Four outlets on kitchen counter not working

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Old 02-02-14, 10:28 PM
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Four outlets on kitchen counter not working

I have four outlets on the kitchen counter that do not work.

I have read the sticky on what to do in this situation and Iím fairly competent on the theory and inner workings of electricity, but the outlets are still not working. I suspect Iím not finding the culprit GFCI.

Now what is complicating the situation is that this is my parentsí house, so Iím not there, to debug things in person. But I will visit them next weekend (3hrs drive), so Iím posting in an attempt to acquire as much knowledge as practical beforehand.

The house is rather new construction (2001) in Northern California, by a respectable builder and I have found no irrational things in the house. The construction quality is ďabove averageĒ per assessor records, and indeed it does feel that way. There has been no DIY electrical work done to the house.

My parents have cycled all the breakers in the breaker box. They have also looked for GFCIís and reset all the ones they found. That was a long shot anyway, because all the GFCIís they found and reset were in the garage, unlikely to be related to the kitchen (not?)

None of the 4 non-working outlets are GFCI. There are two more outlets on the other side of the kitchen (the sink side) and they are GFCI protected (one is GFCI, the other presumably is on the load side of the first). Those two outlets work. Also in the kitchen there is a refrigerator plug that works, and inside a high cabinet there is a built in microwave plug which also works.

I am a little surprised that I cannot find a GFCI controlling these four non-functioning outlets. Didnít the 2001 NEC already require GFCI protection on all kitchen outlets? I read that the 2008 NEC does but perhaps not what was in force in 2001? Still, that would be strange, the bathrooms and garage seem to be GFCI protected. The kitchen is small, the counter with the non-working receptacles is 6-10í (from what I can recreate in my mind).

Now, there are no GFCI outlets in the bathrooms, but two of the breakers in the breaker box are labeled GFCI (I assume the bathrooms must be on these circuits), they were also cycled with no success.

My hunch is that it is a GFCI that has tripped. But where is it? Shouldnít it be somewhere in the kitchen? As I said, things in that house are laid out rather rationally.

Advice appreciated.
 
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Old 02-03-14, 12:13 AM
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I am a little surprised that I cannot find a GFCI controlling these four non-functioning outlets. Didnít the 2001 NEC already require GFCI protection on all kitchen outlets?
Good question.

The NEC requires two 20A circuits, GFCI protected, to serve the small appliances on the kitchen countertops. This requirement dates back to about 1980, IIRC. That said, the NEC does not require that every receptacle in the kitchen be GFCI protected.

Currently, the code requires all receptacles in the kitchen - in fact, all circuits in the kitchen - that are not GFCI protected to have AFCI protection. That requirement, though, only dates back to 2000 or so. Because your parents' house was built in 2001, that protection may not have been required for it.

Regardless of the required protection, what your parents have now is 4 receptacles above a countertop in their kitchen that aren't working. You may need to tone-trace the wiring for those receptacles to get them working again, but there are some other things that you - and they - can try first.

You haven't said whether there are any breakers with test buttons. Are there? If so, pick one and push the button. If that trips the breaker, see what went dead and record it. Reset that breaker by turning it fully off and then on. Move to the next breaker with a test button and do the same thing. Keep going until you've tested and reset every breaker that has a test button.

As you're doing this, if any of the test buttons does not trip its breaker, that breaker was already tripped, or it is broken. That's likely to be the breaker that feeds these 4 receptacles. See if it can be reset.

Your parents can do this before you go there. If this, and some other techniques that we can suggest, do not restore that circuit before your next visit, here's the minimum set of tools that I would arrive with: A plug-in GFCI receptacle tester, an analog multimeter, and a fox-and-hound tone tracer.

Good luck. Keep us updated. That will help us focus our answers going forward.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 02-03-14 at 10:30 AM.
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Old 02-03-14, 09:47 AM
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They have also looked for GFCIís and reset all the ones they found. That was a long shot anyway, because all the GFCIís they found and reset were in the garage, unlikely to be related to the kitchen (not?)
There are two more outlets on the other side of the kitchen (the sink side) and they are GFCI protected (one is GFCI, the other presumably is on the load side of the first).
Apparently you will not know exactly how many GFCI receptacles exist till you get there and start searching for yourself. My suspicion is that you'll find another GFCI receptacle somewhere and find it tripped.

My parents have cycled all the breakers in the breaker box.
Simply cycling the breakers may leave a tripped breaker tripped unless all are firmly cycled to the "Off" position, resetting any tripped breakers, and then firmly cycled back to the "On" position.

In a case like this the solution usually in the end is a simple one.
 
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Old 02-03-14, 07:30 PM
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Thanks for the info.

I looked through some old photos of the house and found two previously unidentified GFCIís one in a bedroom and one in the dining area. Unfortunately, they are now both behind big pieces of furniture, so it will have to wait until I get there next weekend. The dining room GFCI looks a bit promising since it could be (vaguely) on the path from the kitchen to the breaker box.

Thanks for the suggestion to push the test button on the breakers. There were two, apparently feeding the bathrooms and they all tripped when the test button was pressed. I imagine those are GFCIs on the breaker itself.

I did some preliminary reading on tone tracers. Iím hoping it will be that hidden GFCI but itís good to know that these relatively inexpensive wire tracing devices exist.

These two countertop circuits that you mentioned, do they have to be dedicated circuits? Apparently all the other plugs in the house work (except the two behind furniture GFCIís whose status is unknown right now).

Iíll post what I find out.
 
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Old 02-03-14, 07:41 PM
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The kitchen, dining and pantry areas can share the small appliance kitchen receptacle circuits. Your kitchen is new enough to have required the two circuits.
 
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Old 02-06-14, 06:54 PM
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Success!
My parents got help from a friend to move that large piece of furniture in the dining room and voila that was the GFCI controlling the four kitchen counter outlets. They reset it and all is fixed now (also moved the furniture a couple of feet so they can at least slide a hand behind and reset it in the future.

But is it rational to have a GFCI in the dining area control the kitchen countertop outlets? Why not have the first of the 4 countertop outlets be the GFCI? I understand that moving it upstream, in the dining room protects one more outlet, but whatís to be gained really? All the other outlets in the house (other than bathrooms and kitchens) are not GCFI protected anyway.
 
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Old 02-06-14, 07:01 PM
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The dining receptacles do not require GFI protection. The GFI can be moved to the kitchen to provide the protection for the countertop receptacles.
 
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