Assume that the GFCI receptacle is not subject to unusually high levels of tripping.

When I say "the life expectancy of a GFCI receptacle", I more specifically mean, "the life expectancy of the GFCI circuitry found in a GFCI receptacle."

A GFCI receptacle will continue to power items that are plugged into it, even after the GFCI function no longer works. But, I am concerned specifically about the lifespan of the GFCI function.

To verify its GFCI function, I do not exclusively use the "TEST" button that is built into the receptacle. I rely on a standalone GFCI outlet tester that trips the GFCI receptacle.

I have noticed, just in my own house, that all 3 outdoor GFCI receptacles currently have non-functioning GFCI circuitry, while all of my indoor GFCI receptacles function perfectly. I assume that exposure to water and the high humidity of the great outdoors, plus the extreme temperatures, are responsible for shortening the lifespan of the GFCI circuitry.

Hence, it would be wise of me to split this question into two:

  1. What is the life expectancy of an indoor GFCI receptacle?

  2. What is the life expectancy of an outdoor GFCI receptacle?

  • How do you know the "test" button isn't just broken? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 2 '17 at 16:29
  • Seeking to troubleshoot your situation seems like a better approach than asking for engineering data. – isherwood Aug 2 '17 at 16:41
  • There's nothing to troubleshoot... I am simply looking for a general idea of the life expectancy. – Navigator Aug 2 '17 at 16:48
  • That's not really a question with an answer. It depends completely on 1) the specific product, and 2) the use case. – isherwood Aug 2 '17 at 16:49

GFCI longevity is mostly decided by two competing factors:

  • Whether it's indoors or outdoors. The elements will shred anything, and feeble little covers won't help. You have active condensation going on inside that device, it's going to have problems.
  • Build quality. Yes, quality matters. A lot. The corners cut by the cheapies mainly attack the longevity of the device. Obviously it has to make it through its warranty period!

If you have a GFCI on every outdoor receptacle, make sure you're not doing the common mistake of putting more than one GFCI on the same circuit, as this is at best wasteful and at worst dangerous.

Since GFCIs can feed downstream receptacles, the best plan is to have an indoor GFCI protect outdoor receptacles.

  • I've seen you state this several times: "make sure you're not doing the common mistake of putting more than one GFCI on the same circuit". To confirm, you are saying not to have multiple GFCIs protecting a single current path, correct? Or, are you saying not to have multiple GFCIs on a single circuit breaker (I thought multiple GFCIs could sometimes be needed to prevent nuisance tripping)? If the former, it might be worth adding some verbiage to clarify because I have often seen "circuit" used as short-hand for "supplied by a single circuit breaker" (even though it's not technically correct). – statueuphemism Aug 2 '17 at 21:23
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    I have gotten in trouble recently for belaboring the point of "don't use redundant GFCIs", so I try to stay terse. I go with "circuit" to add meaning: implicitly encouraging proper use of LOAD. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 2 '17 at 21:36
  • On "the cheapies", is there a certain brand or brands that you recommend? Conversely, is there a certain brand or brands to avoid? – Navigator Aug 3 '17 at 3:04
  • @navigator shake yourself out of your normal habits for buying things. Be wary of anything intensely marketed to you. I start by talking to electrical supply houses, they don't sell slick marketed junk because tradesmen hate it, it causes call-backs which are a total loss for them. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 3 '17 at 3:30

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