Replacing Defective GFCI Breaker

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  #1  
Old 12-17-04, 10:18 AM
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Replacing Defective GFCI Breaker

My 1975 house in Tennessee has one 20AMP GFCI Breaker in the breaker box which is located on an outside wall of my house. This breaker feeds one outlet each in two bathrooms, one outdoor outlet (which is actually now indoor as the porch it was on has been enclosed into a sunroom), and several outlets in the garage.

This GFCI breaker no longer functions properly. Hitting "Test" does nothing. I would like to replace the breaker with a regular 20AMP breaker and replace the first outlet on the circuit with a GFCI outlet (wired, of course, to protect the "downstream" outlets).

Questions:
1. Considering this outlet must protect other outlets, am I required to use a 20AMP GFCI outlet, or is a 15AMP GFCI outlet OK? (reference USA location)

I believe this has been answered already, and that 15AMP is Ok, but I just want to double check.

2. Since the GFCI function will be handled by the outlet, do I even *need* to replace the breaker? (I'm asking this more out of curiosity, as I plan to replace it...just a few bucks and a few minutes time.)

3. The box currently has a mix of Murray, Crouse-Hinds, ITE, and American breakers (looks like they just used whatever was lying around). Will it be acceptable to use a Square D Homeline breaker (bus *looks* identical to Square D Homeline, but looks can be deceiving)? At the bottom of this post is info on my breaker box.

4. Is my proposed task considered a modification that will require me to adhere to current code, or am I still covered by what was in effect in 1975?

From reading here in other threads, it's my understanding that current code requires a GFCI circuit dedicated to the bathrooms, and a separate GFCI to handle the other outlets on the circuit under consideration. Quoting John Nelson from another thread regarding GFCI requirements and the year they took effect:
1975: 1 for exterior and bathrooms (this was code when my house was built)
1999: 1 for exterior, garage and basement; 1 for bathrooms; 2 for kitchen.

I know I *should* update, and I will eventually, but the question is *must I* now since I am making changes?


Breaker box info:
Arrow Hart Murray (raised letters on front cover)

UL Sticker with "Class CTL Enclosed Panelboard No. AZ- 434510

Stamped on inside, and barely legible: "A-H PLT. CO" and "1 MO.-7?YR" (can't make out the number after 7, hence the "?").

I did not find any other info on the box...
 
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  #2  
Old 12-17-04, 11:04 AM
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Repair verses remodel

If the local AHJ tried to require me to update existing electrical plant in order to repair it I would fight her/him tooth and nail. You must use a listed or recognized breaker in your panel. The electrical testing laboratories list the OEM breakers that are suitable for use in your panel but they also recognize some alternate manufacturers breakers for use in some panels. Thomas & Bettes is one manufacturer who has had their breakers recognized for use in several other manufacturers panels. Using only listed or recognized components will mean that the breakers you are installing have been tested to perform adequately under the actual conditions of use.
--
Tom H
 
  #3  
Old 12-17-04, 11:05 AM
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You sound pretty much like you're knowledgable on electrical stuff.

Some answers:

1. Not required by NEC to use a 20 amp GFCI recep. If you have a 20 amp breaker, and have more than one single receptacle on that 20 amp circuit, none of the receptacles have to be 20 amp, they can all be 15s.

2. I guess if the breaker works, but the GFCI test button does not, you would not have to replace the breaker if you have a GFCI recep protecting your outdoor receps (required by NEC for outdoors and garage). You can buy an inexpensive GFCI tester. Plugs in and simulates a ground fault. Might be relieved to find out if the ground fault function works or not. Perhaps the ground fault function on your breaker does work but the test button does not. Either way, GFCI protection is required, but it is not required to be at the breaker. Your plan GFCI protect using GFCI receptacles will satisfy the requirement.

3. Your box is a Murray, so your breakers should all be Murray. I believe they still make them. I saw them several years ago in a regional chain home center in the Syracuse area, but have not looked lately. Each mfr. makes their bus connection slightly differently, and although they may appear to be in there snugly, the actual electrical connection may not be adequate. This can cause breakers to heat up. You can turn everything on in your house and go feel the outside of the breakers to see if you have any actual problem presently, but I personally would replace anything not made specifically for my panel.

