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Brief power outage...GFCI has no power/won't reset... but breaker is fine?

Brief power outage...GFCI has no power/won't reset... but breaker is fine?

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  #1  
Old 09-05-11, 06:57 PM
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Brief power outage...GFCI has no power/won't reset... but breaker is fine?

First, I read the many, many threads hoping to find similar problem. No luck..

1. Came home to clocks flashing; we obviously lost power briefly.
2. Kitchen GFCI switch outlet has no power... Fine, I'll just press "RESET".. But it won't .
3. Check breaker, its NOT tripped; but move it to off, and back to on. Still no power in GFCI Test/Reset switch.
4. Uninstall the GFCI switch to test the wires, there is no measured power via voltmeter. (There is ZERO measurement. Wouldn't a nicked wire, or loose connection give me some erratic reading??? But I didn't mess with any wiring, wasn't home.)
5. I checked the downstream GFCI outlets for the heck of it, those connections are all tight (screwed).
6. I checked the breaker; in the ON position, its reading 120 volts, in the OFF position its reading 0 volts. Did this 3 times to be sure, appears breaker is OK.
7. Replace the GFCI switch anyway since I didn't like the stab-in connections. But, there was no power feeding the switch before and after replacement; confirmed via voltmeter.

So, I didn't make ANY wiring changes, nothing is plugged in to these outlets. Breaker measures power being fed... YET THERE IS NO POWER TO GFCI SWITCH, WHY? Any advice appreciated.
 
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  #2  
Old 09-06-11, 05:26 AM
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Welcome to the forums! Do you know if there are any receptacles ahead of this GFCI? If so, you may have a stab back neutral or hot and it is loose. For that matter, check all you receptacles and switches for stab backs and remove the wires to the screw heads for a good secure situation. Let us know how it goes.
 
  #3  
Old 09-06-11, 05:34 AM
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Measure for voltage from hot to ground and hot to bare or green. Report back after you check Larrys suggstion also.

It sounds like this is only for the kitchen. Is that correct?
 
  #4  
Old 09-06-11, 06:20 AM
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I do not know of any receptacles/outlets between the GFCI receptacle and the breaker, ( but like you, suspect something is between, interrupting power). IS IT COMMON to put an device (outlet/switch) in between GFCI receptacle and breaker? What / where should I look for this?

This GFCI receptacle is in a 4 year old house, near the kitchen sink. Obviously, the downstream GFI outlets have no power as well. The dishwasher and garbage disposal are close, but work fine when operated. Could these being in the wiring circuit, upstream of the GFCI receptacle???

Incidentally, I went around the house and reset all the other GFCI’s just in case. All other GFCI’s receptacles and outlets (minus 3 above) have power, confirmed with volt meter.

I’ll re-measure the voltage between hot and ground, and let you know. Believe I did that, and was showing zero on my voltmeter, which surprised me…
 
  #5  
Old 09-06-11, 06:38 AM
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IS IT COMMON to put an device (outlet/switch) in between GFCI receptacle and breaker?
You never know what the last guy did. Find all receptacles and lights and apliances that are dead when that breaker is off.

Please note while all back stabs should be moved to the screws most GFCIs are back wired and that connection is fine. Just be sure the presure plate screws on the side are tight.
 
  #6  
Old 09-06-11, 07:40 AM
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The kitchen countertop receptacles have been required to have no other loads from other parts of the house for many years. The only allowable exceptions are receptacles in the dining room and any pantry area. You should not need to look at the dishwasher or any switches.

Are the 3 dead receptacles also on the countertop area?
 
  #7  
Old 09-06-11, 07:47 AM
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I don't want to be repetitive, but you will have GFCIs in the smallest and most out of the way locations. I had one recently that was in a crawlspace....good. Then it went to the kitchen countertop receptacles and another GFCI. Hey, I guess the "electrician's helper" thought since the kitchen was right above the crawl he would just run one circuit. So check in the most out of the way places, garages, crawls, outside. I know you will find the problem, we're just trying to give you a running direction in hopes you don't run into yourself
Let us know what the voltage test provides.
 
