GFCI Failure

globe199February 22, 2011

Thought I'd start a discussion on this since it just happened to me.

Installed a standard Leviton 7599 on a 20-amp circuit in my kitchen last spring (2010). It's an isolated device; it doesn't protect anything downstream, and everything up- and downstream works fine, so it isn't the wiring. GFCI will not reset, indicator light is dead. I think it just failed. Haven't replaced it yet because (a) we rarely use it and (b) I'm lazy.

I've installed five of these so far, for a 20% failure rate. Since they're made in China, I assume they're prone to failure. Beyond the inconvenience of needing to replace it, the failure really makes me wonder about the effectiveness of the GFCI protection itself.

Any thoughts?

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GFCI devices do fail from time-to-time. In my case, it has only happened after lightning struck my house. YMMV. Given that I only had 2 GFCI outlets in that house (one for the bathrooms, one for outside), I guess you could say I suffered a 50% rate of failure. Wait long enough, and that failure rate will probably be near 100%.

According to statistics that I have seen, about 19% of GFCI circuits fail in a closed circuit scenario, meaning that they provide power, but no ground fault protection. Your concern is justified, but I'm not sure what the alternative would be. The numbers I'm quoting didn't separate failures by country of manufacture.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 3:27PM
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Did the thing ever work or was it DOA?

If it never worked, are you 100% certain that you connected the hot and neutral to the line side terminals (as opposed to the load side)?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 4:03PM
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Forgot to mention the timeframe here. I installed it last spring and it failed a week ago. So yes, it worked for many months. Cheap Chinese crap is my guess.

Up til two years ago, I lived in an apartment built in 1984 and it had what looked like its original bathroom GFCI. It worked fine. I'm guessing that one wasn't made in China. There are probably thousands of 1970s-era GFCIs still in service out there.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 5:25PM
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"Cheap Chinese crap" is a reasonable assumption, I share your opinion. However, they wouldn't be selling here if it were not for the fact that price is the primary driver for many purchasers of that product. You have to pay a few dollars more for a U.S. made GFCI.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 6:37PM
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Ron Natalie

Actually it's the crap american companies that outsource to other countries without providing adequate design and quality control for a lasting device are the ones to blame. The Chinese workers didn't make the decision to use minimal quality components in the device.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 8:41AM
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Inadequate design or components, I can agree with. Quality control, maybe and maybe not, the workmanship in some examples leads me to believe that a person could not work anywhere in the plant without knowing their product is subpar right off the assembly line.

Given China's history with pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, pet food, toys and light truck tires, I suppose a defective GFCI should not be unexpected.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 9:47AM
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Ron Natalie

I have tools that are made in ISO9001 factories in China. They rival the best in the world. Sure if left to their own devices companies in many places will generate crap. However, for US companies (my notable example is SmartHome where near EVERY single one of their China-produced switches has failed on me), it's the cheap fraudulent US management that's the problem, not the exploited low paid worker who turns the crap they mandated out.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 12:21PM
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You have to pay a few dollars more for a U.S. made GFCI.

Does any manufacturer still offer one?

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 10:26PM
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Actually, the problem here goes well beyond US companies and includes most Japanese and European companies too. Chinese manufacturers are willing to produce just about any product based on price point first, quality and reliability second, and environmental considerations third.

If you look at almost any of your consumer electronic products, whether US, Japanese, or European branded, you will see they are almost always manufactured in China (or have sub-assemblies purchased from China). Most of the people working in these manufacturing facilities have absolutely no idea what the product is, or does, that they are assembling.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 11:57PM
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