Bad GFI? Circuit partially working?

Reply

  #1  
Old 02-23-06, 08:12 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Bad GFI? Circuit partially working?

I live in the U.S.
My power went out during a recent snows storm for several hours. It flicked back on a couple times during that time span, before finally coming back. When it came back, at least three outlets in my condo refused to work, along with my bathroom lighting.

I picked up a couple outlets at home depot, thinking that maybe one of them had gone bad or burnt out a wire or something. When turning off power for those outlets, I found out that the circuit breaker also controls my kitchen light, which is working fine. The tester that I put in the outlets claimed that the hot/grd were reversed (in all of them).

I pulled the first outlet, closest to the kitchen, and replaced it. That didn't fix it. So I pulled the next furthest away... found out that though it was a dual plug, that it only had one hot and one neutral wire (and a ground), which had been connected to the top two screws. The lower plug had the plastic broken away on the third prong hole. I thought that was a bit odd... I'd only bought double plugs so I put the new one in the same way.

Still no good. Still claiming hot/grd reversed (even in the lower plug of the outlet that didn't have a hot/neutral wire to connect to the bottom screws).

The only other outlet that I know of that's not working is the one in the bathroom... furthest away from the kitchen. It's a GFI outlet. I pulled it out and looked at it. Didn't see anything burnt out but I hadn't bought a GFI plug to replace it with so I didn't replace it, yet. The test button sticks out a bit futher than the reset... the reset button doesn't pop out or anything when the test button is pushed. Both only depress a tiny bit.

Is it possible that it's the GFI plug that's refusing to reset and causing the problems along that entire loop? Perhaps the power is going up to the kitchen light, then through the ceiling to the bathroom, then down along the wall back to the box?

I'm stumped. I'm not an electrician either... I don't think I want to mess with the circuit breaker box, but then again, the breaker seems to be working.

Ideas?

Krista
 
Sponsored Links
  #2  
Old 02-23-06, 08:54 AM
R
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,970
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Shame on you for not already knowing what is on this breaker. You should have figured this out shortly after moving in. Everyone should know what is on each and every circuit breaker and what circuit breaker controls each and every receptacle, light and appliance. This information is invaluable at a time like this and could save your life in certain situations.

After you solve this problem, take the time to completely map out what is on each and every breaker.

Ignore the hot/ground reverse. You have an open circuit somewhere. Check each and every receptacle, switch and light on the circuit. Check those that are working and those that are not working. Redo all connections. Don't use the back stabs, but use the screw terminals instead.

You might also try replacing the GFCI, but that doesn't seem to be the problem. You could temporarily replace the GFCI with a regular receptacle, but take very good notes on how the GFCI is wired. It is imperative that you know which wires go to the LINE terminals and which go to the load terminals.
 
  #3  
Old 02-23-06, 09:29 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I know I know... I'm going to map it ASAP I've never even installed an outlet before, so this is a learning experience for me.

I did pull the GFCI out, and look at it. It has the black and white wires going into holes that are so close to each other they look like the same hole, and a ground going in another hole. They're not connected to screws but are using the 'backstab' thing, like the other outlets were (I fixed that). All the other wires are either capped or have some electrical tape on them and are just stuck in the hole behind it.

I hadn't thought to check the switches, or a working outlet. I think there's an outlet in the kitchen that I haven't tested that might be on the same circuit. I'll do that tonight.

Krista
 
  #4  
Old 02-23-06, 09:36 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
By the way... you said:

"You might also try replacing the GFCI, but that doesn't seem to be the problem."

Why do you think that doesn't seem to be the problem? Would it be less likely to be the problem than any other receptacle?

Krista
 
  #5  
Old 02-23-06, 09:44 AM
R
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,970
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I don't think the GFCI receptacle is receiving any power.
 
  #6  
Old 02-23-06, 09:58 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
The tester lights are coming on (two outer lights, hot/grd reversed) when it's put in the GFCI. When I flip the breaker off, the lights go off on the tester. The tester doesn't have batteries.

Krista
 
  #7  
Old 02-23-06, 10:03 AM
R
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,970
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
I don't think the GFCI receptacle is receiving any power.

Ignore the readings on your tester. They indicate an open circuit. Your hot wire or your neutral wire is disconnected somewhere.
 
  #8  
Old 02-23-06, 10:03 AM
J
Member
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: United States
Posts: 18,497
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Hot/ground reverse is always a false indication. The real cause is an open neutral. All of the advice you've gotten so far is correct. You just haven't checked enough places yet. The problem is with a white wire.

Bob, I don't think it's the hot wire that's open. If the hot wire is open, you can't get any lights at all to come on on the tester.
 
  #9  
Old 02-23-06, 10:20 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
And since once of my lights works, on that breaker, it's very unlikely to be my breaker box, right?

Okay. I'm going to keep looking. I'm not sure why a power outage / surges when it came back on would pop out a white wire somewhere, but I'll see what I can find. I'm also going to pick up a GFCI receptacle. Home Depot is right around the corner... after I check everything else (and if something else works I can return it), I'll try installing that.

But, if the GFCI is tripped... shutting off power, wouldn't my tester fail to light?

Krista
 
  #10  
Old 02-23-06, 01:44 PM
I
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,943
Received 43 Votes on 41 Posts
With an open neutral, the problem can be at a receptacle that is still working. The broken/loose/burned wire is either at the last working or first non-working receptacle. To find the problem you will need to open up every receptacle on this particular circuit and re-make the connections. Pay particular attention to the white wire. The problem could also be at a light fixture or switch if you have any lighting on this circuit. It might take a while to check each connection, but this problem can be solved with enough time.

