Troubleshooting a GFCI circuit

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  #1  
Old 10-07-13, 11:14 AM
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Troubleshooting a GFCI circuit

Separated from Electrical "sort of" question.

How do you troubleshoot a GFCI circuit? Should I simply go through and start replacing all the outlets on the circuit until my problem is resolved?

Thanks,

Kevin.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 10-07-13 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 10-07-13, 11:37 AM
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Welcome to the forums!

How do you troubleshoot a GFCI circuit?
See Troubleshooting a dead receptacle or...

Should I simply go through and start replacing all the outlets on the circuit until my problem is resolved?
Possibly, but I wouldn't start that way. In addition to the tips in the link above, more information will help us focus our answers:

What is the problem with the circuit? Where is it located? Is the GFCI protection provided by a receptacle or other device at the first outlet or by the circuit breaker?
 
  #3  
Old 10-07-13, 11:50 AM
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A good rule of thumb is the problem is almost always at the last functional or first non-functional receptacle or fixture on the circuit.
 
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Old 10-07-13, 11:52 AM
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While GFCIs do occasionally go bad because they contain electronics non GFCI receptacles are just mechanical and while they can wear out and no longer grip the plug tightly there really isn't much to go wrong. The best way to test a GFCI is remove the wires on the load side and try it with just line connected. If it doesn't trip the problem is likely downstream.
 
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Old 10-07-13, 12:36 PM
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Thank you for the reply.

I'm not sure where the problem is, all the receptacles in the kitchen and bathrooms suddenly are not working.

Thank you,

Kevin.
 
  #6  
Old 10-07-13, 12:49 PM
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all the receptacles in the kitchen and bathrooms suddenly are not working.
Those should be on at least three separate circuits. What did you find when you checked your circuit breakers?
 
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Old 10-07-13, 01:08 PM
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There were no tripped circuit breakers. All the outlets were working intermittently then, nothing.
I've only lived here for a week, we just bought the house.

Regards,

Kevin.
 
  #8  
Old 10-07-13, 01:46 PM
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All the outlets were working intermittently then, nothing. There were no tripped circuit breakers.
With that many devices and circuits affected at once, and with the intermittent behavior, the problem could be an open or failing neutral connection or the loss of one leg of your service. In either of those cases, and especially if it's the neutral, it's something that needs to be corrected immediately.

I've only lived here for a week, we just bought the house.
Then this repair should be the seller's responsibility, shouldn't it?

It may be time to call a pro. But first, three questions:
  1. Did you cut each breaker in your panel off and then back on when you were checking for tripped breakers?
  2. What are the numbers - the breaker positions - of the affected circuits?
  3. Using a multimeter (preferably an analog meter),what voltage do you measure hot-to-ground and hot-to-neutral at the affected receptacles and at some working ones?
 
  #9  
Old 10-07-13, 02:17 PM
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Thank you for your feedback.

It's a bummer that I paid a home inspector, and explicitly asked if all the outlets had been tested and he said yes! I've been in construction for over 25 years so I'm fairly comfortable with most projects but at this time I think the smart thing to do is find out if I have any recourse against the sellers or the inspector and simply call an electrician out to fix it. You my friend, have been very helpful.
Thank you very much, have a great life!

Regards,

Kevin.
 
  #10  
Old 10-07-13, 03:12 PM
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I've been in construction for over 25 years so I'm fairly comfortable with most projects but at this time I think the smart thing to do is find out if I have any recourse against the sellers or the inspector and simply call an electrician out to fix it.
It certainly won't hurt to check, but I think you'll be out of luck on this one. If the receptacles worked when the inspector was there, there is no way he could have predicted a future problem. The same when you did your pre-closing inspection, if they were working when you closed on the house, this is your problem now. Did the seller offer a home warranty? I am not a big fan of home warranties, but they are a good sales tool for the seller.
 
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Old 10-07-13, 03:13 PM
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Most home inspectors don't know enough about electrical systems to actually do a decent test on one. Kevin, I started working with electrical stuff in high school, and there's nothing about it that I won't attempt. That said, I call a pro in for a lot of other work around here.

at this time I think the smart thing to do is find out if I have any recourse against the sellers or the inspector and simply call an electrician out to fix it.
I think you may be right for two reasons. One is that that person is a pro who should be able to diagnose and report the reason for the failure. The other is that if you start to open things up you give the seller and the inspector an opportunity to say that your work caused the problem.

This is still a set of symptoms that may be pointing to a serious problem, though, and you need to move on it asap. There could be a condition that's likely to start a fire, so don't delay.

Here are some things you can do without waiting, without clouding the issue, and without increasing a hazard:
  • Tell us which circuits are affected.
  • Turn each breaker in your panel all the way off and then back on.
  • Use a multimeter to test st every receptacle for voltage hot-to-ground and hot-to-neutral (just stick the probes in the slots).
  • Call the emergency number for your power company (not the Customer Service number). Tell them what you're seeing and ask them to come check your service. Mention that it looks like it might be an open neutral; that should get their attention. It's a free call and a free inspection, or should be.
You my friend, have been very helpful.
Thank you. Positive feedback is how we get paid for doing this.
 
