Replacing regular outlet with GFCI

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  #1  
Old 08-15-04, 07:32 PM
kjdiver
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Exclamation Replacing regular outlet with GFCI

Bought a used house, built in 1999. The outdoor GFCI protected outlets work (as in carry electricity) but are not truly GFCI protected. No GFCI breaker, and all the GFCI outlets are on different breakers (along with other regular outlets, etc). I suspect that they were all at one time wired on the same circuit with the first one being a GCFI receptacle. It appears that some re-wiring of the breaker box was done as the labels do not all match up with what they are supposed to operate (had to re-label a few of them).

Here is the problem. The GFCI patio outlet is a regular 2 outlet receptacle (with a watertight cover). It is not "switched." I am replacing it with a GCFI Receptacle. When I removed the existing receptacle I see one wire coming into the box (containing a white, black and ground). The white is connected to the silver screw on one side; the black to the brass screw opposite it on the other side; the ground wire has a separate wire attached to it which is attached to the back of the box, and is also attached to the green ground screw on the receptacle AND to the other silver screw.

I cannot figure out why the ground is attached to the other silver screw and to the green ground. When I tested the outlet the tester showed it wired correctly. When I remove the ground wire from the silver screw, the tester shows the hot and ground reversed.

When I hook up the new GFCI receptacle, I tried white to silver, black to brass (both on the LINE), and ground to green screw. The receptacle would not work. Thoughts on getting this wired correctly? Thanks.
 
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Old 08-15-04, 08:23 PM
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How do you know that they are not GFCI protected? What did you use to test it?

Breaker labelling by the builder is always awful. Creating a good breaker list should be one of the first things people do when they move in. It's a lot easier to do this while everything is still working than it is to do when something goes wrong.

I cannot figure out why the ground is attached to the other silver screw and to the green ground
This is truly terrible! Hot ground reverse is always a false indication of an open neutral. What perhaps happened is that something bad happened to the neutral and someone used the ground to fill in. A really stupid idea.

Or if this receptacle was not original (has there been an addition?), then what likely happened is that some idiot tapped into a switch loop (which had no neutral) and then was forced to use the grounding wire as the neutral.

It is unusual for a house only five years old to already be so screwed up.
 
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Old 08-16-04, 06:51 PM
kjdiver
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I used a GFCI outlet tester with a button to test the gfci. Nothing trips when the button is depressed, as you would expect. I know the tester works, as I have used it (tested it) on other circuits and true GFCI outlets trip.

Not surprised that it is screwed up - the previous homeowner botched a lot of things that I am slowly fixing. Doorbell ringer didn't work (was installed upside down), have a wall switch that controls nothing, front door installed reversed, etc.
 
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Old 08-17-04, 05:08 PM
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The portable GFCI tester requires a good ground to trip the GFCI. You could have no ground on those circuits. Or you could have a bootleg ground if your tester is showing a ground.
Do the test buttons on the GFCI work?
 
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Old 08-17-04, 06:00 PM
kjdiver
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The GFCI tester works properly - as I wrote "I know the tester works, as I have used it (tested it) on other circuits and true GFCI outlets trip."
 
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Old 08-17-04, 06:27 PM
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I believe that you may have misunderstood what Joe meant. Those external plug-in GFCI testers are limited. They detect GFCI presence just fine if there is a good grounding connection to the receptacle. But if there is no good grounding connection to the receptacle, then even if the tester is performing perfectly, it will still falsely inform you that there is no GFCI protection when in fact there is perfectly good GFCI protection. It's just the way they work. They test for protection indirectly.
 
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Old 08-17-04, 07:05 PM
kjdiver
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Okay - I understand.

Still trying to figure it out - I want to open up the other outside (GFCI protected supposedly) receptacles and see what the wiring looks like in those.

I have a feeling that the 4 receptacles outside (the house) were originally all on the same circuit so that when one tripped all of them tripped. [The receptacle in the garage, closest to the breaker box, was a GFCI receptacle, and there is an outdoor receptacle on that circuit and nothing else on that circuit. I believe that the actual GFCI receptacle being first in line, protected all the rest of the receptacles outside.]

At some point, someone installed 4 outdoor security lights which are on two different circuits and switched by two different switches, and I suspect that some of the wires in the breaker box were moved around.

I suspect, as you wrote "what likely happened is that some idiot tapped into a switch loop (which had no neutral) and then was forced to use the grounding wire as the neutral." This makes sense since each outside receptacle is now tied into a circuit inside the house (patio tied into master bedroom; front outside tied into den; receptacle on side of house tied into guest bedroom).

We will see what we find this weekend when I can get outside while it is light.
 
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