The Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is a crucial safety device in your house. It continuously monitors the flow of power in your plugged-in devices and prevents electric shocks and in extreme cases electrocution. That’s why it’s extremely important to know how to test a GFCI outlet and keep it functioning properly. 

What does a GFCI outlet do?


A GFCI outlet protects from serious injury due to electrical shocks. It detects the following and stops the power current immediately so as to prevent fires and other electrical accidents. 

  • Dangerous power leakage from home appliances and maintenance tools.
  • Any sign of moisture while operating electrical equipment.
  • Damaged electrical wiring in the house.

Suppose a plugged-in hair dryer drops into a tub full of water by accident, the GFCI outlet detects the interruption in current instantly – cutting off the power supply and preventing electrocution.

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What is the ideal GFCI location?

According to the National Electrical Code® (NEC), a benchmark for safe electrical design, electrical installations, and inspections, GFCI protection is mandatory in all outlets that service bathrooms, kitchen countertops, basements, garages, utility sinks, and outdoor areas.

How to test a GFCI outlet by hand?

GFCI receptacle
  • Plug a lamp into the GFCI outlet that needs to be checked.
  • Switch on the light fixture.
  • Push the test button with your finger on the outlet to stop the flow of any electricity.
  • A properly working GFCI will trip – turning off the lamp and popping out the reset button.
  • Press the reset button to restore electricity.

If the power doesn’t trip on pressing the ‘test’ button or it’s not restored on pressing the reset button, it means your GFCI outlet is not working properly and needs to be replaced immediately.

How to test a GFCI outlet by using a GFCI tester?

A GFCI outlet tester is a device that checks whether the outlet is working safely and if the electrical wiring is correct or not. It identifies any wiring problems such as open ground, reversed polarity, or a hot-ground reverse. 

Here’s how to use the GFCI tester:

  • Plug the device into the outlet.
  • Use the test button to trip the GFCI to ensure it’s working properly. It works the same way as the test button on the outlet.
  • Press the reset button.

How to test a GFCI outlet with a multimeter?

electrical outlet

A multimeter is also known as a volt-ohm meter. This gadget troubleshoots the GFCI breaker and measures electricity values such as amperage, voltage, and electrical resistance. There are two versions of the gadget available on the market — analog and digital.

In order to test your outlet, follow these steps:

  • Manually push the test button on the GFCI outlet until it trips with a snap sound, and the power is cut off.
  • Set the multimeter’s AC voltage to its max scale.
  • Insert the plugs of the multimeter into the vertical slots of the outlet to check if there’s still any power left — first the black lead and then the red lead.
  • The multimeter should read zero to show your outlet is still safe to work. 
  • Press the reset button to restore power.
  • Measure your outlet’s voltage to determine if the outlet is transmitting the proper voltage.
  • Check your outlet’s wiring with the help of a professional electrician in case of any misconnections or switched wires. Remember to turn off the power supply from the main electrical panel.
  • Also, ensure that the wire nuts fasten securely to the connectors.
  • Restore the electricity and recheck the outlet’s voltage.

How often should you test your GFCI outlet?

Electrical safety experts recommend testing your GFCI outlets once a month to ensure that there’s no indication of an electrical problem. Keep in mind that the safety feature of a GFCI outlet may fail without notice – while continuing to provide power to plugged-in devices. That’s why checking the plug connections (through the test and reset buttons) is essential.  

Last thoughts

GFCI electrical outlets are convenient, safe, and a necessity. If any of your outlets are not working, despite a circuit breaker in good condition, the issue might be a faulty GFCI outlet. We hope now you’ll know how to test your GFCI outlet in the most convenient way possible. You can choose a method that works best for you.

How to test a GFCI outlet and keep the electric shocks away was last modified: February 21st, 2023 by Ramona Sinha
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