GFCI Problem


  #1  
Old 03-11-06, 05:26 AM
J
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GFCI Problem

Hello,

I am experiencing a strange problem with my GFCI circuits. When I press the test button it makes a buzzing noise and will not trip. I checked the circuit breaker and all is good with the breaker. Thinking the the GFI was bad, I tried testing another one in the bathroom. Same results. The GFI buzzes and will not trip. There is no power to the recepticles on that circuit either. I turned the breaker on, then off, same results. I find it very unlikely that ALL the GFI's have gone bad.

Please help.

Thanks!

JOhn
 
  #2  
Old 03-11-06, 05:51 AM
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I suspect that there IS power to the receptacles, but no neutral. I think you have an open neutral somewhere on the circuit.

Use a two wire tester or a plug in type tester and test the receptacles. With a two wire tester test between the smaller vertical slot and the larger vertical slot and between the smaller slot and the ground.

Do any receptacles on this circuit work, or do they all exhibit the same problem?
 
  #3  
Old 03-11-06, 07:04 AM
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Gfci Problem

GFCI recptacles have two sets of terminals on the back of the receptacle. One set is typically labelled line side with one silver and one copper or brass colored terminal. The other set of terminals have the same colors but are typically marked load and have a piece of yellow marking tape covering the terminals when taken out of the box. The line side are for the incoming "hot" conductors to connect to. The load side is for outgoing "load conductors" to connect to. The load side is typically used to supply other outlets downstream and they would have GFCI protection. If the connections are reversed I.E. line wiring on load and load on line the GFCI receptacle will not function at all and will have no power available. I do not know the exact details of your problem but if you are having the same problem with GFCI receptacles in different locations then it is highly unlikely you have several defective GFCI recptacles. I would recommend to check the connections on the back of the receptacles as above and if there is only one set of black(goes to copper or brass terminal) and white (goes to silver terminal) wires coming in make sure they are connected to the line side and not the load side. I have electricians who connect GFCI receptacles improperly all the time at my shop. I have never heard the buzz you state when pushing test button but that does not mean anything. If you are uncomfortable about taking a receptacle out and inspecting it then call a licensed electrician. If not then make sure the power is off to the receptacle before taking it out of wall box. Also make sure the bare ground wire in the non-metallic cable (romex) is connected to the green colored terminal on the bottom of the GFCI receptacle.
Good luck and hope this might help fix your problem.
 
  #4  
Old 03-11-06, 08:15 AM
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Thanks for the quick responces. What is unusual about this is that I did not install these recepticles or GFI's. The house is 2 years old and all has been working great until a few days ago. We have had some harsh weather (Cold and raining). Would this have anything to do with it? I will use the tester as you all suggested and report my findings.

Thanks again.

John
 
  #5  
Old 03-11-06, 09:24 AM
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Harsh weather/ with lightning? This is plausable.
 
  #6  
Old 03-11-06, 09:40 AM
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Ok, this is weird. I put my meter on the the GFI circuit that buzzes and it reports ~192 volts. I put the meter on the GFI that will not trip and it report ~67 volts. Outlets serviced by the GFI's report ~67 volts. Something is going on!! I put the meter on a normal outlet and it reports correctly ~120 volts.

Any ideas?
 
  #7  
Old 03-11-06, 09:43 AM
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Follow up. I put my three prug tester on the circuits and it states I have an Open Neutral. How do I find that?
 
  #8  
Old 03-11-06, 09:59 AM
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There is nothing weird going on. Your original symptoms indicated an open neutral. All of your testing has confirmed this.

You must open each and every receptacle (or light or switch or junction box) on the circuit and find the neutral wire that is no longer connected. It could be in a wire nut, or it could be at a screw terminal or more likely at a back stab connection.

It could be at a working location or a non-working location, so you must check everything on the circuit. It will be at either the first non-working location or the last working location.
 

