Do GFCIs die?

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  #1  
Old 11-26-13, 08:38 PM
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Do GFCIs die?

I have 3 GFCIs in my garage/shop that have tripped and stopped letting me reset. All are getting power judging from other stuff on the same circuit and running a non-contact voltage tester near the black wire. Two of the outlets are 20A and are inline on same circuit. One of the 20A's is downstream of the other. The third one is 15A on a different circuit. There are two other exterior GFCIs downstream from the 20A at a front gate also not working but I figure I should start at the source. The gate outlets never worked when one of the upstream outlets had tripped.

I am thinking I should replace the first one upstream on the 20A circuit first? If that one is bad, wouldn't it be causing the others to not reset? Could something else be the problem that I should check before replacing any?

I installed all of them at the same time about 4 years ago.
 
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  #2  
Old 11-26-13, 09:45 PM
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GFCI's

If each of your GFCI receptacles are pig-tailed from the circuit then I would check to be sure you have a Hot and GCC(Neutral) using a Wiggie. The non-contact tester will not tell you anything about the GCC (Neutral) and the GFCI will not reset unless you have 120v at the GFCI. Did they all fail at the same time? If you have multiple receptacles on a single circuit I would first check at the first receptacle to see if you have 120V on the circuit. Yes GFCI's do fail, just replaced two in the last week.
 
  #3  
Old 11-26-13, 10:02 PM
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Thanks for replying. Don't know what a Wiggie is. According to UrbanDictionary.com it means "freaking out or losing control" altho an ad for a non-contact tester came up under the definition!

I guess I need to determine if 120v at first outlet in line, but how to do that?

Don't know if they all failed at same time or even exactly when.

Normal to fail in 4 years?
 
  #4  
Old 11-27-13, 01:26 AM
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Letís start with the circuit that has two 20A GFCI outlets. Apparently you know which one is upstream, so start there. Pull the outlet out and see how it is wired. If no wires are connected to the Load terminals, and it will not reset, it is bad. On the other hand, if wires are connected to the Load terminals it may be tripping because of a problem downstream. So, temporarily disconnect the Load side wires, and try to reset it. If it now does not reset, its bad. If it resets, its good, and the problem is downstream. Reconnect everything and go to the next outlet and repeat.

Having multiple GFCI outlets on the same circuit causes this kind of confusion, and is, as far as I know, unnecessary, unless the run is extraordinarily long. For this reason, I would replace any downstream outlets with regular outlets.
 

Last edited by bigfred; 11-27-13 at 01:28 AM. Reason: Correct wording
  #5  
Old 11-27-13, 04:34 AM
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Wiggy is slang for Wiggins. The manufacturer of a solenoid type electrical tester widely used by electricians. It is not a non contact tester.

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  #6  
Old 11-27-13, 05:15 AM
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Only need one GFI per circuit at the beginning to protect the rest.
Only reason I can see to have more is if there's no ground and you need three pronged outlets.
Make sure the line and loads are on the correct sides of the outlet, if not the GFI is useless.
Line is incoming power, load is anything down stream.
 
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Old 11-27-13, 04:56 PM
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Wiggy is slang for Wiggins
.

Is there a reason I can't just use a multimeter type unit and read the voltage from the display?
 
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Old 11-27-13, 07:13 PM
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Voltage tester

The multi-meter is fine, it is a contact tester and will provide you with a true reading.
 
  #9  
Old 11-27-13, 08:13 PM
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If you get a basic cheap multimeter meter an analog multimeter may be more accurate then a digital multimeter.
 
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Old 11-27-13, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by joecaption1
Only reason I can see to have more is if there's no ground and you need three pronged outlets.
Once GFCI protection is added to a two-wire system, standard 3-slot receptacles can be installed on the protected wiring. They need to be labeled "No Equipment Ground." There is never a reason that I can think of to install more than one GFCI device on a single hot-to-neutral circuit.

There are two other exterior GFCIs downstream from the 20A at a front gate also not working but I figure I should start at the source. The gate outlets never worked when one of the upstream outlets had tripped.
In addition to having more than one GFCI device on a single circuit, these are mis-wired. The LINE terminals for the downstream receptacles are being fed from the LOAD terminals of the upstream GFCIs. I would replace the downstream devices with weather-resistant standard 3-slot receptacles in the appropriate boxes with the appropriate covers - ones marked "suitable for use in wet locations," it sounds like.
 
  #11  
Old 11-28-13, 04:14 AM
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In addition to having more than one GFCI device on a single circuit, these are mis-wired. The LINE terminals for the downstream receptacles are being fed from the LOAD terminals of the upstream GFCIs. I would replace the downstream devices with weather-resistant standard 3-slot receptacles in the appropriate boxes with the appropriate covers - ones marked "suitable for use in wet locations," it sounds like.
Not understanding this comment. While I realize the downstream receptacles could not be GFCI, I don't see why you think they are miswired. They were tripping (or just not working, I don't remember which) only when an upstream GFCI tripped. Isn't that to be expected? All exterior outlets are in wet location boxes.
 
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Old 11-28-13, 10:00 AM
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While I realize the downstream receptacles could not be GFCI, I don't see why you think they are miswired. They were tripping (or just not working, I don't remember which) only when an upstream GFCI tripped.
Besides the fact that they're not needed, feeding a GFCI from the LOAD terminals an an upstream GFCI can cause nuisance tripping of the upstream device. That sounds like what may have been happening in your case,

Regardless of what receptacle you install at the gate, it needs to be weather resistant, mounted in a box suitable for wet locations, and have an in-use cover. If you can do that with the GFCIs installed there now, you can keep them and move their feed wires to the LINE terminals on the upstream GFCIs. If you need new receptacles to meet the weather-resistant requirement, standard WR 3-slot receptacles will probably be less expensive than WR GFCIs. Plus, you won't need to change the connections upstream.
 
