GFI Circuit Dead - A Few Questions

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  #1  
Old 03-04-14, 09:22 AM
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GFI Circuit Dead - A Few Questions

I recently moved into a home and decided to replace all of the switches and plugs with new ones. My fingers are now raw as I think there were at least fifty of them. Only took 120 about five times too. I feel extra vibrant today.

However, my GFI circuit as gone dead on me, except for the fused outlet at the kitchen sink. The wet bar, four bathroom counter outlets, and the laundry room outlets are dead. The last outlet in the chain, I think(it's the farthest one from the kitchen), was a fused outlet but the buttons seem to be broken as the red one won't stay repressed like the one in the kitchen. I replaced it with a standard outlet but that didn't make any difference. I have checked every outlet and the wires seem to be solidly connected and the black and white wires on the correct side of the plug. Questions:

1. Does the last outlet in the circuit have to be a fused outlet?
2. If not, what else should I look for?
3. Is there a sequence of in and out that must be followed? Did I perhaps get two of them backwards when putting in the new outlet?

Curiously, an outlet in the garage where I have a golf cart hooked up is now dead also. I have not had a chance to test the other garage outlets yet.

Any advice/help would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. Does anyone make a small wire release tool that is easier on the thumb and forefingers than a small screwdriver?
 
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  #2  
Old 03-04-14, 09:30 AM
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What is a fused outlet? Can you post a pic?

I suspect you have a tripped GFI somewhere upstream or a loose connection.

Do you have any test equipment to test for voltage? You are going to need something besides a non-contact tester.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 09:50 AM
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I have a voltmeter. The outlet is a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) safety outlet. Attached is a picture of the fused outlet in the kitchen. Check that. I can't figure out how to attach a snapshot. I see how to insert a video or link to another site but no tool for attaching a photo.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 09:54 AM
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Found out how to attach. Hopefully it will show up.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 10:02 AM
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The picture shows a GFI receptacle. There are no fuses in it. A GFI has nothing to do with tripping on a overload.

Did you pay attention to making sure the incoming power was on the LINE terminals and the wires were paired correctly?
 
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Old 03-04-14, 10:08 AM
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Sorry to be so novice but what are the line terminals? The side with the ground attachment where the whites usually attach? Is there only one hot wire coming into the outlet? Is it black or white? If there is one hot wire must it be attached to a specific terminal? Remember, I'm just a DIY'r not a licensed electrician.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 10:17 AM
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The terminals are labeled LINE and LOAD. Load terminals provide GFI protection to any downstream receptacles. Typically there is a yellow tape over the LOAD terminals.

The LINE terminals are for the incoming power.

The receptacle will not work with only one wire. Two wires are needed to complete the circuit.

The hot will typically be black or red. The white is the return path for the current and connects to the silver side.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 10:49 AM
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A couple of terms may help out here. A cable contains the wires. In a residential situation, the cable will usually be sheathed in a white or yellow jacket. (some areas will have individual wires run in metal or plastic conduit/pipe) This cable will contain at least two wires but, can be as many as 4 or 5. At minimum, you should see two wires inside the cable. These should be a black one and a white one. There also, in most cases, may be a bare copper colored wire. The black is the hot, the white is the neutral and the bare is the ground. In some cases, such as a switch leg, the white may be re-purposed to act as a hot. This white wire should be identified with black tape, paint or a marker. This is not always done.

Line terminals are the terminals that the incoming power hooks to. The load terminals are the downstream loads or receptacles that you want protected as well. (For GFCI)

Also, you should never get a 120 volt shock when changing out receptacles. your guardian angel protected you at least 5 times. Turn off the breaker
 
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Old 03-04-14, 06:40 PM
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Only took 120 about five times too. I feel extra vibrant today.
It's not rocket science to know you should turn the power off before changing devices. Most people realize that after the first shock.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 07:13 PM
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Thanks for the input. All of the plugs that I have been talking about have two blacks and two whites attaching to the old outlets. I simply removed the old outlet and tried to attach the wires to the exact same terminals on the new outlets. Blacks to the gold, whites to the silver. Was it important that each wire had to go to the same terminal on the new outlet? Second, once I determine that all my wire attachments seem to be solid how do I go about debugging. I had a friend show me that you determine the hot by touching the ground with one voltmeter cable and the hot lead would register 110 while the exit black would not. Is this correct. This says that if I can't find a hot coming in then the next outlet back in the apparent chain is not sending the voltage down the line and indicates either a bad outlet terminal, a loose connection, or a break in the line somewhere behind the wall. Is this the correct debugging process?

