GFCI problems in bathroom

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Old 06-19-16, 12:36 PM
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GFCI problems in bathroom

I'm putting a GFCI plug in a bathroom, near the toilet to run a bidet. I ran the power in from a light switch on a wall outside the bathroom. It is a 3-way switch. The 12/2 line I ran to the bath is connected to the switch power line BEFORE the 3-way switch. The power for the 3-way switch is on a 15-amp circuit. I ran 12/2 wire to the new box in the bath, and it shows 110 VAC. I put a Leviton 15-amp GFCI on it and it wouldn't work. No reset "click"; no power through the switch. I tried another Leviton GFCI and got the same result: it didn't work. I put an ACE brand 15-amp GFCI on it, and it works fine. But the ACE is ivory-colored and the boss (wife) wants white, like the Levitons. I tried one of the Levitons on a plug outlet on the same circuit as the 3-way switch. It worked! I tried the working Leviton again, in the new box. It didn't work.
Can someone please tell me what's going on here? Why does the ACE GFCI work when the Leviton doesn't? Why does the Leviton GFCI work in one box but not another, on the same circuit? BTW I tested ground continuity between the new box and the 3-way light switch, and it is good.
I am not connecting anything to "load" on any of the GFCIs. Only to "Line."
 
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Old 06-19-16, 12:41 PM
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If there is ONLY a three wire cable at the three way switch then there is no neutral there which means you cannot connect there.
 
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Old 06-19-16, 12:49 PM
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There is a 12/2 power cable coming in to the 3-way switch box (which I tapped), and a separate cable (with white disconnected) going to the other 3-way switch.
The ACE GFCI works in my new box. Just not the Leviton.
 
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Old 06-19-16, 12:58 PM
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a separate cable (with white disconnected) going to the other 3-way switch.
If you have a three wire cable going to the other switch then all three wires need to be used.
White being capped off is not correct.
 
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Old 06-19-16, 01:27 PM
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I think it's wired that way on all 3-way switches in the house, and the house is 36 years old. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's wired incorrectly. Why does the ACE GFCI work ok?
 
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Old 06-20-16, 09:12 AM
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It would be nice to know how to correctly wire the 3-way switch, at least. In the switch box, there are two 12/2 wire sets. The switch has 2 "hots" and a marked-black white line attached. The remaining white wire is "capped off" with black tape; not connected to anything. Both 3-way switches work the way they are supposed to. Can someone explain how all the wires need to be used?
Thanks in advance!
 

Last edited by mike s.; 06-20-16 at 09:31 AM.
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Old 06-20-16, 10:26 AM
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Did you use the LINE terminals on the one GFI?
 
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Old 06-20-16, 10:31 AM
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Yes. I left the tape over the "load" terminals; don't need to send power elsewhere.
 
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Old 06-20-16, 09:42 PM
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There is a 12/2 power cable coming in to the 3-way switch box (which I tapped), and a separate cable (with white disconnected) going to the other 3-way switch.
There must be 2) two wire cables between the switches which gives you four wires. You only need three which is why the white is capped off.

That's where the confusion came in. We can't see what's in your switch box and rely on you to describe it completely.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 07:30 AM
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I was confused by the statement, earlier, that "all wires need to be used." I'm not going to fret about a capped-off wire in the box anymore. I am going to make a new circuit and will no longer attempt to tap behind the 3-way switch. But I still don't get why the GFCI wouldn't work, unless maybe because there is leakage to the neutral, somehow. Since it's been that way for 36 years, I guess it's safe enough. Is it worth pursuing the issue further, for safety's sake?
 
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Old 06-21-16, 09:47 AM
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I'm not going to fret about a capped-off wire in the box anymore.
But it is a code and safety hazard to use two cables. All conductors on the same circuit must be in the same cable sheath or conduit so the EMF cancels out and reduces the chance of over heating. The two 2-conductor cables need to be replaced with a single 3-conductor cable.

As to why one GFCI worked and the other didn't it could have been the bare ground touching the neutral when you pushed the receptacle in the box. You could test it by trying it with the receptacle hanging out of the box and the wires well separated.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 12:43 PM
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RE: The two 2-conductor cables need to be replaced with a single 3-conductor cable.

It's a single-gang 3-way switch. One 12/2 (+ground wire) comes into the box, and another goes out. If that's a code and safety hazard, I don't know how any 3-way switch could ever be wired.
If you mean tapping the power behind the switch would be a code and safety hazard, all's well & good; I'm not going to do it.

I never pushed the GFCIs into the box. I tried all the GFCIs first, with them hanging out of the box. AND I must have retried various GFCIs 6 or more times. I even went out and bought a white GFCI from an ACE Hardware (though it wasn't an ACE-brand GFCI [they had none]). That one worked too, in that the LED would illuminate, and the GFCI could be tested and reset. But it only put out 80 volts, so I figured I'd better give up on my plan. My guess is that the Leviton GFCIs are more sensitive, somehow.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 04:07 PM
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It's a single-gang 3-way switch. One 12/2 (+ground wire) comes into the box, and another goes out. If that's a code and safety hazard,
A three way switch can't work with only a 2-conductor cable. Your description of the box has to be in error in some way. Please post a picture of the box with the switch pulled out so we can see all the wires and connections.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 06-21-16 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 06-21-16, 05:19 PM
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3 pics attached...
Hopefully you can see the vitals.
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Old 06-21-16, 05:30 PM
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The switch in your pictures is a 3-way dead end and has no neutral. It can't be used for a receptacle. (Technically there isn't even a constant hot.)

I'm confused I thought you said you connected a receptacle there. I don't see a cable for a receptacle.

If it was wired correctly there would be a single 3-conductor cable as shown below.

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Last edited by ray2047; 06-21-16 at 07:23 PM.
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Old 06-21-16, 07:15 PM
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If I'm seeing correctly.... I only see 2) two wire cables.
If that is correct.... I agree with Ray.... no neutral there.

The reason you got one of the GFI receptacles to set was you obtained the neutral thru the light.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 07:22 PM
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To add to what PJ said the reason one GFCI worked and one didn't was probably the position of one of the 3-way switches at the time you tried it.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 07:29 PM
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I had given up and disconnected the cable going to the new box yesterday. Everything was back together but I broke the switch when I pulled it out to take the pictures.
 
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Old 06-21-16, 10:02 PM
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Sorry about breaking the switch. Be sure to mark the wire on the common, the dark colored screw. That wire must go on the common of the new switch. Note you must go by screw color not position on the old switch as position can vary with manufacturer.

If 3-way switches are not required for the light the switches control you could remove that switch and use one of the cables to the box to power the new receptacle. That would require making wiring changes at the other 3-way which would be replaced with a standard SPST toggle switch.
 
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Old 06-22-16, 11:00 AM
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Thanks. So, I probably could have changed the 3-way to two-way and then tapped off that for the new box. But I already made at least twelve 70-foot crawling trips (one way) to the far side of the attic in 100-degree heat and I now have new cable routed, so it'll be nice and safe. I'll just replace the switch that I broke and keep it 3-way.
 
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Old 06-22-16, 12:30 PM
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Yes. You could have even put the new single SPST switch (no such thing as a two-way) in either location.
 
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Old 06-22-16, 01:51 PM
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Ironic end note: the 3-way switches are literally (I measured) 6 feet apart in a hall leading to a side door. Wife & I had always wondered why the original owner bothered to go 3-way there. Anyway, I'm probably (temporarily) 10 lbs lighter now.
 
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