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Electrical
Ground Fault Interruption (GFI) Q's & A's

Keeps Tripping | Can't Reset | Basic/Installation | Warm
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Pump on GFI Keeps Tripping

I have a submersible pump on a GFIcircuit that runs fine for a time and then trips. When I reset the GFI the pump will runfine for awhile (couple of hours) and then trip again. Any ideas?

Unfortunately, it looks like it istime to replace the GFI breaker. They don't seem to last (although they are worth thebother). When they age they will trip at lower and lower loads.

If the only thing that needsprotection on that circuit is the submersible pump, and maybe that is the only outlet onthat circuit, you can replace the breaker with a standard breaker and replace the outletthe pump is plugged into with a GFI outlet. The outlets are much cheaper than the breaker.Price them out.

One GFI outlet and one normal circuit breaker versus the GFI breaker.

You should check with local codes(call your town's building inspector) but I believe both are acceptable as long as allrequired loads are GFI protected.

Receptacles Don't Work, GFI Keeps Tripping

Noticed after I had painted the 3bathrooms.The receptacles didn't work.The GFI switched was pushed out.So reset it but whenever anything is placed in socket it goes out again. Does this mean loose wires,current isinterrupted or just need to replace the GFI.

It could mean any of the above. TheGFI breakers are notorious for failing. NOT failing to protect, but failing meaning nolonger staying closed even without a fault. (I should say they are worth the bother, andbesides being required by code, are worth every penny)

However, it is not necessarily truethat yours has failed. It may well be tripping due to a fault. Since you only noticed theproblem after you painted, and probably had the outlet covers off, etc, I would checkfirst to see that each outlet is still wired properly.

Since the breaker will remain closeduntil a load is plugged in, close the breaker and check each for power. (Do you have avoltmeter??) If each has power, plug the smallest load you have into each one. (Like a 10Wnight light) If there is a fault, even the small 10W light will cause the breaker to trip.If the little light works in each outlet but any larger load is causing it to trip, it isprobably the breaker.  I say this because the breakers when they fail, trip at lowerand lower current loads.  A real small load may not be enough to trip it. However theGFI part of the circuit is so sensitive it will trip on the smallest fault.

Good luck and ALWAYS treat electricity with respect. (don't work on live circuits,check the outlet wiring with the circuit OFF).


Raining Helps Breaker Stay On, Otherwise it Trips

I have an electrical outlet that was installed by the previous homeowner to plug in his hot tub in the back yard. We are now using this outlet to light our pool with Torro 20 torch light set. The breaker keeps tripping for no apparent reason. It happen when it hasn't rained for days and then on days it is raining the breaker will stay on. What gives?

Also, our house has GFCI breakers in all the wet areas of the house but they are all connected to one breaker. I read in a previous question that this was normal procedure but I just don't think it make good common sense. If you have a problem in the kitchen, the bathrooms should not be affected and vise versa. If the problem is outside why should the breakers inside go off. This is very frustrating because you can't go to another bathroom to try and blow-dry your hair if you set off the plug in the master bathroom.

Is the outdoor GFI protected outlet on the same circuit as all the indoor ones? And how is it GFI protected... is it a GFCI breaker (with the test and rest pushbuttons right on its face) or is it a GFCI breaker.

In either case.. if it trips randomly.. it may very well be the breaker or outlet is bad an needs to be replaced. But of course rule out there are no shorts or grounds. As for putting them all on one circuit breaker, it is done to save money.. a GFCI breaker costs about 3 times what a regular breaker costs. So lumping the loads that need to be protected this way makes sense.. also, they are not typically an outlet that will carry a large load in more than one location.. and so can handle the different rooms.Of course... what you say is true.. when it goes, you loose all the bathrooms and the kitchen sink outlets. So I would agree.. it would be worth a little more to split the loads on to two...

But.. also.. you shouldn't be tripping them that often.. a breaker that is tripping is telling you something. Either you are trying to overload the circuit.. or in a GFI breaker's case.. you are in danger of getting a jolt. Do you trip your GFI breaker often??




GFI Breaker Won't Reset

Over the past few years we have hadto reset our "GFI" electrical circuit every so often. Particularly when anoutdoor electrical socket was left open. The circuit has tripped again but when I press itit wont push down and reset. Any advice?

To reset a GFI breaker, (or anybreaker that has tripped) you need to first move the breaker all the way to"off" first. Then move it to "On".

Assuming you did that, and there isnothing plugged into any of the GFI protected outlets, the GFI breaker probably has to bereplaced. Unlike the ordinary breakers, it seems the GFI type doesn't last forever.Especially each time it trips, it often trips easier and easier, until it no longer willreset.

Unfortunately you will probably haveto replace it. A new one should cost in the $30 neighborhood. (plus labor if you have anelectrician install it)


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GFCI Outlet - Checked Archives and FAQ - No Test/Reset Button

I own a spanking new home with GFCI outlets in the expected areas.Problem the single wall outlet in the garage has a cover with a sticker indicating it is GFCI. But there's no test/reset button! What gives? This outlet worked fine for me prior to going overseas for four months. Now on my return, there's no current. Oh, and yes, I checked my circuit breaker. Incidentally, I pulled to cover off to find nothing visually amiss. And the door-opener outlet on the ceiling continues to work. Help?