BTW, one of my original questions has not been answered. The GFI outlet at the farthest bathroom would not allow the red push button to depress and lock. I assume this means the outlet is blown. For purposes of at least getting the circuit back can I use a standard outlet temporarily?
 
  #11  
Old 03-04-14, 07:19 PM
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Newer GFCIs wont reset without power to them. That is likely why your last one won't reset.
And yes, your "debugging" sounds good.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 07:28 PM
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Was it important that each wire had to go to the same terminal on the new outlet?
If you had done them that way you wouldn't have a problem.

All of the plugs that I have been talking about have two blacks and two whites
The term is receptacle. A typical residential plug is found on the end of a cord and has either two or three prongs and is inserted into a receptacle. A receptacle is a female device and a plug is a male device.
 
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Old 03-04-14, 07:32 PM
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Was it important that each wire had to go to the same terminal on the new outlet?
If it was a GFCI yes.
I had a friend show me that you determine the hot by touching the ground with one voltmeter cable and the hot lead would register 110 while the exit black would not. Is this correct.
Almost. You home is 120 volts not 110. While measuring to ground will usually work if there is a ground the usual way is between the black and white.
This says that if I can't find a hot coming in then the next outlet back in the apparent chain is not sending the voltage down the line and indicates either a bad outlet terminal, a loose connection, or a break in the line somewhere behind the wall. Is this the correct debugging process?
Yes but to be noted non GFCI receptacles almost never fail nor is it likely that a cable in the wall would fail. Bad or incorrect connections are what you are looking for.
BTW, one of my original questions has not been answered. The GFI outlet at the farthest bathroom would not allow the red push button to depress and lock. I assume this means the outlet is blown
No. The more likely cause is no power to the receptacle or the power in is not connected to the line side of the receptacle.

There really needs to be only one GFCI on most circuits. Do you have any circuits with more then one GFCI. (Circuit in this case means a group of receptacles and/or lights on the same breaker. More correctly referred to as a branch circuit.)
 
  #14  
Old 03-04-14, 08:57 PM
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I will work on this tomorrow following the many advices that you all have provided. I am determined to solve this problem. In the end, if I am unsuccessful, I will call for an electrician to bail me out.

BTW again, is there a small tool, similar to a screwdriver, that can be used for releasing the wires from the old outlets? My thumbs have lost a layer of skin from using the super small screwdriver with lots of grooves in the handle.
 
  #15  
Old 03-04-14, 10:06 PM
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All of the plugs that I have been talking about...
You've been replacing, and asking about, receptacles. A plug is the fitting on the end of a cord that has blades that are inserted into the receptacle to connect an appliance to the circuit.

All of the [receptacles] that I have been talking about have two blacks and two whites attaching to the old outlets. I simply removed the old outlet and tried to attach the wires to the exact same terminals on the new outlets. Blacks to the gold, whites to the silver.
The device is a receptacle. The box that it is mounted in is an outlet. The boxes that switches are mounted in and light fixtures are attached to are also outlets.

Was it important that each wire had to go to the same terminal on the new [receptacle]?
On a standard receptacle, all that matters is that the grounding conductor - a bare or green wire - be connected to the green grounding terminal, the grounded (neutral) conductor - a white wire - be connected to a neutral terminal (usually silver colored), and the ungrounded (hot) conductor - a black or red wire, usually - be connected to a hot terminal (usually brass colored). It sounds like that's what you've done.

Best practice, when there are two or more conductors with the same function in a box, that need to be terminated to a device that's being mounted there, is to splice those conductors together with a pigtail made from the same size and color wire and connect that pigtail to the device.

Second, once I determine that all my wire attachments seem to be solid how do I go about debugging. I had a friend show me that you determine the hot by touching the ground with one voltmeter cable and the hot lead would register 110 while the exit black would not. Is this correct. This says that if I can't find a hot coming in then the next outlet back in the apparent chain is not sending the voltage down the line and indicates either a bad outlet terminal, a loose connection, or a break in the line somewhere behind the wall. Is this the correct debugging process?
It's close.

First, though, as you noted in your first post, the power in your house is 120V, not 110V. If you're consistently seeing 110V at your branch outlets it's time to check the voltage on the incoming power leads in your panel.

More importantly, measuring the hot-to-ground voltage tells you that there is incoming power and that the grounding conductor is working. It does not tell you whether you have a complete circuit with a working neutral. It also doesn't tell you which pair of wires is supplying the outlet. To determine whether you have both power and a complete circuit, and which pair of wires is carrying the complete circuit, disconnect all of the wires and test between each ungrounded conductor and the neutral that comes in with it.