  #8  
Old 09-06-11, 08:03 AM
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The GFCI receptacle/outlet and 2 other “dead” GFIs outlets are all near the kitchen sink. As best I can tell, all other outlets and switches measure power in the kitchen, laundry, bathroom areas . The house was built in Katy Texas only 4 years ago, so wiring should be up to code (“should” is the key word). My novice thinking is that there should be nothing between breaker and GFCI receptacle, but “zero” measured power suggests otherwise.

Other clarification, the original GFCI was “backwired” not stabbed, but the connection wasn’t real tight anyway. You get what you pay for. I replaced with a model that provided a better, “backwired” fit. Regardless, if I’m not getting power to the receptacle, doesn’t matter what the connection are.

Tonight, I’ll doublecheck the hot/ground measurements, and then I’ll start searching my attic for a “lost” GFCI… and let you know.
 
  #9  
Old 09-06-11, 08:27 AM
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Katy Texas, guys and gals, so no basement and 99% probability it is on a slab so no crawl space. Texan1, is the breaker box in the garage or on the outside of the house? One story or two?
 
  #10  
Old 09-06-11, 09:17 AM
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Correct, its a slab, 2-story home. The breaker panel is inside the detached garage (connected via breezeway). The kitchen and GFCI is actually one of the closest in proximity to the breaker box. Which is one of the reasons I didn't run into attic, 2nd story, etc.

Interestingly, there's a separate kitchen GFCI and 4/5 outlets working just fine behind the sink area. I reset this anyway just to try. I confirmed that its separate breaker is working, and labeled correctly. Same with garage GFCI, reset it anyways.

I'll search the non-obvious spots tonight for another GFCI, attic, water heaters, etc.

Do I need to check the dishwasher and garbage disposal switch and outlets if they are working? I'm assuming this is a separate feed, but I'll have to doublecheck if it has its own breaker. (Aside: why aren't the DW and disposal on a GFCI circuit???)
 
  #11  
Old 09-06-11, 10:53 AM
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Lets call that a semi detached garage or the Yankee Sparkies will be wondering about a subpanel.

To expand on Chandler"s suggestion I suspect somewhere in the garage, hidden behind something, is a GFCI.

Do I need to check the dishwasher and garbage disposal switch and outlets if they are working?
If they are on a different breaker, no.
 
  #12  
Old 09-06-11, 05:59 PM
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(Aside: why aren't the DW and disposal on a GFCI circuit???)
They aren't required to be on a GFI protected circuit.

Is the problem you are looking for on a multi-wire branch circuit? In other words, at the panel, is this circuit fed through a 12-3 NM-B cable (3 wire romex) to the kitchen area? If so, you need to look at the other circuit in the same cable and find where the cable splits into two separate circuits.
 
  #13  
Old 09-07-11, 04:56 AM
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Further confused....

UPDATE:
After dinner yesterday, (with breaker in ON position) I rechecked the GFCI receptacle and measured zero volts from hot/neutral and hot/ground. Thought maybe I got wiring confused with load/line, so I tested the other hot/neutral and hot/ground, zero volts. Tried about every combination, there is NO power in lines feeding the GFCI receptacle.

Start testing other outlets, found a “dead” outlet in the dining room, with 3 other DR outlets showing 120 Volts. I turned the breaker to “OFF”, and find all the dining room outlets have no power. Suspect wiring problem. I pulled all 4 outlets from the wall, and to me it appears that connections are screwed tight, no looseness. The ground wire is twisted 2x-3x before the wire cap, so I know its making good contact. (I’ve had previous bedroom issue with loose ground).

With suspect breaker OFF, I check all the garage GFI outlets and GFCI receptacle, they measured 120 volts. My 2 outdoor GFI outlets have power. My upstairs bathroom has power to GFI outlets (later confirmed that this was on the master Bath GFCI circuit).

