GFCI sparking when I plug something in

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Old 05-15-10, 03:48 PM
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GFCI sparking when I plug something in

Hi,

I had just posted about a new treadmill and GFCI in the basement and got really great replies.

Now, another problem. The GFCI was sparking when I plugged something in, before I swapped the GFCI and non-GFCI outlets. I swapped the outlets (so I can use the treadmill), and the GFCI is still sparking when I plug something in. I saw on some site that if you "backstab" the connections, to switch it to use the screw. I didn't know what backstab meant, but that's how the electrician had done 3 of the 4 connections. When I moved it to the new location, I did the same thing (only for the LINE since I didn't need to use the LOAD). So, I then switched to use the screws but that was extremely difficult given the screws were recessed (so I'm not sure I got it around the screw completely).

It seems like just the right plug is sparking, the left doesn't seem to. Should I just get a new GFCI outlet and try that?

Any other suggestions?

My kids use the power strip so I don't want it to be sparking!

Thanks!
 
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Old 05-15-10, 03:56 PM
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So, I then switched to use the screws but that was extremely difficult given the screws were recessed (so I'm not sure I got it around the screw completely).
There is your answer. Kill power, take it out and redo it.
 
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Old 05-15-10, 04:14 PM
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Couple of things, the spring tab on a backstab is pretty much a one time usage. You should not remove the wires and reuse the backstab. The tension will be reduced and can lead to loose connections.

A backstab is where the wire is pushed into a hole and is held in place by spring tension.

Any receptacle will spark if whatever is being plugged in is demanding power.

A GFI typically has back-wired tabs where the wire is stripped and inserted under a plate and the screw is tightened to hold the wire. These are much more secure than backstabbed devices.
 
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Old 05-15-10, 04:17 PM
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Probably the recessed-screw GFCI really is not a backstab type. But by inserting the stripped wire into the hole..... when you tighten down the screw, it actually clamps the wire, in that hole. That is as good as it gets! That is just how breakers in your panel box are done. This is not a backstab. Those simply rely on a piece of spring loaded metal to make connection with the wire.

You can tell the difference between the two by carefully looking at the insertion hole, to see if it is a backstab or clamp type. The backstab type has a small round wire that is about the same size as the stripped wire, where with the clamp type, you can actually see the clamp and see it work when you turn the screws.

................................................................................................

pcboss's post was not up here when I began typing.
 
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Old 05-15-10, 04:19 PM
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On a GFCI, you don't wrap the wires around the screws. They are held captive BY the screws. You just strip the wire back, insert it (or two, since there are usually two holes provided) into the holes and tighten the screws. Back stabbing was popular a while ago, for speed. It was found later that the method of holding the wires was insufficient and they would loosen with age and heat build up. This was on regular receptacles.
Sparking is caused when there is a load on the circuit when you plug it in. If the timer or the treadmill itself is on, then there will be minor sparking, but not a lot.

Dang, that's what I get for sneezing, I guess. Y'all are fast!!!
 
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Old 05-15-10, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by chandler View Post
Dang, that's what I get for sneezing, I guess. Y'all are fast!!!
Great minds think alike.
 
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Old 05-15-10, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by chandler View Post
. If the timer or the treadmill itself is on, then there will be minor sparking, but not a lot.
I thought of that too, but did not say anything because he did not say the sparking occured when he switched outlets(or did he?). It sounded like confined to the GFCI - so I thought anyhoo.

Then again......GFCI's have all that circuitry in them that maybe when something is already turned on, maybe one will get more of a spark out of one of these, than a stndrd outlet. I'll have to pay closer attention. I wonder just where he saw the sparks come out of - and if it was fairly dark in the room or not?

Don't you all just luv these electrical mysteries? Beer 4U2
 

Last edited by ecman51; 05-15-10 at 04:34 PM. Reason: Added 2nd paragraph
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Old 05-15-10, 04:27 PM
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Wait to see how much faster my answers get when I use the voice dictation software instead of typing.
 
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Old 05-15-10, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
Wait to see how much faster my answers get when I use the voice dictation software instead of typing.
Get out! I quit! ...........................
 
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Old 05-15-10, 04:53 PM
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On a GFCI, you don't wrap the wires around the screws. They are held captive BY the screws.
Good point, I missed that. I would still check the connections. Beer 4U2
 
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Old 05-15-10, 06:30 PM
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Thanks for the replies!

Thanks for all the replies!

The GFCI sparked in the old location and the new location (the non-GFCI outlet which I switched it with did not and does not spark).

So, it looks like this was probably back-wired, not back-stabbed? So, I'm ok to change it back to use the back-wired method (and to not wrap around the screws since that did not work out very well)? And then just tighten the screws. As mentioned above, there are 2 holes - does it matter which I use?

And perhaps the spark is just normal due to the load??

Thanks!
 
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Old 05-15-10, 06:37 PM
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It does not matter which hole you use to wire the GFI. You do need to use the ones labeled Line to bring the power into the GFI.

Be sure to ensure your wire is secured by the clamp. Give the wire a gentle tug after the screw is tightened.
 
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Old 05-15-10, 07:27 PM
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Thanks!! Will give that a try tomorrow!
 
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