BTW, one of my original questions has not been answered. The GFI outlet at the farthest bathroom would not allow the red push button to depress and lock. I assume this means the outlet is blown. For purposes of at least getting the circuit back can I use a standard outlet temporarily?
If that outlet has GFCI protection upstream, then yes.

However, this brings up something that's been puzzling me. You refer to "my GFI circuit." You say that it is dead, except for "the [protected receptacle] at the kitchen sink." You then list "[t]he wet bar, four bathroom counter outlets, and the laundry room outlets" as dead outlets that you believe are on this same circuit. You also mentioned that "an outlet in the garage where I have a golf cart hooked up is now dead also. I have not had a chance to test the other garage outlets yet."

Here are some of the things that are puzzling about this:
  • The code requires two dedicated 20A GFCI protected circuits to serve the kitchen countertop outlets. Two, not one. Dedicated. No other outlets to be connected to those. These are commonly known as the SABCs, or Small Appliance Branch Circuits.
  • A dedicated 20A circuit is also required for the GFCI protected receptacle in a bathroom. One of these circuits may serve both the receptacle(s) and the lighting in one bathroom or the receptacles -- but no other loads -- in two bathrooms. Up to two. Not four.
  • A receptacle at a wet bar may require GFCI protection. If it does, it cannot be fed on the same circuit as any kitchen or bathroom receptacle.
  • A receptacle in a laundry room does not require GFCI protection. A receptacle located within 6' of a sink does, so a receptacle in your laundry room may need to have GFCI protection if you have a sink there. If so, it cannot be fed on the same circuit as any kitchen or bathroom receptacle.
  • All receptacles in a garage require GFCI protection. Those receptacles cannot be fed on the same circuit as any kitchen or bathroom receptacle.
It sounds like you're about four circuits short here, and we haven't even gotten to the receptacles in your crawl space or your attic, or outside.

Are you sure that all of those outlets are fed with the same circuit?

ECHO... Echo... echo
 
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Old 03-04-14, 10:07 PM
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is there a small tool, similar to a screwdriver, that can be used for releasing the wires from the old outlets?
I usually just cut the wires off if backstabbed and threw the receptacle away. Though occasionally if the wires were short I'd use a 4d finish nail held in my linesman pliers.
 
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Old 03-05-14, 08:56 AM
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I use a small plastic handled microtip screwdriver. It sounds like you are using a jewelers screwdriver. All you need to do is to insert the tip in the release slot and pull the wire out.
 
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Old 03-05-14, 09:49 AM
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Here are some of the things that are puzzling about this:

1.The code requires two dedicated 20A GFCI protected circuits to serve the kitchen countertop outlets. Two, not one. Dedicated. No other outlets to be connected to those. These are commonly known as the SABCs, or Small Appliance Branch Circuits.
2. A dedicated 20A circuit is also required for the GFCI protected receptacle in a bathroom. One of these circuits may serve both the receptacle(s) and the lighting in one bathroom or the receptacles -- but no other loads -- in two bathrooms. Up to two. Not four.
3. A receptacle at a wet bar may require GFCI protection. If it does, it cannot be fed on the same circuit as any kitchen or bathroom receptacle.
4. A receptacle in a laundry room does not require GFCI protection. A receptacle located within 6' of a sink does, so a receptacle in your laundry room may need to have GFCI protection if you have a sink there. If so, it cannot be fed on the same circuit as any kitchen or bathroom receptacle.
All receptacles in a garage require GFCI protection. Those receptacles cannot be fed on the same circuit as any kitchen or bathroom receptacle.

It sounds like you're about four circuits short here, and we haven't even gotten to the receptacles in your crawl space or your attic, or outside.


This home was built in 1992 in San Diego County. Obviously, the electrician either violated code or code was different back then. There are two GFCI receptacles; one in the kitchen and one in the farthest bathroom. All receptacles that are located close to a faucet between the two are dead. Any receptacle physically between the two, such as a hallway wall receptacle, are working. I think this says that there is one GFCI circuit, legal or not, inside the home.

I have found that all of the wall receptacles in the garage, except for the one close to the water heater, are dead. I don't know why but I would assume that either it is connected to the same GFCI circuit or it is a freak coincidence.

On another note, I apologize for using the wrong terms in referring to these various devices in trying to describe my problem. I wasn't aware that absolute proper descriptions were necessary in order to solve a problem. I have tried in this note to follow the description rules and hope that I have been successful. The way this thing is progressing I certainly hope that my GFCI circuit is not following this thread or I may be destined for electrical hell forever.
 