I searched the whole house / garage / attic for another GFCI receptacle, I’m not finding it. I have 3 working GFCI circuits (garage/ other side of kitchen/ master bathroom), they all show power, and trip when I hit the TEST button. They’ve all been reset 3-4 times.


WHERE DO I GO NEXT? I’m thinking the issue is with the dining room outlets since they appear to be on that same breaker. But, they connections looked good (screwed/tight). If it was a nicked wire, or troublesome connection, wouldn’t it show at least some erratic voltage to GFCI??? There is zero power to the GFCI receptacle with breaker on.
 
  #14  
Old 09-07-11, 05:03 AM
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I'm a bit of a novice, so I'm not sure I have the terminology down. The feed to the GFCI receptacle is 3 wire. The breaker is a dipole?, one unit, with two 20 amp breakers. One 20 AMP goes to the microwave, and the other 20 AMP appears to be the GFCI in question. (its labeled GFCI). There are 3 other GFCI breakers, when I turned them to off, the appropriate circuit goes dead (garage/bathroom/ other side of kitchen), and re-energizes when I flip the breaker back to ON.
 
  #15  
Old 09-07-11, 05:07 AM
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A toner, commonly called a Fox and Hound, could help you identify the path of the cable. Do you know anyone that installs phone or computer networks? They would commonly have one.

I think you might be on to something also. Did you check for voltage at all the screws? I know you said the connections looked tight.

BTW, the bare or green equipment ground is not needed for proper operation in a normal situation. It is there for when something like a short circuit occurs.
 
  #16  
Old 09-07-11, 05:58 AM
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"Did you check for voltage at all the screws? I know you said the connections looked tight."

I physically pulled the outlets from the wall, and the connections were tight with the outlet (didn't slip, etc). I measured at the screws, it was a constant 120 volts, not erratic at all. (I was hoping to find differently...)
 
  #17  
Old 09-07-11, 06:24 AM
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You replied while I was typing.

It sounds like you have a multiwire branch circuit that feeds the microwave on the red leg and the countertop receptacles on the black leg using a 2 pole breaker. We need to check the connection where this 3 wire cable split and continues in a 2 wire cable. This is probably where the microwave plugs in.
 
  #18  
Old 09-07-11, 06:45 AM
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Now you're getting somewhere. MWBC is the key. I think if you do as Jim suggested and locate where this "junctions" you will find a poorly nutted hot lead. My guess is in the microwave receptacle box, but I'm just guessing. Worth a shot, anyway.
 
  #19  
Old 09-07-11, 07:44 AM
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"I think if you do as Jim suggested and locate where this "junctions" you will find a poorly nutted hot lead."

Will this junctions be exposed, or behind the drywall?? IF i get the mounted microwave out, I'm sure I'll find its outlet, is this the junction you are referring to (sorry, I'm a novice...)?

Aside, would this electrical wiring arrangement meet GFCI current "code" in Texas, (or is it common)? I'm debating kicking this one back to the builder.
 
  #20  
Old 09-07-11, 07:56 AM
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The microwave should be plugged into an accessible receptacle in one of the surrounding cabinets.
 
  #21  
Old 09-07-11, 08:05 AM
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No junctions should be hidden behind any part of the building finish. Receptacles for microhood are commonly in the cabinet above the unit. There should not be a need to remove the unit.

Multiwire branch circuits are commonly used, although the latest AFCI requirements will probably cut back on their usage. I don't see any code issues with what sounds like is installed.
 
  #22  
Old 09-07-11, 08:14 AM
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I'll take a look when I get home. The mounted microwave sits above the oven, and I know the plug /outlet is NOT in view. I'll open the cabinet above the microwave, and hope for the outlet/ junction box. IF not there, I'm guessing the next spot would be above the stove top in the ventilation fan/hood area. (which by the way has power, is working fine, as I searched for a hidden GFCI).

On second thought, below the gas stove top, is a cabinet with junction box....Could this be the one?
 
