Part of circuit not working - GFCI outlet

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Old 11-13-11, 10:32 PM
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Part of circuit not working - GFCI outlet

I've just come across this forum trying to find a solution to an electrical problem affecting a portion of my house (built in 1994). I'm looking forward to your responses!

Yesterday my wife was using a hair dryer plugged in to a GFCI outlet in our ensuite bathroom. A small electric heater installed in the bathroom cabinet (which appears to have been added by a prior owner after the house was built) and a couple of ceiling lights were on in the room at the same time. While she was doing this the power went out to this area. In the bathroom the outlet, two ceiling lights, the heater, and two ceiling lights in the adjacent walk-in closet all lost power. When she told me I just assumed that the breaker was tripped in the house's electrical panel but found that none were.

Inspecting in the bathroom I found that the "TEST" button on the outlet was not working. Using a tester I confirmed that there is not electrical power reaching the outlet. Investigating further I found that this outage applied only to part of a larger circuit which includes the rest of the power to the bedroom and hall. All of the rest of the circuit is working properly.

I do not have a wiring diagram for the house and have only a general idea of how the house is wired. In the limited inspecting that I have been able to do it seems that the heater is wired directly to this outlet (downstream) but that the affected lights are all upstream on the circuit.

At this point I'm really not sure what I can do. I bought a new GFCI outlet but haven't installed it since the problem appears to be upstream of this (no power at the outlet). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Old 11-13-11, 10:39 PM
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Also, there are no other GFCI outlets on this circuit.

There is a GFCI breaker on the electric panel that I have tested and works properly. I am not certain whether it applies to the whole house or just perhaps to the jets in the jacuzzi tub (same bathroom, different circuit).
 
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Old 11-13-11, 10:59 PM
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Did you press Reset on the GFCI all the way in?

Find every single GFCI in the house and press reset on them. Also outside and in garage. (Not supposed to be that way, but you never know!)

When breakers trip, they can look like they are still on. Try turning every breaker off, then back on.

Is there another electric panel somewhere?

What is an "ensuite bathroom"?
 

Last edited by pcboss; 11-14-11 at 06:25 AM.
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Old 11-14-11, 06:26 AM
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Bill I think they are master bathrooms to us.

I suspect either a failed connection due to load or a GFI the OP does not know is there.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 10:24 AM
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Sorry, ensuite is the Canadian way of saying master bathroom.

There are at least two more GFCIs in the house that I haven't checked. I'll check that when I get home from work.

I pressed RESET all the way in (many times).

I turned off all breakers and turned them back on.

There is only the one electric panel.

pcboss, where would I look for the "failed connection due to load" problem?

If I do have investigate all other possible failure locations on that circuit will I be looking for charred wires at the terminals? Will I look at the wiring at switches, at the fixtures, or both?
 
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Old 11-14-11, 11:43 AM
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If as you say part of the circuit is working and part is not, the first two places to look would be the last outlet/switch that works on the circuit and the first one that does not work.

You may find evidence of arcing and you may not. Check these connections and make sure they are tight. Move any wires that are back stabbed to the screws.
 
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Old 11-14-11, 09:53 PM
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I tested the two other GFCIs in the house and both are operating properly. There are no more, unless there are others burried behind shelves that I don't know about ( I'm 99% sure that this is not the case).

If I have to start checking all of the connections on the circuit will I just tighten everything and look for charring?
 
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Old 11-15-11, 06:55 AM
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You have exhausted all the easy things to try...

Next I would trace the wiring from the breaker panel to where it goes. And for this I would need to identify which breaker controlled that circuit. Sometimes this is easy because it is labeled. Other times you might follow wires and see where they go. Or use a tone generator to find the specific wire. All of these things are more easily done with experience.

I would start by using a multimeter at the breaker and seeing if it had power at the wire there. Then just follow the wiring from one point to the next. Check for power at each location. That is much easier said than done as no telling what wire goes where. Easier with electrician wire tracing tools and knowing how to use them.

Note there can be junction boxes in the attic, basement, etc. Sometimes there are, sometime not.
 
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Old 11-15-11, 03:42 PM
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Thanks for the responses. My work schedule is going to keep me from getting at this for a few days but I will make a post when I find out more.

I've almost always managed to do my own renos/maintenance on the two houses that I have owned, but I might need to call in the pros this time if I can't find how all of the wiring is routed.
 
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