Last edited by racraft; 03-12-06 at 11:54 AM.
  #9  
Old 03-11-06, 01:08 PM
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Red face

Ok, problem solved. I decided to go back to the panel and open it up to expose the wiring. Almost immediately, I noticed the black wire from the GFI circuit was completly exposed and not connected to the breaker. It was as if someone unscrewed it! I turned off the breaker and connected the black wire back. When I turned it back on, everything worked again. WOW! How did that happen. Anyway, thanks for all the help.

john
 
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Old 03-11-06, 07:17 PM
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It wasn't properly installed in the first place.
As a wire heats up and cool off, it will work its way out of a loose connection.
 
  #11  
Old 03-12-06, 08:40 AM
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Unhappy

Just when you thought ... The problem is back. I tried to make a pot of coffee this morning and the coffee maker would not come on. I checked the panel and the wire is still secure. The voltages are back as described above and the 3 prong tester states I have an open neutral. How can it work then not work? I think it is time to call an electrician.
 
  #12  
Old 03-12-06, 08:51 AM
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Well, that makes more sense. Your symptoms indicated an open neutral, and you fixed an open hot. So you still have that open neutral you've had all along. Start looking for it in the manner that Bob outlined for you.

Apparently the connection is intermittent, pretty typical of a failed backstab somewhere.
 
  #13  
Old 03-12-06, 09:32 AM
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Unhappy

Will do. I plugged in a small lamp into the GFI circuit and it comes on and off intermittently. There are a lot of plugs to check. I'll report back what I find. Thanks again!
 
  #14  
Old 03-12-06, 10:00 AM
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Unhappy

Ok here is what I have so far. I pulled the GFI outlets from the wall. I turn the breakers off. THere are two GFI circuits in the kitchen. With the power off and the 3 prong tester in the outlet it states that the HOT/GRD REVERSE. When the breaker is on it states Open Neutral. I actually got shocked (breaker off) when I touched the metal part of the plug and the hot wire. I put my meter on the metal part of the plug and the black wire and the meter read 120v. This was with the breaker off!!!
 
  #15  
Old 03-12-06, 10:06 AM
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Either you don't have the correct breaker, or you have a mutiwire circuit. If you do have a multiwire circuit then it is absolutely necessary that you find the open neutral ASAP and do not use any receptacles on the circuit until you do.

What is the wiring to these GFCI receptacles?
 
  #16  
Old 03-12-06, 10:14 AM
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Open neutral and hot/ground reverse are two different readings for the same problem. Of course the hot and ground are not reversed. The problem is still an open neutral.
 
  #17  
Old 03-12-06, 10:24 AM
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Unhappy

Ok. Well the breaker is the breaker that has been there since the house was built 2 years ago. Could that have gone bad? As for the wiring to the recepticles what exactly do you mean? Size? There are two breakers that feed the 2 GFI recepticles in the kitchen. These two separate circuits are having the same symptoms.
 
  #18  
Old 03-12-06, 10:53 AM
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I suspect you do not have two separate circuits, but one single multiwire circuit. Everything i your recent posts confirms this. Turn off both breakers and tell us the wiring at the main panel and at the receptacles.
 
  #19  
Old 03-12-06, 11:08 AM
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Unhappy

Ok, I'll give this a shot. At the panel there are two breakers labeled Kitchen Plugs. They are both 20amp breakers. One has a black wire connected to it, the other a red. When I opened the GFI recepticles which are both in the kitchen, they have 2 whites wires and 2 black wires connected to the recepticles. The red wire only shows up in one recepticles but it is tired together with a wire nut and not connected to the recepticle. The red wire does not show up in the other GFI recepticle or in the gang box the recepticle is in. Does this help explain what I have?
 
  #20  
Old 03-12-06, 11:11 AM
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Taking a closer look, the red wire is tied to a black wire with a wire nut.
 
  #21  
Old 03-12-06, 11:11 AM
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Yes, it all agrees with everything that has been said on this thread.
 
  #22  
Old 03-12-06, 11:23 AM
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You have a multi wire circuit. From your main panel you have two hot wires and a single neutral wire (plus the ground wire) going to the kitchen. At the receptacle where the read and black wire join, your circuit separates out and from there on it would look like a normal circuit at any receptacle.

While there is nothing wrong with this (assuming it is properly wired), it is very confusing to people who don't know what a multi wire circuit is or how it works. I hope, for your sake, that you have not ever attempted to switch the circuit breakers that these wires are attached to or to extend these circuits. Incorrectly modifying a multi wire circuit can lead to a fire hazard. If you have modified the circuit in any way, fess up to it so we can make sure that you didn't create a fire hazard.

Back to your problem. You have an open neutral. Since you are saying that this effects both side of the multi wire circuit, it is most likely before the multi wire circuit separated into two circuits.

You need to find and correct the open neutral. It could be at the main panel or it could be at the any of the locations on the circuit.

As I stated before, don't use this circuit (either portion) until you find a fix the problem.
 
  #23  
Old 03-12-06, 11:36 AM
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Unhappy

Ok, I would certainly tell you if I messed with this circuit. I have not. I was in Orlando, Florida when my wife called and reproted that the plugs in the kitchen were no longer working. I have not changed the breakers out or added additional recepticles to the circuit. What exactly would I be looking for at the panel? A white wire not connected? How about the recepticles, same thing, a white wire that has come loose? I am a little hesitant to open the rest of the recepticles because there is still power in them even though the breakers are off. I will be very careful however. Thanks!
 
  #24  
Old 03-12-06, 11:42 AM
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This is post #24 in this thread. The approach you should use was outline in #8.

Test every wire before you touch it. If you are uncertain, shut off the main breaker.
 
  #25  
Old 03-12-06, 11:44 AM
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That is exactly what I am following, thanks!
 
  #26  
Old 03-12-06, 12:17 PM
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Ok, I have opened up every recepticle and all the white wires are intact. I checked each wire nut carefully. At the panel, I identified the white wires associated with the this circuit and they are screwed in correctly. Although the breakers are off, there is power to the wires going to the breakers. It is definately a multi wired circuit like you stated. What next? Call an electrician? :-)
 
  #27  
Old 03-12-06, 12:50 PM
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There should only be one white wire at the main panel.

Did you open and remake any wire nutted connections? Did you move any back stabbed connections to screw terminals?

Did you check every receptacle on the circuit (both halves of the circuit), those that work as well as those that don't work?

With the receptacle removed, turn the power back on and check for power between EACH hot wire and the neutral wire.
 
  #28  
Old 03-12-06, 09:21 PM
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Question

***Did you open and remake any wire nutted connections? ***

No I did not

Did you move any back stabbed connections to screw terminals?

No, all the wires are attached to screw terminals

Did you check every receptacle on the circuit (both halves of the circuit), those that work as well as those that don't work?

Yes

With the receptacle removed, turn the power back on and check for power between EACH hot wire and the neutral wire.

I changed out one of the GFI recepticles in the kitchen and everything appears to have gone back to normal. I have had a lamp plugged in to one of the circuits all night and it is still on. I plugged my 3 prong circuit analyzer in each outlet and the tester reported CORRECT, I also tested the GFI circuits and they poped from every outlet. I guess the GFI outlet went bad? Anyway, I will continue to monitor these circuits and I may call in an electrician just to make sure everything is working properly. Thanks for your guidance and assistance.
 
  #29  
Old 03-13-06, 04:48 AM
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Yes, GFCI receptacles can and do go bad. Sometimes they go bad and it's obvious because they don't work as a pass through device or at their own connections. Other times it;s not so obvious and you would only know it if you tested them with their test button, which most people, unfortunately, do not do.

If all of your connections are on the LINE side of each GFCI then the GFCI was not the problem. Instead a loose or failed connection was to blame. However, if this GFCI was used as a feed through to provide downstream protection to other portions of the circuit, then yes it could be the GFCI.

I am glad you are with power again for your kitchen.
 
 

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