  #23  
Old 09-07-11, 08:51 AM
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Most likely you have an oven/microwave "unit", and yes that junction box probably provides the power to both the electronics on the oven and microwave as opposed to having a receptacle. We were envisioning a separate microwave mounted to the upper cabinets. If you can get to it, check the connections in that box. It is getting less likely that is the place, but worth the shot.
 
  #24  
Old 09-07-11, 09:03 AM
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I'll have to look when I'm home. The oven/microwave unit makes sense, except that I know they are on separate circuits (breakers), so there would be no need for shared JB???

I really doubt there is a JB in the upper cabinet, and the only JB I recall is below cabinet below the gas stove top. I assumed this JB was for ventilation hood/fan/light?

When I trip the breaker labeled microwave, it does de-energize, so labeling appears correct.

Since they share a dipole breaker, what other ways could the microwave and GFCI receptacle be tied together ie. where to look?
 
  #25  
Old 09-07-11, 09:30 AM
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Think of the multiwire circuit as two circuits in one cable sharing the white. At a junction box the circuits can go in different ways. The red can stay in that box while the black continues on to another device.
 
  #26  
Old 09-07-11, 10:53 AM
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Ok, but how is connected to the dipole breaker? One (black) gets wired to 1st 20 amp breaker, and the other (red) gets other 20 amp, sharing the white on neutral bar??? (both wires in the breaker connection happened to be black, but I THINK I get your point)

What's the advantage of this, saves wiring?
 
  #27  
Old 09-07-11, 10:57 AM
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You actually have 240v between the red and black. Pull the face off the breaker box. If you have a MWBC you should see a 240v breaker with a red and black wire. Given the age of your house it would have been a code violation to do it with two 120v 20a breakers.
 
  #28  
Old 09-07-11, 11:18 AM
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Again, I may get the terminology wrong...

I'm 99% certain when I was verifying the voltage from the breaker, that both connecting wires were black. The breaker itself, has TWO 20 AMP switches. The upper 20 AMP switch, when I turned if OFF, it measured 0 volts; in the ON position it measured 120 AMPS. Repeated the test, since I thought the breaker was the issue. I didn't check the microwave labeled breaker (lower one), mainly because it was working.

Is it code to have red and black, or can it be accomplished (legally) with 2 black wires? I'm 99% certain there is no red wire in the box. I can't remember any reds in panel at all.

Again, the breaker is a single "unit", but with two 20A switches.
 
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Old 09-07-11, 11:47 AM
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If the breaker with two handles is the same width as a breaker with only one handle it would be a tandem breaker. Sharing the neutral with a tandem breaker would result in the neutral carrying up to twice the current on the neutral as it was designed for. What kind of panel do you have? Can you post a pic of the panel and the breaker in question?
 
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Old 09-07-11, 12:16 PM
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I'll get a picture tonight. The breaker width is twice that of a single unit. The switches are not side by side, but rather one on top of another. BUT, I'm positive its "one unit / 2 switches", because I had a replacement purchased, expecting to find a breaker issue, which I did not. Again, I'm 99% certain there are no red wires though.
 
  #31  
Old 09-07-11, 02:09 PM
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Please post the picture and we will go from there.
 
  #32  
Old 09-08-11, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Please post the picture and we will go from there.





Suspect breaker has the yellow stickie, which fell off for me in the 2nd picture.

Basically, think my lack of terminology/knowledge had me down the wrong path last night.

Believe it is a single breaker, or tandem as you call it. There is defnly no red wires in this connection. I did see the red wire in the upper breakers, so I now know what you were referencing.

I searched all over the kitchen last night, and found only one JB. It was NOT connected to anything, and suspect it was added IN CASE the stove top was electric; but its gas and therefore was not used.


Here's what I know:

The GFCI receptacle has zero measured power
The Breaker for this GFCI receptacle measures ~120 volts.
There are 3 (likely 4) outlets in the Dining room that are de-energized what I trip the suspect breaker to OFF.
The 4th DR outlet has zero power regardless if breaker is OFF/ON.
I checked all the DR outlets' connections (especially dead one), they all are screwed, tight connections.