Your plain vanilla dead outlet is evidently wired downstream from some GFCI outlet and thus is "protected" as if it was a CFCI outlet itself. When the real upstream GFCI is tripped, it goes dead and so does any ordinary outlet connected to it downstream UNTIL you find and reset the one "boss" GFCI for the dead outlets). This type of house wiring is normal.

Grounding Outlets in Kitchen of an Older Home w/GFCI's

I am selling my house, which has old knob & tube wiring. The buyer has requested grounded outlets in the kitchen. The problem is - the wiring is knob & tube with no ground wire. The basement below is finished, so I would have a mess getting to the wiring. Is there anything I can do to ground the outlets without tearing up the house completely? Help!

You may have to tear up part of the walls to run a ground wire. I have had them grounded to water pipes before .

There is another way...
You can install GFCI outlets. Although there will be no ground actually attached to the GFCI outlet, the ground fault protection provided is better than a ground. If other outlets can be fed from a GFCI outlet, they do not have to be GFCI as well.The national electric code allows this method of supplying a 3-prong outlet. It is safe and legal.

Check with the buyer to see if it is acceptable.

Rating GFI Circuit Breakers

When rating GFI breakers, what does 10,000 AIR or 65,000 AIR mean?

Amperage Interrupter Rating.

The breaker can handle that number of amps before the breaker itself blows up. It is to protect from high short circuit currents.

GFCI Breakers/Outlets

I turned the fluorescent fixture in the garage off and the radio on a different receptacle shut off. I figured a breaker tripped. The breaker handles were in the on position so I took the inside panel off, hooked my meter to the neutral buss and went down the breakers until I found one without power. Although the handle wasn't tripped, I turned it off and back on, still no power. The next morning I noticed the GFI receptacle in the bathroom was tripped. I reset it and now I have power in the garage. The fluorescent fixture and radio are now working! This is a new house and I don't know what is going on. Can you explain this to me? How does the GFI receptacle and the breaker work?

Sounds like at least part of your garage is serviced via the GFCI outlet in the bathroom. This is NOT uncommon. Sounds like you also have a standard rather than a GFCI breaker in the panel. What this means is that power will come from the box via the standard breaker to the GFCI in the bath and then to the garage receptacles. Since the GFCI is more sensitive than the standard breaker, it will be common for the GFCI to trip while the breaker in the panel does not. This is how they are designed to work.

Installing GFCI's in Kitchen

I am in the process of selling my home and the buyer's inspector indicated in his report that I needed to install GFCI's in two outlets on each side of the kitchen sink. I already have a GFCI outlet protecting the two outlets in question. Is this a requirement of the 1999 National Electric Code? If I install additional GFI's on an already protected circuit, will I get false trips? Can anyone help?

You should label them as GFI protected. The little labels come with the outlets now. I am sure it you went to the electric supply store they will give you some. Protection through a GFCI protected outlet is as good as a GFCI outlet or a GFCI breaker... the NEC only requires it be wired to have GFCI protection.. it does not require the outlet itself to be GFCI.

Are you are sure about having a GFI protection?If your plugs in the kitchen do not have GFI plugsinstalled then the GFI protection lies in yourcircuit breaker for the kitchen. Check that outfirst. If the circuit is protected then let thenew home owner/realtor know this.

Any circuit residing close to a wet areashould be GFI protected. This is a recognizedelectrical code requirement anywhere...but compliance varies.

If the GFI requirement on the building inspectionreport is part of the conditional sale of yourhouse then you just need to install those plugsto comply (about $10 each). BUT I would seriouslydoubt that the sale of your house would rise orfall on this issue alone.

If the protected outlets are not labeled as protected, the inspector probably did not know. Check with your local city/county inspections department to see if code requires separate GFCI outlets. I don't think you need them.

GFCI Slightly Warm

Is it normal for a GFCI outlet to become slightly warm (not at all hot)when nothing is plugged into it? This is normal household wiring with no big loads on circuit; 12 gauge copper on a 15 amp breaker.

It isn't normal for the outlet to get warm, especially when nothing is plugged into it. But if you have a rather large load wired further down from it, it would explain it. Your wiring size is in excess of required, so that isn't a problem. Just to be sure, you can check the connections on the breaker,. (make sure the circuit is off at the time, of course) . Heat=resistance. Because GFI's have "load" terminals on them- to feed downstreamcircuits- the GFI could indeed become "warm" with nothing "plugged in". In other words, although the outlet itself doesn't have a load on it (something plugged in), it could be supplying current to other outlets with a load on them. Coupled with loose/poor connections at the GFI which = resistance, you could have a "warm" outlet. Better check the connections on the GFI.




Click here for our Grounding Your Outlets Article
Click here for our Reverse Polarity Article
Click here for our Electrical Tips Article


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