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  1. #1
    rweaver's Avatar
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    Default How often should outlets be replaced?

    The outlet in my bathroom was chipped near the ground prong, so I decided to replace it. After taking the faceplate off, I discovered that the plastic outlet had snapped between the upper and lower outlets. When I used a small screwdriver to get the backwired wires off the back, half the back outlet housing snapped off.

    I put in the new outlet (using the screw terminals this time, not backwired) and all is well with that outlet, but I decided to check out the outlet in the other bathroom. This one was in similar shape - after pulling the outlet out of the box, a piece of the back housing fell off the outlet (similar to where the original outlet broke, but this one snapped off before I even attempted to get the wires out)

    I replaced this outlet as well.

    I checked the bathroom light switches and they both look ok (but they use the screw terminals instead of being backwired) and I spot checked a few other outlets in the house and they all appear to be ok.

    Do bathroom outlets degrade faster than others because of the humidity? Should I be periodically replacing outlets? The house was built in 1991.

    In a followup question: how long do GFCI circuit breakers last? Both the bathroom and kitchen outlets are on (separate) GFCI breakers, and though they both pass tests using the breaker test button and a GFCI tester at the outlet, should I think about replacing the breakers periodically as well?

    Thanks!

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  2. #2
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Doubt you will find anything printed / official on this. GFCIs have no life expectency that I am aware of. Should last indefinitely. Most outlets have tensioned contacts that can loose their tension with lots of use. If an outlet is used most every day, I think it's worth considering replacing it after a couple years or so. If they are rarely used, they'll last indefinitely.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    New technology is available with GFCI devices since 1991. More reliable and (I believe) cannot be backfed, so if you want the latest and most reliable devices, replace.

    One time, I was talking to an electrical contractor and he recommended replacement of receptacle outlets every 15 years. I have never seen any documentation. Like Garry said, those that are regularly used are more likely to need replacement. When I found outlets that do not grip my tester, I recommend replacement.

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Specification grade receptacles are designed (and tested) to last for more engaged/disengaged cycles (plug-in, un-plug) and more "abuse" than regular residential grade duplex receptacles.

    Properly installed, secured, Receptacles which are gently, and rarely "engaged" will last longer than those which are used agressively, plugged into and unplugged frequently, and of course, they aren't going to survive significant abuse.

    UV light exposure, heat exposure, exposure to chemicals, vapors, etc. will further "age" equipment, especially that which is not resistant to same. Between the cleaning chemicals often used in the close confines of the average bathroom and the multitude of personal care products (alcohol, propellants, etc.) and frequency of use it is not uncommon to find receptacles in bathrooms, kitchen counters and laundry areas requiring replacement more frequently than those in other areas of the average household.

    Receptacles which are "burdened" by unsupported heavy devices (such as bladed power supplies, bladed chargable devices such as shavers, flashlights, 'rechargable' battery charging stations, etc.) and those which corded devices are disengaged by tearing out or pulling the 'plug' askew will tend to wear out or fail sooner.

    Receptacles which are overloaded tend to deteriorate leading to catastrophic failures.

    Even the UL standards for the 15- and 20-ampere duplex receptacles themselves have improved/changed in 20 years.Receptacles should be replaced anytime any portion of the overall duplex receptcle (either "half") is damaged, cracked, loose, changes color, overheated, contaminated (painted, etc.), no longer hold a "plug" firmly.

    Since you've replaced the duplex receptacles in both (presumably residential) bathrooms, hopefully you installed NEWER "Tamper Resistant" ones.UL Standards for safety for the manufacture, testing, etc. of GFCI protection devices have also improved significantly since 1991.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 07-30-2012 at 02:31 AM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    "Builders grade" receptacle outlets from the late 80's to early 90's are poorly and cheaply manufactured. I had a photo from a nearby community where the original switches & outlets would fall apart in your hand if you tried to remove them from the box.

    They breakdown due to repeated use. I would bet that the bathroom outlets breakdown faster due to more items being plugged in/out than in other rooms, often several times per day.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    I have been told by several electricians that the life span of a GFCI is about 10 years. After this they either trip easily or may stop tripping all together. I have a general comment about this in every report. The same goes for GFCI & AFCI breakers. I have also noticed that in 9-11year old homes there seem to be at least 2-3 GFCI outlets that are not functioning properly.


