Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


What do you mean I no longer have to test my GFCI's?

It is very common practice to GFCI protect the Whirlpool Bathtub at the receptacle located behind the access panel for the motor that is under the tub.

receptacle location under tubI have never thought this was “best practice” regardless how common.

When you have to test and/or reset the GFCI device, who wants to figure out how to get the access cover off?

Modern codes require that GFCI locations be “readily accessible.”  It seems that jurisdictional inspectors have a lot of leeway as to what constitutes “readily accessible” and it will be interesting to see if we continue to see the GFCI location stay under the tub.

I had an inspection the other day of a 1997 house where the access panel was the side panel inside the vanity cabinet that was next to the tub.  Four long screws that made my cordless drill complain had to be withdrawn to gain access to the space.  In all it probably took me only a couple of minutes to get all the screws out, but it does make me wonder if any homeowner would ever do it.  Especially if they had to move all the normal stuff that accumulates inside these sink cabinets.

Of course, then the cover has to be put back in place and all the stuff thrown back under the sink.

So pretend for a moment that this is your home. Would you do all this to test the GFCI device?

I didn’t think so.

But now, the latest regulations regarding GFCI devices, requires they be “self-testing!” 

How cool is that? GFCI receptacles and GFCI circuit breakers have the capability to electronically test themselves 24/7---no more monthly testing. (Like anyone did that anyway.) 

So now by simply (sometimes not so simply) replacing breakers in your electrical panel with GFCI type breakers that self test, we can fix all the “readily accessible” issues that have plagued the devices as well as fix the issue of nobody testing them as recommended.

We have reached a point where technology has allowed us to have every circuit in the home both AFCI and GFCI protected (dual function) with self testing.  The old familiar receptacles with the test buttons may become a thing of the past.

In the mean time---keep testing your GFCI's.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comment balloon 4 commentsCharles Buell • July 04 2015 02:42PM


That's interesting.  Having GFCI switches that take care of what very few do any way

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) almost 4 years ago

They would probably be calling an electrician, they would not be removing panels to reset a GFCI that they didn't even know existed.

I ran across one not long ago where they replaced all the two pronged outlets with newer three pronged outlets and they placed GFCI outlets in the craziest locations. The GFCI's wouldn't pop when I tried to test them, but not to worry says the City Inspector and Electrician... they're self testing! Oh, I feel much better now...

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) almost 4 years ago

So, I am no longer my GFI's keeper!

I often cannot reach the GFI inside the tub access panel, which is so small sometimes I could not get much in there but a forearm.  But the receptacle is so far away I can't get to it! 

Now we can carry a magician wand instead of a GFI tester!  See, it tests itself!  Poof, with the smoke!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 4 years ago

Ed, it is such an awesome invention

Fred, we do see them in some crazy locations

Jay, sounds like a plan---gonna be a while before the old is out and the new is in

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 4 years ago