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Old 03-05-14, 10:43 AM
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You haven't answered if you have multiple GFCIs on the same breaker. You should not have multiple GFCI receptacles if the downstream receptacles are on the load side of the GFCI receptacle. If you have additional GFCI receptacles on the load side of a GFCI they sometimes conflict with each other. Normally they don't and that doesn't sound like your problem but it is something to consider.`

The problem is almost certainly a loose or incorrect connection. All connections should be checked. Any wire nuts need to be removed and the inside checked for broken springs or corrosion, or better just replace with new. At any non GFCI receptacle with four wires use pigtails.

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  #20  
Old 03-05-14, 12:07 PM
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There are two GFCI receptacles; one in the kitchen and one in the farthest bathroom. All receptacles that are located close to a faucet between the two are dead. Any receptacle physically between the two, such as a hallway wall receptacle, are working. I think this says that there is one GFCI circuit, legal or not, inside the home.
Only took 120 about five times too. I feel extra vibrant today.
I apologize for using the wrong terms in referring to these various devices in trying to describe my problem. I wasn't aware that absolute proper descriptions were necessary in order to solve a problem. I have tried in this note to follow the description rules and hope that I have been successful.
A good effort, and well done. Thank you for doing that. We find that using standard terms increases clarity and reduces confusion, and that's why we're sticklers about it.

One more term to become familiar with: Circuit.

An electrical circuit, or, more properly, a branch electrical circuit, consists of the wires, devices and fixed loads supplied and protected by one circuit breaker or fuse.

It appears that you haven't been turning off breakers as you've been working. If so, you have no way of knowing which outlets are are on each circuit. You may not even be aware whether one or more have tripped.

I suggest that you map your system. Make a sketch of your floor plan and mark, with a symbol, each of your receptacles, switches and fixed lights on it.

Next, turn each 120V breaker off and turn it back on. see if that restored any of your dead outlets or if any breaker would not reset. Tell us if any would not reset.

If all of the breakers are reset and there are still some dead outlets, circle those on your sketch. Then turn off one breaker. See what's off. Add the breaker (circuit) number to the symbol for each newly dead outlet. Turn that breaker back on and turn another one off. Etc., until you've mapped every working outlet. That will help you determine where in your system you have a problem.

It should also help you answer the questions you haven't answered yet.
 
  #21  
Old 03-05-14, 02:43 PM
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Da-Da!(Trumpets blaring) The problem has been solved. Turns out that the receptacle where the golf cart was plugged into was a GFCI device and had been violated, probably by the one time I touched a hot to something it didn't like in a receptacle near the kitchen and sparks flew. So I pressed the red button in, it locked in place, and all the power from each of the plugs on the GFCI circuit worked. This includes the GFCI receptacle in the bathroom closest to the garage.

Thank you for all your help and advice.
 
  #22  
Old 03-05-14, 03:44 PM
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You're welcome. Glad you got it solved.

one time I touched a hot to something it didn't like in a receptacle near the kitchen and sparks flew.
Or liked too much.

So now, are you ready to start figuring out your circuits? A GFCI receptacle in the garage should not be protecting the receptacle in a bathroom by current code -- and there's a reason for that.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 03-05-14 at 10:49 PM.
  #23  
Old 03-05-14, 10:46 PM
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OK, I'm all ears. What is the reason? Should I replace the GFCI receptacle in the bathroom with a standard receptacle?
 
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Old 03-06-14, 12:15 AM
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OK, I'm all ears. What is the reason?
For determining what each of your branch circuits is supplying? You can:
write a complete panel schedule, and doing that will tell you at a glance:
which breaker to turn off before you start to work on one of your lights or receptacles,
  • which circuit to check when a breaker trips, and where to find it.
  • Which circuits, if any, are overloaded.
  • Which circuits, if any, are lightly loaded.
  • Which circuits have the special protection - GFCI or AFCI - that they should have, and
  • Which circuits should be dedicated, but aren't.
Should I replace the GFCI receptacle in the bathroom with a standard receptacle?
Maybe. but the better solution is to run a new circuit to either the garage or the bathroom, or otherwise separate them.
 

Last edited by Nashkat1; 03-06-14 at 01:56 AM.
  #25  
Old 03-06-14, 09:20 AM
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The panel is labeled with a felt pen as to the rooms or devices each switch services. There is not anything that says which is the GFCI circuit although I may be able to tell now that I know which receptacles belong to it.

Due to the nature of the structure stringing a seperate circuit will be costly. I will replace the GFCI receptacle with a standard one.
 
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