4. Replacing "in-kind" without actually modifying the circuit leaves you in compliance if it was in compliance in 1975's code cycle. So, replacing a breaker with a breaker (of the same amperage), or replacing a switch, recep, light fixture, etc. does not require the owner to bring the entire circuit up to the 2002 Code. If you replace a non-GFCI receptacle with a GFCI, then feed the downstream receptacles from that GFCI recep, you have not modified that circuit because you have not modified the actual wiring. You're just replacing a device. So I would say you're plan will be perfectly OK.

Juice
 
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Old 12-17-04, 11:27 AM
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There is no rule governing this but I believe it to be far better practice to protect only outlets in the same room as the GFCI receptacle. They are not that expensive that you cannot afford two for the bathrooms, one for the garage, and one for you outdoor receptacle.
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Tom H
 
  #5  
Old 12-17-04, 12:59 PM
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Thanks for the help, and another question...

I just got done installing a Leviton 15AMP GFCI in my master bath. My "guess" as to which outlet was the first on the circuit was correct. (Pretty easy guess--master bath is closest to breaker box.)

I have not yet done anything with the non-working GFCI breaker.

Originally Posted by hornetd
You must use a listed or recognized breaker in your panel. The electrical testing laboratories list the OEM breakers that are suitable for use in your panel but they also recognize some alternate manufacturers breakers for use in some panels. Thomas & Bettes is one manufacturer who has had their breakers recognized for use in several other manufacturers panels. Using only listed or recognized components will mean that the breakers you are installing have been tested to perform adequately under the actual conditions of use.
Originally Posted by JuiceHead
3. Your box is a Murray, so your breakers should all be Murray. I believe they still make them. I saw them several years ago in a regional chain home center in the Syracuse area, but have not looked lately. Each mfr. makes their bus connection slightly differently, and although they may appear to be in there snugly, the actual electrical connection may not be adequate. This can cause breakers to heat up. You can turn everything on in your house and go feel the outside of the breakers to see if you have any actual problem presently, but I personally would replace anything not made specifically for my panel.
What each of you says makes sense...

Where could I find information on whether the breakers in my box *are* listed/recognized for my breaker box?

I have only three of the breakers that I've been able to identify as Murray breakers, so I'd need to replace the majority of the breakers to be all Murray, as JuiceHead recommends. I do like the peace of mind knowing the "parts don't just fit, they match" (wasn't that an auto parts ad?). However, I don't want to get into a job like that unless it is really necessary. Hunting down a Murray parts supplier may be more work than actually swapping the breakers.
 
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Old 12-17-04, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by JuiceHead
You sound pretty much like you're knowledgable on electrical stuff.
Thanks! I've been fascinated with electrical stuff since I almost killed myself plugging a 220 pigtail into a 220 outlet when I was four years old. Dad says he remembered me saying "Daddy, that looks like it would fit that outlet". I suppose I wanted to prove it! :lol: He taught me how to do lots of wiring. When I was 6, I was making custom extension cords for the business he worked for. Every one of them worked fine.

Originally Posted by JuiceHead
Some answers:

1. Not required by NEC to use a 20 amp GFCI recep. If you have a 20 amp breaker, and have more than one single receptacle on that 20 amp circuit, none of the receptacles have to be 20 amp, they can all be 15s.
Juice

I noticed when I picked up the box of recepticles that it specifically says "Rated 15A, at recepticle, 20A feed through".

Originally Posted by JuiceHead
4. Replacing "in-kind" without actually modifying the circuit leaves you in compliance if it was in compliance in 1975's code cycle. So, replacing a breaker with a breaker (of the same amperage), or replacing a switch, recep, light fixture, etc. does not require the owner to bring the entire circuit up to the 2002 Code. If you replace a non-GFCI receptacle with a GFCI, then feed the downstream receptacles from that GFCI recep, you have not modified that circuit because you have not modified the actual wiring. You're just replacing a device. So I would say you're plan will be perfectly OK.
That's what I thought, just wanted to be sure.