  #13  
Old 11-28-13, 10:27 AM
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Apparently you found out that there is only one GFCI receptacle per circuit. That's good.

Downstream receptacles wired to a GFCI's Load terminals will not work when the GFCI trips. On the other hand, if they are wired to the Line terminals of the GFCI, they will still work when an upstream GFCI trips.
 
  #14  
Old 11-28-13, 12:10 PM
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All fixed now. Could ants in downstream GFCI box cause upstream trip?

Are you saying it's legit to wire downstream GFCIs in a series from the upstream line terminals? Instructions say to use load but they must assume downstream are not GFCIs.

Happy Thanksgiving!
 
  #15  
Old 11-28-13, 12:20 PM
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Thanks Ray! I bought one of these a few years ago (can't remember why) and never used the bloody thing because I couldn't figure out what it was good for or how to use it!

At least now I know what it's called!


Wiggy is slang for Wiggins. The manufacturer of a solenoid type electrical tester widely used by electricians. It is not a non contact tester.
 
  #16  
Old 11-28-13, 05:09 PM
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I don't know about the ants.

No. I was referring back to your original statement about the problem, which I understood as including GFCIs on the same circuit. I can't image a need to wire another GFCI in the same circuit; but, if there was one, then you would want to wire it so it was independent of any other GFCIs, and its feed was from the other GFCI you would want it connected to that GFCI's Line terminals. Confusing I know. Sorry.
 
  #17  
Old 11-28-13, 06:32 PM
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Thanks for your help. Not too confusing tho. I knew all this (except the line business because the instructions don't say) when I installed them but I figured for this one exterior run it was worth the extra money so it would be clear they were protected long after the little paper labels wore off.
 
  #18  
Old 11-28-13, 06:39 PM
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One question tho. If you were doing the multiple-GFCI thing from line terminals, how would you connect 2 wires (it's 20 A remember so AWG 12 wire) to one terminal? Some kind of pigtail arrangement?
 
  #19  
Old 11-28-13, 06:53 PM
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Most GFCI terminals will hold two wires.
 
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Old 11-28-13, 08:41 PM
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Yes. I just did a Google search to get a picture to show this (pigtail) and found a great one along with some excellent discussion of this very topic. I encourage you to check it out: electrical - How do I properly wire GFCI outlets in parallel? - Home Improvement Stack Exchange
 
  #21  
Old 11-28-13, 10:01 PM
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By the way, what did you do to fix the problem(s)?
 
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Old 11-29-13, 06:19 AM
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The first GFCI in the series (interior, #1) ) I replaced. This made the second one (exterior garage wall, #2) work. The ones (+ lights) at the gate still weren't working. I replaced the first one at gate (#3 in series) with a regular 20A outlet (from LINE). The box had developed a leak at top which I caulked and it was full of ants so I vac'd it out and put some cinnamon in there. This made the second GFCI (#4) at the gate and both lights work. Left #4 GFCI as is for now. The second GFCI #2 in the series on the garage wall I'll replace with a regular outlet (from LINE) today because I need to move the outlet location anyway.
 
  #23  
Old 11-29-13, 06:23 AM
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Most GFCI terminals will hold two wires.
I'm lucky if I can get one AWG 12 wire solidly under those screws!
 
  #24  
Old 11-29-13, 06:26 AM
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That's a useful link!

BTW, this particular brand of outlet has holes in the sides you can optionally use instead of the screw terminals. Would you use them?
 
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Old 11-29-13, 06:37 AM
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BTW, this particular brand of outlet has holes in the sides you can optionally use instead of the screw terminals
Actually the screws aren't for holding the wires. They are for tightening the pressure plate. That way is as good or better then using a screw terminal. If you look closely you will see two notches, one for each wire. That is what I meant. Not two wires under one screw. That is never correct.

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The above is back wired but on the side wired you will see two notches. Of course pigtailing is best practice.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 11-29-13 at 06:53 AM.
  #26  
Old 11-29-13, 08:51 AM
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BTW, this particular brand of outlet has holes in the sides you can optionally use instead of the screw terminals. Would you use them?
Assuming those are the insertion holes which put the stripped wire ends in position to be clamped by the pressure plate, like the one in the image Ray posted, I would only use those.

Originally Posted by ray2047
That way is as good or better then using a screw terminal.
That's the way GFCIs, and some higher-end standard receptacles, are designed to be wired.

I replaced the first one at gate (#3 in series) with a regular 20A outlet (from LINE).
Is this actually what you did, or did you mean to say "from LOAD"? Any wiring extended from the LINE terminals on a GFCI is not GFCI protected. Wiring that feeds an outdoor standard receptacle needs to be fed from the LOAD terminals on an upstream GFCI or from a GFCI breaker.

Did you install a weather-resistant receptacle?
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 11-29-13 at 10:12 AM.
  #27  
Old 11-29-13, 09:23 AM
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suobs: Thanks for the update. Boy, you really had a mess didn't you. But anyway, I'm glad to hear you have it under control. Best wishes.
 
  #28  
Old 11-29-13, 12:44 PM
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Suobs: I spoke too soon. You really ought to change your wiring so that you just have one GFCI, the first one in the series, #1. All the rest of the outlets should just be regular outlets. And, the feed going to them from the GFCI at #1 should be hooked to the Load terminals. Only one GFCI is needed because it protects all the outlets downstream from it when those outlets are wired to the Load terminals.
 
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