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Old 10-07-13, 03:47 PM
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Hello,

The circuits that are effected are (1) Kitchen GFI and (2) Bath GFI they are both a 20 amp breaker and the breakers have not tripped. The washing machine/laundry room does not specify GFI. But as I have said, they didn't go out immediately, the stove and fridge would go out and then come back on. and I have 1 ceiling fan in the bdrm that I brought over from my apt, it worked fine there but doesn't work here.

Regards,

Kevin.
 
  #13  
Old 10-07-13, 07:26 PM
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But as I have said, they didn't go out immediately, the stove and fridge would go out and then come back on.
That does sound like it could be a utility company problem. I think I'd follow Nashkat's suggestion first.

Call the emergency number for your power company (not the Customer Service number). Tell them what you're seeing and ask them to come check your service. Mention that it looks like it might be an open neutral; that should get their attention. It's a free call and a free inspection, or should be.
 
  #14  
Old 10-08-13, 11:00 AM
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Hello Nashkat,

Ok, I have had the power company out and they checked my service, everything looked normal there 122 in and out of the breaker box. He suggested my GFI was bad so I went down and bought 2 GFI's last night. I have somewhat traced the RR GFI it has 120 coming in but no reading going out, this is probably why even after replacing the Main RR gfi I still do not have power in the guest bath receptacle. The same applies to my kitchen, I have pulled the receptacles and I have power coming in to the fridge but nothing going out to the new GFI I just replaced and nothing going on down stream to the other receptacles on the circuit. I know I have the end of the circuit when I get down to two wires and the ground.
Any thoughts as to whats going on?

Regards,

Kevin.
 
  #15  
Old 10-08-13, 11:18 AM
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had the power company out and they checked my service, everything looked normal
Did they pull the meter and check the connections in the meter socket. Did they check the connections at the pole or the vault or did they just look?
 
  #16  
Old 10-08-13, 11:34 AM
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He didn't pull anything apart except the cover, then he used his meter to gage the voltage.
 
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Old 10-08-13, 12:31 PM
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He didn't pull anything apart except the cover
The cover of your panel?

He suggested my GFI was bad so I went down and bought 2 GFI's last night. I have somewhat traced the RR GFI it has 120 coming in but no reading going out, this is probably why even after replacing the Main RR gfi I still do not have power in the guest bath receptacle.
Are the GFCI receptacles properly connected? Incoming power conductors on the LINE terminals, outgoing conductors for GFCI protected devices on the LOAD terminals and outgoing conductors for non-GFCI protected devices on the LOAD terminals? Black to brass and white to silver?

It sounds like you have two GFCI receptacles in two different bathrooms on the same 20A circuit. If so, the conductors feeding from the first location to the second should be terminated to the LINE terminals of the first device, next to the incoming power conductors, and not to the LOAD terminals.

I have power coming in to the fridge but nothing going out to the new GFI I just replaced and nothing going on down stream to the other receptacles on the circuit.
If you have two cables in the refrigerator receptacle box - one feeding in from the panel and one feeding out to a GFCI - check to see whether the two black wires are spliced together with a black pigtail to feed the receptacle and the two white wires are spliced with a white pigtail for the receptacle. If not, do that.

Best practices include making pigtails to join multiple wires to a device; always using the screw terminals on standard devices, not backstab holes; and always using the back-clamp terminals on GFCIs and any other devices that have them.
 
  #18  
Old 10-08-13, 01:39 PM
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I apologize for the confusion,

In the master bath I have a GFI plug that I can test and reset, It has 2 black wires and 2 whites both of the black wires are connected to the right side of the gfi the white wires are connected to where the gfi plug said white with arrows pointing to both connections. so, 1 set of black and white are connected to the bottom of the outlet on either side (just like it was wired before I removed the old gfi) the seconds set of black and white are in a separate romex connected to either side of the outlet and the appear to go out of the box and into the guest bath receptacle. That's where I think the RR gfi circuit ends. I have a 120 reading on the bottom wires of the gfi and nothing on the top set going out. and nothing in the guest Bath.

Thanks for your patients.

Regards,

Kevin.
 
  #19  
Old 10-08-13, 02:01 PM
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There is no top, bottom, left or right on most wall-mounted devices.

On a GFCI receptacle, the two wires in the cable coming from the panel must be connected, black-to-brass and white-to-silver, to the pair of LINE terminals. Since the GFCI in the first bath will reset, it sounds like you've done that.

The two wires in any cable going to another load must be connected, black-to-brass and white-to-silver, to the pair of LOAD terminals if the other load requires GFCI protection. If the other load does not require GFCI protection, the wires in the cable leading to it should be connected to the LINE terminals, next to the wires feeding the power in from the panel.

The words LINE and LOAD are molded into the back of the receptacle.

A GFCI receptacle should not be fed with GFCI protected power. If the receptacle in the second bath is a GFCI receptacle, connect its feed wires to the LINE terminals on the receptacle in the first bath.

I have a 120 reading on the bottom wires of the gfi and nothing on the top set going out. and nothing in the guest Bath.
To test for power on the LOAD terminals, connect only the paned feed wires to the receptacle, reset it, and touch your meter probes to the LOAD terminals.

To test the wiring to the second bath, turn the power off and use two wire nuts to temporarily join the insulated conductors in the first bath, black-to-black and white-to-white. Turn the power back on and see what you have in the second bath.
 
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