Of course, I *cough* may or may not have *cough* added a couple extra outlets in my garage a few months back *cough* that may or may not have been on this breaker. Hmmm...I think I just told on myself.

I do plan on adding a subpanel soon on the garage end. At that point, I'll remove the garage completely from this circuit, and that will be that. For that matter, since the outlet order of this circuit is BATH-->BATH-->OUTSIDE-->GARAGE, I'll disconnect the wires between the 2nd bath outlet and outside outlet, run a new feed from the new sub to what is now the LAST outlet, and swap it with a GFCI outlet. Then my baths will be on their own GFCI, and the GARAGE/Outside will be too. Now to just add GFCI's to the kitchen.
 
  #7  
Old 12-20-04, 06:04 AM
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Interesting story about how you became fascinated with electricity. Thought I would share a similar anecdote. When I was 4 or 5 I was walking down the hall of our home when I noticed a 4-foot ladder set up in the closet. Curious as to why that ladder was there my eyes naturally followed it upwards and dangling from the closet ceiling was one of those old fashioned light sockets on about 18-inches of cord. But there was no bulb in it. I climbed up the ladder and without a second thought I stuck my finger in the socket. Of course I instantly got zinged. I quietly got down from the ladder, walked away, never told a soul, and never did that again! But the sensation fascinated me. I went on to be an electrical technician (not a licensed electrician), troubleshooting and installing for a maintenance company. Eventually I obtained an A.A.S. in electrical engineering and landed at an engineering firm as an electrical designer. All probably because of a little boy who couldn't resist sticking his finger in a light socket.

Juice
 
  #8  
Old 12-20-04, 06:26 AM
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chirkware Wrote:
I do plan on adding a subpanel soon on the garage end. At that point, I'll remove the garage completely from this circuit, and that will be that. For that matter, since the outlet order of this circuit is BATH-->BATH-->OUTSIDE-->GARAGE, I'll disconnect the wires between the 2nd bath outlet and outside outlet, run a new feed from the new sub to what is now the LAST outlet, and swap it with a GFCI outlet. Then my baths will be on their own GFCI, and the GARAGE/Outside will be too. Now to just add GFCI's to the kitchen.
I think it worth repeating that it is not best practice to have a GFCI receptacle in one room Controlling outlets in a different room. It inevitably leads to confusion.
--
Tom H
 
  #9  
Old 12-20-04, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by hornetd
chirkware Wrote: I think it worth repeating that it is not best practice to have a GFCI receptacle in one room Controlling outlets in a different room. It inevitably leads to confusion.
--
Tom H

I agree that separate GFCI's in separate rooms is best. I may eventually replace the second bathrooms outlet with a GFCI (and go back to the first GFCI and move the feeder for the second outlet off the LOAD terminals). For the time being, I just wanted to get the outlets protected.

As I mentioned, I plan to split this circuit when I add a subpanel (which I will do later on in the remodel I'm working on). Once that happens, the two current baths will be on their own circuit.

The garage will also be on its own, with the exception that the lone outside outlet will be the last outlet on that circuit. Kinda hard to give it it's *own* protection since it is downstream of the garage, unless I put a GFCI at EVERY garage recepticle, and don't use the LOAD terminals at all. That WILL get pricey, as many garage recepticles as I will have (I may add a few once the circuit gets split off).

If I can find where this circuit ties the garage outlets to the outside outlet (and I *think* I know where that is), I may split the outside outlet off and give it it's own breaker.

Of course, in a future remodel project I'm already planning, the garage will become the master bedroom, at which point this not-yet-existing garage GFCI circuit will become the not-yet-existant new master bath's dedicated circuit. LOL So, (thinking/planning as I type) I *definately* want the outside outlet off this not-yet-existing garage GFCI circuit, as in the future it will *have* to be its own circuit.

Of course, my not-yet-existing detached garage (and ANOTHER sub-panel) has to get built before my current attached garage becomes my not-yet-existing new master bedroom.

I should have just built a new home instead of buying this one! LOL

OK, enough of this ramble. Thanks for getting my mind in gear. I think I need
 
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