GFCI bizarreness


Old 02-12-08, 08:11 AM
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GFCI bizarreness

Howdy - I just moved into a new (to me) home and am trying to address some issues found during the inspection. One is that the GFCI outlet in the master bathroom is dead-ish, meaning the actually hot/neutral blades are dead ... but the cute little green light is still on. I had two GFCIs down in the kitchen, so I made the penny-wise etc. decision to scavenge the downstream one in the kitchen and swap it in for the bathroom one which I believed was "bad".

The kitchen worked fine after the swtich, so good there. The bathroom situation was less good. After replacing the "bad" GFCI with the scavenged one from the kitchen, the blades were hot again. The green light was too. So I hit test on the outlet analyzer and snap, I heard a snap ... from the other (guest) bathroom. Duh. It has a GFCI as well, on the same circuit.

Okay, I thought, just go in and reset the one in the guest bathroom ... now that outlet was back. But the original problem outlet in the master bath is back to being "bad" like the first, after initially working - green light is on, but blades are dead again. No amount of testing and resetting either or both of the GFCI's helps this.

So ... help! I'm new to GFCI wiring, so I'm probably missing something obvious. Does the green light mean everything is a-okay, or something else? Why would the blades be dead but the light on? Is it tripping somewhere, and if so, why didn't it completely trip when I powered on the breaker the first time? There is no clicking detent-ish thing when I push the reset button on that master bath GFCI - is that a problem? Mechanical, or tripping, or ..? Does any of this indicate that one or both GFCI's is wired badly? I'm guessing the guest bath is the upstream-est one, is it possible that IT is the culprit?

Any thoughts appreciated!
- Jeff
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Old 02-12-08, 08:47 AM
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My first thought is no contractor is going to intentionally add an un-needed GFCI to a circuit. More a bean counter thing then electrical. If this is an amateur job all bets or off. First check for yet another GFCI. Next pull each one and double check line is really connected to the line side and load to the load side. Look for any connections in the box that seem odd to you.
Old 02-12-08, 08:53 AM
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Because the system is so wanked, I'm not entirely sure how to check for which is downstream and which up. That same circuit powers pretty much that entire side of the house at that level (2 bathrooms, master bedroom, a few closets), so I have little idea how it runs. I can crawls up into the attic and see if there are any clues, however.

In general, does that pretty little green light mean everything is kosher, or something is wrong? I've heard murmurs that it - inexplicably - means the latter ...
Old 02-12-08, 10:06 AM
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Turn off the breaker for this circuit and open the working GFCI in the second bathroom. Check for a loose or open connection. The feed wire the second bathroom could be loose or disconnected. You should also move the wires from the load connection to the line connection so the receptacle in the first bathroom is not under the control of the receptacle in the second bathroom.
Old 02-12-08, 02:48 PM
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I had a similar issue in my home recently. Mine ended up being an open neutral on one of two GFCI receptacles, but since the second GFCI was on the same circuit it would trip as soon as I reset the 1st GFCI.

I shut off the appropriate breakers and completely removed both GFCI receptacles. Separated all four wires in each box and turned the breakers back on and tested (using a test light) for the hot line (black) and used the neutral (white) stemming from the same romex cable. I did this for each outlet (2 on each GFCI receptacle) until I found where the open neutral was located. I’m not saying you have this problem but it’s a method for troubleshooting the problem.

I recently learned the hard way so I do not recommend doing this unless you are moderately experienced with home circuitry and have some background knowledge of circuits.

Check my recent post, it may shed some light.

Good luck.

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