I'm not sure why a power outage / surges when it came back on would pop out a white wire somewhere
The burst of power can overload the connections and cause them to heat up and fail. This is very common in bathroom circuits, because hair dryers put so much strain on the wiring that many connections are already weakened. It could be coincidence too.
 
  #11  
Old 02-23-06, 01:47 PM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Thanks Ben,

I know how to check the receptacles, but I'm not sure about the light fixture in the kitchen... don't think I can get above the thing... big square thing on my ceiling... If it turns out that it's not any of the outlets I think I'll have to call an electrician.

Krista
 
  #12  
Old 02-23-06, 02:00 PM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
What's really odd...

I seem to have two outlets that only have one set of black and white wires (connected), on the same circuit. One is in a side wall, the other is in the bathroom. The one in the bathroom is GFCI.

On the other hand, the one in the wall just doesn't _have_ the other black and white wire. The one in the bathroom has them but they're taped. So... which one is the end of the line?

Should I connect the two that aren't connected in the bathroom?

Krista
 
  #13  
Old 02-23-06, 02:27 PM
I
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 10,943
Received 43 Votes on 41 Posts
Originally Posted by Minx
So... which one is the end of the line?
Although somewhat rare, the circuit can have multiple ends; this more common in older homes. You may have another junction box somewhere where these branches all meet.

Should I connect the two that aren't connected in the bathroom?
No, fix the specific problem first then work on other things. You don't want to create a second problem on top of the existing one.
 
  #14  
Old 02-23-06, 02:31 PM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by ibpooks
Although somewhat rare, the circuit can have multiple ends; this more common in older homes. You may have another junction box somewhere where these branches all meet.

No, fix the specific problem first then work on other things. You don't want to create a second problem on top of the existing one.
I think my place was built around 1962 (condo).
Well it seems unlikely, from what people have said, that the 'end' outlets would be the problem. But... when I hit test the GFCI is not "clicking" or do anything, for that matter, that I can tell. So, maybe something happened up stream AND that needs to be replaced. I'll look for anything I might have missed further up the line and then replace that, tonight. I'll leave those other wires off for now and get some wirenuts for them (instead of the tape that's on them now).

I'll let you know what happens

Oh and I think I'm going to have to go back into the outlets I put in... I'm worried that I might have gotten a little insulation under a screw (maybe just an tiny bit). I wasn't sure how much of a problem that would be but one site said not to do it, so...

I build computers, but this seems a lot more complicated!

Krista
 
  #15  
Old 02-27-06, 06:11 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Follow-up.

Okay... I haven't tried installing the new GFCI yet. This Saturday, the circuit spontaneously started working again. Don't ask me how/why. My boyfriend was over, and being a typical guy opened the circuit breaker box, but hadn't touched anything yet... then just went over and flipped on the light in the bathroom and it worked. The GFCI reset and tester buttons then worked properly (this GCFI seemingly at the end of the circuit or a branch of it - two wires, one ground).

This morning (Monday). I plugged a blow dryer into the bathroom outlet, turned it on and poof, the same outlets and bathroom went down. The GFCI reset did not pop out. The breaker didn't trip.

I also discovered another outlet on the circuit. The kitchen stove. It's gas with an electric igniter. It seems a bit odd that all of that would be on the same circuit. The kitchen stove and kitchen light, retain power (until I shut off the breaker)

In any case, I don't feel comfortable about trying to pull out the stove, being gas, to check that outlet. Unless you guys have any idea from what I just described, I think I'm going to call for help (electrician).

Krista
 
  #16  
Old 02-27-06, 06:28 AM
R
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,970
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
You have a loose connection at a junction box. The fact that it comes and goes is further indication of this. You need to find it.

Shame on you for not already knowing that the stove is on this same circuit. You should know this. Everyone should know what is on each and every circuit, and what circuit each and every light, receptacle and appliance is on. Please, for your own safety, take the time to completely map out your electrical system ASAP. It could save your life some day.
 
  #17  
Old 02-27-06, 06:35 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by racraft
You have a loose connection at a junction box. The fact that it comes and goes is further indication of this. You need to find it.

Shame on you for not already knowing that the stove is on this same circuit. You should know this. Everyone should know what is on each and every circuit, and what circuit each and every light, receptacle and appliance is on. Please, for your own safety, take the time to completely map out your electrical system ASAP. It could save your life some day.
Hi,

The junction box being the circuit breaker box? I don't know of any other junction boxes, but I don't understand why some of the circuit is working but not the rest.

When I manually tripped the GFCI the bathroom lights did not go out, or the other outlets.

I know I should've mapped, that's what I'm trying to do now. I put together computers for myself, but I've never worked on my electrical system before.

Krista
 
  #18  
Old 02-27-06, 07:42 AM
R
Member
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Central New York State
Posts: 13,970
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
You have a loose connection at a junction box. A junction box is any box where a connection is made. A box containing a receptacle is a junction box. A box containing a switch is a junction box.

Your problem might be the junction box behind the stove, it might be the one in the bathroom, or it might be any other on the circuit. It is either the first one that is without power when the problem occurs, or the last one with power when the problem occurs.
 
  #19  
Old 02-27-06, 08:22 AM
M
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
Received 0 Votes on 0 Posts
Okay, so the last incident doesn't tell me anything new. I replaced two receptacles in the living room. The bathroom seems to be an end of line one so I don't know if it could affect the two in the living room. I can't get to the one behind the stove without getting someone to pull it out who knows how to deal with the gas line, and I don't think I can get under the light in the kitchen... (the kitchen light and stove still having power)

So I'm going to call in professional help.

Thanks for all the advice.

Krista
 
Reply
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: