GFCI problem

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  #1  
Old 06-25-14, 05:10 PM
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GFCI problem

On my kitchen countertops I have 2 gfci receptacles which each feed about 5 other normal plugs each via the load wires. 1 hasn't reset in about a year so we just havent been using those outlets. The 2nd one started tripping constantly so I went and bought 2 new ones with the intention of fixing it all.

I replaced the one that was tripping and wired it up with no issues and everything downstream is good to go 2 days later and not one trip.

Then I started to replace the other that wasn't resetting..and it still won't reset since I'm only reading 7 volts from the line side black to neutral or black to ground...this is with just wires sticking out of the wall to eliminate any funky downstream issues. I've come across threads about ghost voltages etc...I'm using a cheap analog meter if that matters. Both of these circuits (and only these circuits) are powered from one breaker.

All that being said I figure the hot is open before it gets to my circuit so now in my mind the mission is to find it.

I thought maybe 2 hots would come from the breaker so i checked that and as most of you already know i found just 1 hot from that breaker..tested it just incase and it has good voltage. The working gfci only has one set in the line side so it isn't pigtailed there.

How can I find out where the heck this hot line is spliced/pigtailed at this point? The oven/fridge/microwave have their own breakers so I don't think it makes sense that it passes through that? I live in California and the house was built in 2006 if that makes a diff codewise.

Thanks in advance I'm stumped at this point.
 

Last edited by Eric Hemming; 06-25-14 at 07:45 PM.
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  #2  
Old 06-25-14, 05:56 PM
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Can you check voltage from black to bare or green? This will tell if you are dealing with an open neutral or a problem with the hot.
 
  #3  
Old 06-25-14, 07:44 PM
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Ya it was 7 volts I just realized I typed it wrong in my post did black/white 7v and bare/black 7v
 
  #4  
Old 06-25-14, 09:23 PM
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GFCI Problem

If you have a dining room between your kitchen and the panel, check to see if the receptacle in the dining room is on that circuit. Kitchen requires two Small Appliance circuits but that can include a pantry or dining room.
 
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Old 06-25-14, 09:33 PM
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A toner might help you follow the path of the cable.
 
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Old 06-25-14, 09:53 PM
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Logic would tell us that since you have two GFI receptacles both protecting downstream receptacles that they would be on two circuits. With newer wiring the two circuits would be code.

You thought that the GFI's were tripping and technically they are but not from a downstream issue but from a line supply issue. GFI receptacles won't stay set without power. So you were just losing power to them causing them to "trip"
 
  #7  
Old 06-25-14, 10:51 PM
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It is definitely 2 gfci circuits on 1 breaker. The full voltage from the "good" set and the 7 volts from the bad disappear with me turning 1 breaker off.. One gfci is tripping from a line supply issue (7 volts) but the other is fine. Somewhere there must be a splice/pigtail loose that isn't in a receptacle is the only logical problem I would think, unless I'm missing something silly. This home was made by lennar where I found a 2x6 sitting behind some drywall doing nothing, thanks for the toner suggestion I have never heard of those...at 40 bucks from amazon I may just call an electrician.
 
  #8  
Old 06-25-14, 11:15 PM
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You didn't happen to see any red wires in the kitchen GFI receptacle boxes ?

If you turn the breaker off does anything else go off ?
If you have an accessible basement then maybe there is a junction box down there.
If you have an accessible attic then maybe there is a junction box up there.

That wiring should be traceable either up or down the wall.
 
  #9  
Old 06-26-14, 07:30 AM
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One gfci is tripping from a line supply issue (7 volts) but the other is fine.
I've never seen a GFCI device trip from a line supply issue. With no voltage to the device, a GFCI device will not reset. If you remove voltage from a perfectly functioning GFCI device, it will not trip. You have a supply issue, but it has nothing to do with the GFCI devices.
 
  #10  
Old 06-26-14, 11:42 AM
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Saying its tripping from the 7 volts was a bad choice of words...what I meant was it wouldnt reset due to essentially having no voltage (as designed).

No red wires anywhere..6 cables in each box (line/load) no basement and its a 2 story house ..the attic has a small platform with a heater and other HVAC equipment on the opposite side of the kitchen .. Would be an illogical splice point due to the distance id think. I'll check for some junction boxes up there later but I'm pretty sure there aren't any.

Last couple of ideas I have but I would think they'd be against code or simply aren't possible:

Could they have possibly wing nut spliced the hot line in the wall prior to going to the gfci's? Does it "have" to split in a accessible box? Could it be spliced in a nearby receptacle that is controlled by another breaker- I wouldn't think that would be possible though. Every plug I've tried is hot with that breaker off other than these two.
 
  #11  
Old 06-26-14, 11:45 AM
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PJMAX WROTE: You thought that the GFI's were tripping and technically they are but not from a downstream issue but from a line supply issue. GFI receptacles won't stay set without power. So you were just losing power to them causing them to "trip"
Power (rather lack thereof) will not cause a GFCI to trip.... I think you meant a GFCI will not reset unless there is power supplied to the device.
 
  #12  
Old 06-26-14, 04:35 PM
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Just my 2 cents worth, I'm a member, not an electrician.
But I also live in CA and am familiar with how kitchens are wired in general.

Look in the panel and see if you can trace that black wire up or down to where it exits panel (And enters wall). See if it is a 12/2 cable or 12/3. I have a hunch it's 12/3 and the red wire goes to another breaker. (A split or multi-wire circuit sharing the neutral).

If I'm wrong, forgive me.

If I'm right, look at the switch box for the disposer, or the outlet under the sink for the disposer, this is the most likely place that they would have split the black and red hot wires. The split doesn't have to be at an outlet.

P.S. If you find it is a split circuit, ensure Black and Red Breakers are both off.
 

Last edited by Handyone; 06-26-14 at 05:33 PM. Reason: Safety
  #13  
Old 06-27-14, 07:46 PM
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First of all let me say thanks for all that have taken time to help me out- I really appreciate it. I discovered a 3rd outlet on this circuit - the oven which wasn't obvious with no digital clock. Opened that receptacle and it has a red wire coming in that is wing nutted to a black wire. It is reading 7 volts which is indeed the same as the bad circuits hot...did a continuity and it's the right one. Now I need help figuring out where that low voltage red wire is coming from. I opened up the switch for the garbage disposal and nothing, I also went under the sink where the dishwasher and garbage disposal are...opened that up and got a Lil excited when I saw red...but that was just reading full voltage when I turned on the disposal switch.

Edit: was reading more about red wires and they could be used for 220 in some systems. I had a spa for awhile that they added a breaker and gave me 220 for it. I got rid of the spa, disconnected the wires from the breaker and left it in the panel and keep the spa breaker off all the time....could they somehow have used the source of this breaker for the spa not realizing it was for a circuit? This thing hasn't had power for years...we can't remember when but it could have been during the time they wired it.
 

Last edited by Eric Hemming; 06-27-14 at 08:04 PM.
  #14  
Old 06-27-14, 08:33 PM
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You know which black wire/circuit breaker controls the working GFI receptacle. Look for a red wire connected to a breaker just above or just below that breaker. That should be the one you are looking for. If you investigate further it should be in the same sheath leaving the panel.
Check that breaker for power.
 
  #15  
Old 06-27-14, 08:40 PM
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OK will do tomorrow had to crack open a beer so no more electricity tonight.
 
  #16  
Old 06-28-14, 05:01 AM
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It would be very unusual for the spa to have been powered from an old kitchen circuit. They normally require a dedicated circuit and are many times a 50 amp 240 volt unit.
 
  #17  
Old 06-28-14, 07:53 AM
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It sounds like you almost have this tackled.
You know you have at least one split circuit, The DW and Disposal, which both work. These will be two 20 amp breakers, one with black wire and one with red wire.

You probably have at least one more split circuit, the two appliance circuits.

All you have to do is look in the panel for another 20amp breaker with a red wire attached. Check it for voltage. It's probably bad. This is assuming all connections at outlets are secure.

For you electricians: I don't know why it's not required to tie these breakers together. It would make it easier. In CA, the breakers are not necessarily next to each other. Of course they will be on different legs, but not always in an obvious position.
 