  7. #7
    TCattell's Avatar
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    I see GFCI Receptacles fail all the time, especially outdoors or in high humidity/moisture areas. I have never that I can recall found a failed GFCI Breaker though. I would expect hair dryers play a very big role in the degradation of plastic in aforementioned receptecales. Blow dryers use a ridiculous amount of electric, which in turn will heat that outlet up, day in, day out. you get it....


  8. #8
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Good info. H.G. Builders grade means nothing. Same as "all natural ingredients" in reference to food products, ( as opposed to real food ). Chemicals, saturated fats and even petroleum products are natural and similarly some builders will do whatever it takes to save a nickle.


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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Quote Originally Posted by H.G. Watson, Sr. View Post
    engaged/disengaged cycles
    H.G.

    You have your terminology incorrect. The correct term is "electrical intercourse"

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    H.G.

    You have your terminology incorrect. The correct term is "electrical intercourse"

    Awww shucks!


  11. #11
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Garry Blankenship View Post
    Builders grade means nothing.
    .

    Around here its a euphemism for "junk".


  12. #12
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    NFPA 73 Standard for Electrical Inspections for Existing Dwellings 2011 edition:
    4.9.4 Switches and receptacles shall not be painted or have other coatings applied unless so listed for such use.
    4.9.8 Receptacles that fail a blade retention test, with a listed retention tester, shall be replaced.



    Receptacle Tension Tester - Mfg# 1760 LSS

    Anyone have one of those testers?

    I know that our area has not adopted NFPA 73 for anything but it makes for good reading and I thought I throw in another two cents.

    If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Builder grade is what will meet minimum specifications at the least cost without having to be replaced within 1 year. cheep and works

    Remember, every dollar that the builder is able to save on a job is a dollar profit in the job.
    The same as building a car. Its about profit margin.


  14. #14
    Don Burbach's Avatar
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    I agree with others...., but also use the philosophy that 'if I have to think about it', it's time. Of course, this means I have to have the ability to do a quality job using quality parts.

    In this area, YMWV(Your Mileage Will Vary) depending on usage, individual care, load, etc. In some 15 year old houses I see, many outlets are loose, cracked, broken, covers missing, have 6-way extenders, etc... and all I can think is the residents were animals.

    ~Don


  15. #15
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    (bold and underlining are mine)
    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Vernon View Post
    4.9.8 Receptacles that fail a blade retention test, with a listed retention tester, shall be replaced.

    Receptacle Tension Tester - Mfg# 1760 LSS

    Anyone have one of those testers?
    Is that "a listed retention tester"?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  16. #16
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Hi Jerry,
    I don't know if its listed, I found it on line and wondered if anyone used those things. I think not as I haven't had any comments.
    It fits into "How often should outlets be replaced"
    I didn't know it existed until I read the NFPA 73.
    Have a great weekend!

    If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest
    Benjamin Franklin

  17. #17
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    Default Re: How often should outlets be replaced?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Vernon View Post
    Hi Jerry,
    I don't know if its listed, I found it on line and wondered if anyone used those things. I think not as I haven't had any comments.
    It fits into "How often should outlets be replaced"
    I didn't know it existed until I read the NFPA 73.
    Have a great weekend!
    I asked about being listed because the requirement was to test with a listed one.

    I had one of those years ago, as did a couple of other inspectors in my area ... it was a nice 'show and tell' toy, but not a real tool useful for much as it was not listed or calibrated for anything.

    Kind of like one of those old postal scales which were spring operated - place the letter on it and the plate would drop to show the ounces ... but only if you bent the indicator to zero before using it, and there was no guaranty it would return to zero after using it - those things were basically the same thing, think of a small fish weighing scale with prongs on it to allow plugging into to a receptacle - if it showed a problem you already knew there was a problem because when you plugged your tester in and out of the receptacle you could feel that it was worn out.

    I have no idea where mine is now, or even when I last saw it, I probably gave it someone who wanted it once the novelty worn off and I was tired of it.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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