Surprisingly, the DR dimmer/light is NOT on this circuit, as it stayed on with breaker OFF.

The other half of this breaker operates the microwave, Ventilation light/fan, and electric source for gas stove top igniter. I pulled all those outlets out, and they all had screwed, tight connections.

I'm stumped, and don't know where else to look since I've checked about every electrical connection I can find in the kitchen/ DR.
 
  #33  
Old 09-08-11, 07:39 AM
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Hopefully the pros can give you a better answer but this is about the time I would give up and run new cable.
 
  #34  
Old 09-08-11, 07:52 AM
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That's funny, I said the same thing to my wife last night. I would have been better off just running a brand new cable and wiring it up. Instead I spent the past couple of nights troubleshooting, but finding little for my efforts.
 
  #35  
Old 09-08-11, 09:00 AM
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It sounds like you have a break in the wire between the dead outlet in the DR and the outlet that feeds it. If you have a meter you could check both sets of wires in the dead outlet and see if one of them feed the dead GFCI in the Kitchen? If so, you know where the source of the power for the dead GFCI should be coming from. Then you would need to determine where the dead outlet in the DR should be getting its power from. More then likely it would be from one of the other outlets in the DR. Can you tell if the lines that feed the dead outlet in the DR go up the wall or across the wall? If up the wall, the break might be in the ceiling. You should check for connections or breaks in the ceiling in the DR area.
 
  #36  
Old 09-08-11, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Texan1 View Post
That's funny, I said the same thing to my wife last night. I would have been better off just running a brand new cable and wiring it up. Instead I spent the past couple of nights troubleshooting, but finding little for my efforts.
In my own house I had a similar problem though not GFCI. Came home one night and the bed room receptacle was dead. After much head scratching and testing determined the cable was hot right to where it entered the wall dropping down to the receptacle but dead at the receptacle. Put in a Jbox at the last accessible spot where the existing cable was hot and dropped a new cable to the receptacle.
 
  #37  
Old 09-08-11, 10:27 AM
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The "dead outlet" is on an isolated wall, and 3 working outlets are separated by a hallway entrance, so the power must run up the wall and/ or ceiling. Question is,
is there a way to check these connections for a break, without disrupting the drywall?

The dead GFCI receptacle is on a kitchen island, so that feed is either ceiling/ ground??

I can tell very little where the connections are coming/go from, other than where they enter outlet boxes. I don't have a meter, but I guess its time to call someone who
might...
 
  #38  
Old 09-08-11, 11:17 AM
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Since the dead GFCI outlet is in an island then I would say the power comes up from the floor unless you have something that runs to the ceiling from the island.

Even if you would remove the drywall you might not see the break. You would only see it if the wire were separated including the insulation. Your best way is to use a meter or a toner. The way a toner works is you attached the signal transmitter to one end of the wire and then pass the receiver along the wire to follow it. This would allow you a trace the wires from the dead GFCI to where you loss the signal. This would then be the location of either a break in the wire or box with the bad connection.
 
  #39  
Old 09-08-11, 12:20 PM
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Yes, that is a tandem breaker. It is two single pole breakers inside of one shell.

I hope that there are two cables connected to that breaker. Both cables should have a white conductor.

I think it is time for a toner.
 
  #40  
Old 09-08-11, 12:57 PM
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Assuming this toner isolates that bad signal, it pretty much means running a new wire to replace the dead one, huh? At least in the dead zone.

The island does have a 2 archway posts connected to ceiling, which could be the electric feed. Or from the floor as you suggest.

Since I don't really care about the one non-working DR outlet; I suppose I could try to tie into kitchen island electric that is working, for the GFCI? There's a switch for my working garbage disposal and working dishwasher about 1 foot away from my dead GFCI receptacle. Is this a possibility, or not? Code acceptable? I THINK the Dishwasher / Disposal is on the MWBC connection mentioned. Believe I saw a red and black wire to that breaker in the panel.
 
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