Can A GFCI Outlet Burn Out? (5 Reasons Explained)

gfci burn

Everyone knows that ordinary outlets can burn out. But what about GFCIs? They are supposed to keep you safe from electrical hazards. But are they susceptible to the same weaknesses as ordinary outlets?

Do GFCIs Burn Out?

GFCIs burn out. Some GFCIs are simply poor quality. They have defects that will cause them to burn out the moment you test them.

One example is the BESTTEN GFCI receptacle which consumers criticized for not only burning out during testing but also using wobbly terminals.

This particular GFCI is cheap. With electronic devices, you normally get what you pay for. If the GFCIs in your local store are ridiculously inexpensive, don’t be too surprised when they burn out.

What Causes A GFCI To Burn Out?

If your GFCI burned out, you have to identify the cause before you install a replacement. Otherwise, the new outlet will suffer the same fate. Some factors that can cause a GFCI to burn out include:

1). Overload

An overload will not trip a GFCI. They respond to electrical leaks, not overloads. That being said, a heavy and sustained load can cause the GFCI’s wiring to overheat, destroying the device in the process.

If your GFCI is giving off a burning smell, inspect the GFCI and its wiring. People that use GFCIs on the outlets that run their power tools have encountered similar problems. Because many power tools trigger a high inrush of current when their motors start, that surge of electricity can ruin the GFCI’s sensitive components.

2). Using Indoor GFCIs Outdoor

Was your burnt-out GFCI outside? If the answer is ‘Yes’, is the GFCI weather-resistant? Was it designed for use outside? If the answer is ‘No’, you now know why it stopped working.

GFCIs meant for exterior settings have weather-resistant properties. Ordinary GFCIs that are meant for indoor use will accumulate moisture if you leave them outside. Eventually, that moisture will short the electronics of the GFCI, killing the device.

3). Arcing

Arcing refers to a phenomenon where the current jumps from one conductor to another. Arcing is dangerous because it generates heat.

Arcing can occur between the GFCI and the plug of the appliance. It is also more than capable of destroying the plug and the GFCI.

4). Loose Wiring

Loose wiring can cause ordinary outlets and GFCIs to burn out. Arcing on loose connections and wiring causes burnout.

Though, worn-out and damaged insulation can produce similar results. With loose wiring, you have to look at the plug and outlet because they are both potential culprits.

5). Dust

Moisture is not the only dangerous component that can invade your GFCIs. Dust is another potential problem. The accumulation of dust can lead to overheating.

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How Do I Know GFCI is Burning?

If your GFCI is burnt out, it won’t take you long to find out. The following signs will alert you:

1). Test Won’t Work

If the GFCI is burnt out, you can’t test it. Either the ‘TEST’ button won’t move or pressing it won’t trip the GFCI. If the ‘TEST’ button does not work, the GFCI is dead. You need a new one.

If the GFCI doesn’t trip when you press ‘TEST’, it won’t trip when a ground fault occurs, which means that you can’t trust it to keep you safe.

2). Burning Rubber & Plastic Like Smell

When arcing and overheating occur in and around a GFCI, you will catch the scent of burning rubber and plastic. It is difficult to miss. You should respond to burning smells immediately because overheating and arcing can cause electrical fires. Switch the breaker off before you inspect the GFCI.

3). Burn Marks

In some cases, if you unplug an appliance, you will see burn marks on the face of the GFCI. Don’t be surprised if you see burn marks on the plug and the inside of the GFCI.

Check the wires as well. You will most likely discover more burn marks. Like the burning smell, burn marks are a sign of trouble. You should replace the GFCI immediately. At the very least, stop using it.

GFCI Keeps Burning Out – How To Extinguish It?

If your GFCI is crackling, smoking, and producing a burning smell, you should turn the circuit off immediately. Once the circuit is off, you can unplug the device in the GFCI.

At this point, there is no harm in contacting an electrician. They understand GFCIs. They will troubleshoot the situation to find the cause. But if you have some experience with electric devices, you can investigate the situation yourself.

That means opening the outlet, looking for loose connections by softly tagging on the wires, and searching for signs of damaged or worn-out insulation. You should also check the rating of the appliance.

Make sure it matches the rating of the GFCI and the circuit. Otherwise, you probably overloaded the outlet.

Burnt out GFCIs with burn marks perplex experienced electricians all the time. Don’t be surprised if you fail to find the cause. In fact, even if you have experience with electricity, it wouldn’t hurt to consult another professional.

They can look at the wiring in your house to determine whether or not the circuit was somehow at fault. Once you replace the GFCI, keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case, especially if you failed to find the reason that caused the previous GFCI to burn out. Use powder-based (CO2) extinguishers. Don’t use water.

Do GFCI Explode?

No, they don’t. Or at the very least, it is very rare. Most GFCI owners will tell you that they have never seen their GFCIs explode. But a GFCI is an electronic device. Under the right (or wrong) conditions, most electronic devices can explode.

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