances connected to them.

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