Testing Exterior GFCI's

I find myself in this situation too often so I thought I’d run it by to see how other inspectors handle it.

I inspect a home’s exterior first, checking everything as I come to it. When I come to an exterior outlet, I plug in my tester and test to see if the GFCI works. When they do (most of the time) I make a mental note to find that sucker and re-set it.

Here’s the rub: Most of the time the exterior outlets are controlled by a GFCI in the garage. Garages are often filled to the rafters with packed boxes in anticipation of the owner’s move, making finding the GFCI outlet next to impossible without moving all the boxes.

What do you do? Check the Garage first and if it’s full of boxes, don’t test the exterior outlets for GFCI protection? Leave a note to the homeowner that you popped the GFCI but can’t find the reset? And just recently, I tested an outlet at the exterior that was labeled “GFCI Protected”, and found that it not only had an open ground, but failed to trip too, but there were 10,000 boxes stashed in the garage so I couldn’t even verify if the source of the GFCI was in the garage (the basement had a GFCI too, and that didn’t cut the power),


I always tested every GFI I found .
If I could not find reset I left a note .
I also carried a spare Extension cord and if a freezer was now off used the cord to plug it in elsewhere so I did not have to pay for food that has thawed .

Only needed a cord once Cheap insurance .

I have heard of a few inspectors who paid for a lost freezer of food .

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I check the outside first as well. I will test the receptacles for power & wiring but not trip them. I then check other GFIs in the home & the sub panel throughout the inspection. Usually by now I have located the reset or potentially reset, trip the circuit & make a quick sweep to see if those outside are now absent of power, then reset. Lastly, if I haven’t found the reset, I will trip them with the tester but am now prepared to provide power by other means if necessary as in Roy’s scenario or have reduced the location to look for the reset. Also, by waiting later for this I may have the clients with me as a second set of ears, but I don’t let them go moving stuff. (Most love to feel involved)

Anyway, that method is what works best for me. While I try not to back track, this takes less time than searching for resets one at a time.
I leave a card at every inspection stating that I did xyz & made every attempt to reset everything but here is a checklist for them to double check me. Also has a spot for specific notes.

First thing I do is check the garage to see if the GFCI reset there is accessible. If not, I don’t test the other garage outlets or the exterior outlets for GFCI protection and disclaim it.

I’ve also found them in bathrooms and in outlets on the opposite side of the exterior wall where the outlets I’m testing are located.

The other thing you can do is to not use a tester to trip GFCIs. Only use the test buttons on the GFCI outlets that are accessible or on GFCI breakers. That way you can confirm that you tested all observed GFCI’s, except maybe the one the freezer is plugged into. If you test those, you might want to use Roy’s method and carry an extension cord.

The first phase of my inspections is to move through the entire house and put it in a known state to be ready for inspection (how can you verify that exhaust fans exhaust to the exterior if the fans aren’t running when you inspect the exterior? That the condensing unit runs normally if it isn’t running when you inspect it?). If there are access issues in the garage, I’ll know before I start tripping exterior GFCI protected receptacles.

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you can count me in that group

The OP found an outlet that was mis-wired on the exterior by using the tester button. The mis-wiring had to do with failure to trip the GFCI, and the open ground (open ground would have been safe if properly GFCI protected). You’re method would not have found the wiring problem leading to a possible dangerous situation with an ungrounded, non-GFCI exterior outlet. There is no “one method” to accomodate all these situations. “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome”

2 years later…better late than never?

The same item crops up over and over, never too late. Oh I forgot, you have it all figured out and just troll for amusement.

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