  #18  
Old 06-28-14, 11:51 AM
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So I got power to the red wire behind the oven... the breaker somehow tripped while I was messing with things... Spliced it back to the black behind the oven and then....no power to the bad outlet.. Not even 7 volts. Confused I put meter in ohms and that black wire behind the oven isn't the same one going to the gfci... Perhaps I was tired the first time I ran continuity. Going to check the microwave and fridge I guess.

So I have power to every breaker in the panel. This now good red wire does join with the black feeding the other gfci before it leaves my panel. And I have good power on both of them. So close I thought ugh.
 
  #19  
Old 06-28-14, 02:50 PM
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If you have a dining room between your kitchen and the panel, check to see if the receptacle in the dining room is on that circuit. Kitchen requires two Small Appliance circuits but that can include a pantry or dining room.
Did you check adjacent room as mentioned above?
If your outlets were backstabbed (as many homes in CA are) you may just have a loose wire somewhere. As you're replacing or checking outlets, you should move wires to side terminals.
 
  #20  
Old 06-28-14, 03:10 PM
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Surprisingly nothing is backstabbed other than the DW/disposal that recepticle is different then others I've seen and has no side screws. Though every single screw is loose on every outlet I've taken out (I can turn every screw 1-2 full turns) I took apart fridge/microwave outlets and tightened all of that today. All appears fine with good voltages.

There is an outlet at the side of the kitchen near my sliding door (no gfci but is wired as a pass-through). That is burned up and melted. Had to snip the wires off to where the burn stops but I have no voltage to the hots at all.. This could be the culprit feeding the bad circuit but I have no idea how to restore power to it. As I said every breaker in my panel has solid voltage...assuming the right way to check it is by holding one lead to ground and touching the other lead to each screw.

I'll still check on this thread and try all suggestions but will call an electrician next week. If nothing else I cleaned under the fridge and oven.
 
  #21  
Old 06-28-14, 03:53 PM
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Had to snip the wires off to where the burn stops but I have no voltage to the hots at all
So there is no voltage to outlet near door or to GFCI you're trying to fix?

This may be obvious, but it might help you in troubleshooting (I think you are good at troubleshooting):

1. You know the black feeding working GFCI's and Red that has been restored are in the same cable. 12/3 with ground.
2. These black and red cables will terminate in the same box, not in separate boxes.

3. So behind range, you said this is where red terminates (enters) and it's live.
This is also where black will enter (and be live). These are your (two) power sources, hence the split circuit.
Neutrals should be tied together with one pigtailed to range outlet, check them.

All you need to do is figure out the downstream power and power to range outlet.

There are several ways to wire:
Black would be pigtailed to working outlets. (most likely).
Red would be pigtailed to non-working outlets.
Or reversed.
Keep in mind one pigtail also needs to go to range outlet. (either from black or red).
 
  #22  
Old 06-28-14, 03:54 PM
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Look just upstream of the damaged receptacle for a problem.
 
  #23  
Old 06-28-14, 06:13 PM
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For you electricians: I don't know why it's not required to tie these breakers together. It would make it easier. In CA, the breakers are not necessarily next to each other. Of course they will be on different legs, but not always in an obvious position.
The 2008 NEC requires that multiwire branch circuits have a common disconnect which is accomplished by either using a 2-pole breaker or using two separate single pole breakers with a handle tie. The circuits MUST be in adjacent positions in the panel. Local amendments can also apply.
 
  #24  
Old 06-28-14, 06:19 PM
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Joe.... common sense also dictates that they should be next to each other but I've seen them all over the panel and many times on the same leg
 
  #25  
Old 06-28-14, 06:33 PM
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Joe.... common sense also dictates that they should be next to each other but I've seen them all over the panel and many times on the same leg
In some existing installations, yes, they could be anywhere. My point was that to be compliant with the 2008 NEC they MUST be in adjacent positions in order to use a handle tie or a 2-pole breaker.
 
  #26  
Old 06-28-14, 07:09 PM
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They should be on opposite legs to avoid overloading the neutral.
 
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Old 06-29-14, 09:21 AM
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2-pole breaker or using two separate single pole breakers with a handle tie
That's good news. It ensures both legs are shut off. For me, when wiring a dishwasher or disposal, if I get a reading of 7 volts or 14 volts or whatever, I assume a split circuit and search for the other breaker until voltage is zero. It's a pain.
 
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