Some people are absolutely meticulous about maintaining their home’s systems. Others are blissfully apathetic, responding only when things go wrong. Most of us are somewhere in between. You know who you are.
Even the most fastidious among us neglect certain routine maintenance simply because we (I really should say “they” because the truth is I’m somewhere in between) are unaware that these are a part of a home’s regular maintenance. If you’re the type that changes your furnace filter regularly, you’ll want to read this first installment of the Helpful Home Inspectors’ Best Kept Secrets of Home Maintenance.
There’s really no excuse for not testing your ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) monthly.
The instructions are printed right on the face of the GFCI receptacle or circuit breaker. You need only magnify the writing 30 or 40 times to see the bold print, “TEST MONTHLY”. Of course, if the print were easily legible, this wouldn’t have made the top of the list of Best Kept Secrets of Home Maintenance. These are literally life-saving devices, but if you don’t test them, you really don’t know if they will be there for you when you need them. The test is simple. Plug something into the protected receptacle. Push the test button and it should go off. Push the reset button and it should come back on. If it fails the test, have it replaced.
While we’re on the subject, if you don’t have GFCIs in your home, get some. Although we may not be required to meet current standards in older buildings, our homes are made safer when we do so. Ground fault circuit interrupters provide protection against shock or electrocution. They are inexpensive devices that make us so much safer that I recommend installing them wherever they would be required today. Current standards would require GFCI protection for receptacle outlets serving kitchen counters and receptacles installed in bathrooms, as well as receptacle outlets located within 6-feet of laundry, utility and bar sinks and at exterior, unfinished basement, crawl space and garage receptacle outlets. Circuits serving hydromassage (whirlpool) bathtubs and their associated electrical components or receptacle outlets within 6-feet of hydromassage tubs require GFCI protection. Also, special rules apply to spas, hot tubs and swimming pools.
During a professional home inspection, a Pennsylvania home inspector will check to see if the home has GFCIs and if they can pass the test described above. If there are none or if they prove faulty, it will be noted in the home inspection report.
I hope this is helpful.