Several circuits in my main panel have GFCI breakers. I know I can test them
internally by pushing the "test button.
How can I actually test the outlets in protected areas (without sticking a
nail in an outlet and grabbing it while holding on to a faucet).
Can I use the little thingies that are plugged into an outlet and show if it
is wired correctly?
The little thingy you're referring to must have a GFCI tester on it, however
you can take a pigtail socket with a bulb, stick one wire in the hot slot
which is the smaller one, and touch the other wire to the ground screw. This
should make the GFCI trip. It won't however give you any indication of how
many milliamps it tripped at
The plug in polarity testers that have a GFCI test button on them use a
resister that is selected to pass six milliamperes from the ungrounded
current carrying conductor to the Equipment Grounding Conductor. They
provide a perfectly adequate test if the circuit has an EGC run with the
circuits conductors. A regular solenoid circuit tester of the so called
wiggington type or Wiggy uses around eight volts to activate the
solenoid at 120 volts. so applying it from output hot to ground or input
neutral is also a perfectly adequate test.
some of those things that you use to see if its wired correctly also have a
little button on them just for this purpose. puts a resistor between hot
and ground. same as the test switch on the breaker.
I don't know about circuit testers, but you can make a GFCI tester from
a replacement power cord plug with screw terminals and a 15,000 ohm
resistor. Wire the resistor between the hot terminal (goes to narrower
prong) and ground terminal. You'll also need a meter or night light to
indicate if the voltage has turned off as it should. This tester
should trip the GFCI at 8mA, slightly higher than the 6mA threshhold
but still a safe level.
Or you could just buy one. Item # 398469 at Home Depot. Seven dollars and
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
Nobody ever left footprints in the sands of time by sitting on his butt.
And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
GFCI testers are also available at Harbor Freight (online, mail order or
retail store) for a few dollars. I'm pretty certain that MCM Electronics
(online & mail order) sells one that allows you to select the degree of
sensitivity (number of milliamps) for the test you perform.
I bought several of the inexpensive units from Harbor Freight and I always
take one with me when I travel. It is extremely important to remember
that some GFCI outlets can be wired incorrectly but the test button on
the outlet can indicate that the unit is functioning correctly even though
it is NOT providing GFCI protection. This has been a common problem
for GFCI outlets installed by homeowners, but it can happen anywhere.
(Half of the outlets in our house which was "professionally" wired in the
1960's had reversed polarity.)
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