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How To Test a GFCI Outlet

By December 11, 2023Electrical
how to test a gfci outlet

Electrical safety is important to keep in mind for every home, and GFCI outlets are at the forefront of preventing electrical hazards. Knowing how to test a GFCI outlet is an important safety skill to have, and a surprisingly straightforward task!

If this is a whole new world for you, this article should equip you with the knowledge and confidence to test these essential devices in your home. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or just looking to understand more about your electrical safety, you’re in the right place.

What is a GFCI Outlet?

You might have seen a GFCI outlet in your home without realizing it. These outlets, short for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, are an advanced safety feature in modern homes. The outlets are designed to prevent electrical accidents, especially in places like your bathroom or kitchen where water is often near electrical appliances.

So, how does a GFCI outlet work? In simple terms, it constantly monitors the flow of electricity in a circuit. The moment it detects a difference between the incoming and outgoing current, indicative of a fault like electricity flowing through a person or water, it reacts swiftly. The GFCI outlet shuts off the power in a fraction of a second, significantly reducing the risk of electric shock or fire.

This rapid response is what sets GFCI outlets apart from standard electrical outlets. While a regular outlet supplies power without monitoring for faults, a GFCI outlet acts as a vigilant guard, always ready to cut off power if a problem arises.

Visual of one reason it's important to utilize and test a gfci outlet

How to Test a GFCI Outlet and the Results

Testing a GFCI outlet is a simple process you can do in just a few minutes. Here’s how to do it, along with what to look out for in your test results:

Step 1: Locate the GFCI Outlet

Find the GFCI outlet you want to test. You can typically find these in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, and outdoor areas.

Step 2: Test the Outlet

First, plug in a small appliance like a lamp or a radio. Ensure it’s turned on. Next, press the ‘Test’ button on the GFCI outlet. This should cause the appliance to turn off, indicating that the outlet has tripped.

Step 3: Reset the Outlet

After the test, press the ‘Reset’ button on the outlet. Your appliance should turn back on, signaling that power is restored.

Step 4: Evaluate the Test Results

If the appliance turns off when you press ‘Test’ and comes back on when you press ‘Reset,’ your GFCI is functioning correctly. This successful test shows your outlet is actively protecting your home from electrical faults.

However, if the appliance stays on after pressing ‘Test’ or if the outlet does not reset, this indicates a possible malfunction. Your GFCI may not be providing the necessary protection, which can be a safety hazard. In such instances, it’s advisable to contact a professional for further inspection or replacement.

When to Test Your GFCI Outlets

Testing your GFCI outlets regularly is crucial for maintaining home safety. Aim for a monthly check, but also pay attention to these specific situations:

After a Storm

Storms, particularly those with lightning, can lead to electrical surges. These surges might impact your GFCI outlets’ functionality. A quick test after a storm ensures they are still providing the necessary protection.

If an Outlet is Rarely Used

Outlets in areas like garages or basements are often overlooked because they’re used less frequently. However, infrequent use doesn’t mean they’re immune to faults. Regular testing of these outlets is a wise precaution.

Following a Trip

When a GFCI outlet trips, it’s a sign it’s doing its job — interrupting a potentially dangerous electrical fault. After you reset the outlet, test it to confirm it’s ready to protect you again.

Post-installation or Repair

Newly installed or recently repaired GFCI outlets should be tested to ensure they’re operating correctly. This is a crucial step in any installation or repair process.

Ensuring your GFCI outlets are in top shape is more than just a box to check—it’s a proactive step towards a safer home. A few moments spent testing can provide peace of mind, knowing your home is guarded against electrical mishaps.

Person preparing to test a gfci outlet

Other Recommended Maintenance

Alongside testing your GFCI outlets, several other maintenance tasks are key to ensuring home safety. Periodically have a professional inspect your entire electrical system, including wiring and circuit breakers.

Regularly test and maintain your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, changing batteries annually and replacing the units as recommended. Keep an eye on standard electrical outlets for signs of wear, discoloration, or unusual odors, which can indicate potential issues.

If you use surge protectors, check them for damage or wear and replace them as needed to safeguard your electronics. Also, ensure that outdoor lighting and outlets are in good working order and properly weatherproofed, especially in areas prone to extreme weather.

When to Call a Professional

There are times when the expertise of a professional is crucial for your home’s electrical safety. If you encounter complex issues with your GFCI outlets, such as consistent tripping or failure to reset, it’s time to consult a professional.

Also, if you notice any signs of electrical problems, like burning smells, discolored outlets, or frequent circuit breaker trips, these are red flags that need professional attention. For comprehensive electrical system inspections, especially if your home is older or has undergone major renovations, a professional’s assessment is invaluable. They can identify potential hazards, ensure everything is up to code, and provide peace of mind that your home’s electrical system is safe and reliable.


To sum it all up, testing and maintaining your GFCI outlets is a straightforward yet crucial part of home safety. Now, you should be able to confidently perform routine tests and understand when to seek professional help.

Regular maintenance, including keeping an eye on your home’s electrical system, plays a significant role in safeguarding your home against potential hazards. By staying vigilant and proactive, you contribute to creating a safer living environment for you and your family. For guidance or an inspection of your home’s electrical system, reach out to the experts with Atkinson Inspection Services today!