Is my outdoor outlet dead or just dormant?

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Old 05-04-10, 11:13 AM
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Is my outdoor outlet dead or just dormant?

In preparation for installing an outdoor fountain, I tested one of my outdoor outlets to make sure it was working and that it is GFCI protected (since it isn't the typical GFCI outlet). I plugged in a nightlight to test and it worked. I then went to the circuit breaker panel to determine which GFCI circuit breaker controlled it. I flipped the switch that said "Garage GFI" and it shut off the outlet I was testing. YAY! But now the outlet doesn't work AT ALL! I tested every GFCI switch inside and outside the house and every circuit breaker in the house and the outdoor outlet still does not work. Is it possible that it died just at the very moment that I flipped the circuit breaker controlling the GFCI? Strange coincidence, but possible, I suppose. Everything else on that circuit works just fine. I'm thinking I should just replace the outlet altogether. Since it appears to be protected by the GFCI circuit breaker, I can just buy a regular outlet with a waterproof cover for a permanently plugged in cord (the fountain pump), right?

Another outdoor outlet on another patio has a GFCI outlet. It works, but when I try to test it, the Test button doesn't push in and the nightlight I'm using to test won't go out. That outlet is bad as far as I'm concerned. Time to replace, right? I've replaced GFCI outlets before inside the house (they don't last long at all!), but in those cases, the outlets didn't work at all. In this case, the outlet works but the protection doesn't. Same difference as far as I can tell. Time for a new outlet.

So, am I going to be replacing two outlets today? Time to study to become an electrician!

Thanks!
 
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Old 05-04-10, 11:38 AM
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If the original outlet isn't a GFI, it's possible that it is protected from the second GFI you are having issues with. Replacing that receptacle may correct both problems.
 
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Old 05-04-10, 11:46 AM
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Originally Posted by RustyHammer View Post
I flipped the switch that said "Garage GFI" and it shut off the outlet I was testing.
Does this breaker have a "TEST" button in addition to the ON/OFF switch?

I tested every GFCI switch inside and outside the house
I'm guessing you missed one somewhere. It's usually behind the hardest-to-move stuff piled in the garage/basement.

I can just buy a regular outlet with a waterproof cover for a permanently plugged in cord (the fountain pump), right?
Could you tell me what kind of fountain this is? The electrical code has specific requirements for fountains which may require a new circuit.

That outlet is bad as far as I'm concerned. Time to replace, right?
If the TEST button does not switch the load off, the GFCI is either bad and needs to be replaced or it has been miswired. Newer GFCI receptacles will not work at all if they are wired incorrectly, but older ones will exhibit the behavior you are describing if the LINE and LOAD wires are reversed.

I've replaced GFCI outlets before inside the house (they don't last long at all!), but in those cases, the outlets didn't work at all.
GFCI receptacles should last a long time. Is there some other reason yours might be failing? Are they exposed to weather or unusual use? Do you have lightning damage to electronics?

I recommend you get one of these for testing GFCI outlets. It's about $10-15 and will tell you if the outlet is wired correctly and if the protection is working. Any hardware/homecenter should have one.


Sperry® GFCI Outlet Tester (GFI6302) - Electrical Tools - Ace Hardware
 
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Old 05-04-10, 02:58 PM
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UPDATE!!!! UPDATE!!!

I replaced the non-working GFCI outlet on the patio. It was wired correctly. There were only wires running to the Line side. No wires left to wire to the Load side. Pretty easy not to mess that one up! It turned out the outlet was just faulty. Now I can press the Test button and it shuts off the outlet and Reset it to make it live again.

Voila! the outlet on the other patio now works, too. I replaced the outlet just in case (a $1.99 investment at Home Depot) and now we're good to go! That outlet is just a regular outlet protected by the GFCI circuit breaker.

Thank you all for your help! My husband was impressed with my electrical skills. Beer 4U2

P.S. This is the 3rd GFCI outlet to go bad on my 4 year old house. We have a whole house surge protector. Lots of lightning in Florida, but we've never had any damage to electronics.

As for the type of fountain, it is in the process of being made and hasn't been delivered yet. All of the detailed info accompanies the fountain when it is delivered. It's a relatively small garden fountain that I was led to believe can run on normal outlets. The manufacturer states so and I have a couple of friends who have the same pump on their fountains. Just out of curiosity, at what point would I need to upgrade to a new circuit?
 
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