I’ve been running into this particular GFCI outlet safety issue quite often lately, and since it can easily stay undetected creating serious safety hazard, I’ll explain it for you.
This GFCI outlet safety problem applies to older receptacles, manufactured before 2003 – the year when “Smart Lock” type GFCI receptacle has been introduced by Leviton. GFCI receptacles equipped with the “Smart Lock” feature include a small padlock sign on the face of the device.
So, if you have any GFCI outlet receptacles without the “Smart Lock” logo, make sure that you test them properly / don’t just assume that they are functional.
A GFCI outlet safety issue – hidden one
GFCI outlet receptacle has two pairs of terminals to connect wires. One of them is called LOAD, and second pair of terminals LINE. For the outlet to protect you from a ground fault, power-supplying wires (hot and neutral) must be connected to the LINE side of the device.
What is Ground Fault?
If you touch an appliance with some failing electrical components, the electricity might pass through your body to reach the ground, instead of following its normal safe path.
With an old GFCI outlet receptacle that does not include the “Smart Lock” technology misplaced power supplying wires (hot and neutral power supply installed on the LOAD instead of a LINE side) would not prevent the device from operating.
Improperly wired GFCI outlet would still provide power to any device plugged in into its socket, and it would trip when tested. The dangerous part is that after it tripped, which should disconnect the power to its socket, the power actually stays ON.
Notice on both pictures that GFCI testing device shows two orange lights ON with RESET button in up & down position.
Such condition could be also a result of a high-voltage power surge or corrosion / damaged device, in which case the GFCI outlet receptacle would have to be replaced. However, start from checking the wiring, and test it properly – just follow the instructions in my GFCI outlet installation post.
GFCI outlet safety issue post wouldn’t be complete without you going and checking all of your GFCI receptacles – good luck .