GFCI mess


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Old 06-06-21, 01:14 PM
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GFCI mess

Electrical idiot here again.

I have to replace 3 duplex outlets in my laundry room with GFCI to bring it to what they perceive as code (no point in arguing) so I can get a loan to replace my Federal Pacific breaker panel. Stupid right, I know, when I could have just had them install a GF breaker on that circuit in the new panel, or wire the other 2 from a new GFCI outlet because I'm pretty sure they are in all line. However, not waiting to see if they overcome the stupidity is the path of least resistance for now so I set out to save myself some money by replacing the outlets myself.

All of these worked fine before, although TBH I never used the one that I believe is causing my problems now so I don't know if both receptacles on it worked. Only one works now, but I'm getting ahead.

The first one I changed seemed to go fine, and with only 2 wires and ground it is apparently the end of the line. But it doesn't work now. The next one went fine too, and is apparently (based on its location and wires going somewhere) next in line. The GFCI on it trips immediately, so its not working, which is presumably why the previous one at the end of the line isn't working. The third one, which I'm guessing is first in line of the 3 did not work when I installed the GFCI. Nothing I did would get it to work, so I took out the GFCI and replaced it with the original outlet while I figure this out, because I need to do laundry!!

I should clarify; neither of the other 2 outlets worked, nor did the adjacent light switch work, when I replaced that 3rd outlet although other lights on the circuit worked.

This presumptive guilty outlet is also wired to another something which I presume is the previously mentioned outlet that keeps tripping, and I am guessing it keeps tripping because this one is wired wrong. Its a major PIA to work on because there are 2 sets of spliced wires all crammed into the tiny box, and its hard to see what is going on and no way to know where the wires are going other than by testing and reasoning. And I mentioned I'm an electrical dummy.

I noticed 2 possible clues: 1) There are 2 free ground wires in the box, only one of which I can (and did) connect to the outlet. The other one was just laying there, sort of maybe kinda touching the other one. 2) I get no voltage on the bottom outlet (its a duplex) although I wired it exactly as the previous one was wired. The polarity seems correct on the upper one.

I'm guessing that the outlet was wired wrong to begin with, with wires from the panel going to the top outlet instead of the bottom like they are supposed to (at least on the GFCI outlets), and without GFCI neither of the 2 downline outlets or the light switch minded and somehow worked anyway.

Where and how that other ground wire comes into this, I don't know. Maybe that's the whole problem or only part of the problem. I do know I'll have to get an outlet extender because even the old outlet was sitting proud of the wall and the GFCI that I need to get back in there is thicker.

I hope this makes sense


 
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Old 06-06-21, 01:43 PM
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Scratch what I said about the bottom receptacle, it does work and polarity is correct, it was just very hard to get a reading on it.

This seems to leave that loose ground wire as the prime suspect. Can I just ground that to the box? I'm not even sure its long enough to do anything with...ugh...
 
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Old 06-06-21, 03:05 PM
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Your issue is not because of the loose/open ground. GFCI's will work just fine without a ground. You cannot connect a ground wire to the box unless the box is properly grounded. You can add a piece of wire to the short ground using wire nuts or other means. I like using these in instances like this: https://www.lowes.com/pd/IDEAL-Splic...B&gclsrc=aw.ds

As you mentioned you could just install a GFCI in the first box and connect everything downstream to the "load" terminals on the GFCI. ("Line" is the power coming into the device)

The easiest way to fix this is to splice all the like wires together (Black to black, white to white, ground to ground) and then add pigtails from the splices and connect them to the GFCI device. Make sure to connect them only to the load terminal. Another option if you have only two cables in each box is to connect both wires to the load terminals of the device. GFCI device has a clamp connection which will take two wires. You will still need to pigtail the grounds as you can only have one wire per one screw.
 
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Old 06-06-21, 04:10 PM
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Have you identified which of the three outlets have power, that is, is first in line from the panel? Or do two of them have power, from different branch circuits out of the panel?

 
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Old 06-06-21, 04:18 PM
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Have you identified which of the three outlets have power, that is, is first in line from the panel? Or do two of them have power, from different branch circuits out of the panel?

based on what I reported in my first post, I am assuming that its the one with the open ground, that I replaced the original non GFCI outlet in. But I am not 100% positive. I can eliminate the one with only two wires as a candidate.

I'll have to think a bit about the post above yours to grok it


 
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Old 06-06-21, 04:42 PM
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I suppose I can disconnect the load wires on the one I suspect is first in line and see if the middle one still trips. if it doesn't, I've found the first of 3 in the line. I'm pretty sure it is this one because its right next to the light switch that didn't work when I had the GFCI in. They go from left to right in the room, all at the same chest height...switch>loose ground wire outlet>trippy outlet>end of the line 2 wire outlet. So there's probably a short branch to the switch, and a longer one to the other two outlets.

That would be logical but much about this house is not logical. This same 20 amp circuit also powers an adjacent bathroom, walk thru closet and two more rooms, but those are clearly on a different branch because they all worked even when the GFCI was in Suspect #1.
 
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Old 06-07-21, 02:42 AM
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.

This thread is getting difficult/confusing to follow.

If you already have the three GFCIs for the three receptacles you want to replace then wire the three of them only on the "line" side of each of the three GFCIs - or am I missing something here?

As far as the grounds. Connect all the grounds together in each box, including connecting the ground to the box.

worker9999
This same 20 amp circuit also powers an adjacent bathroom, walk thru closet and two more rooms, but those are clearly on a different branch because they all worked even when the GFCI was in Suspect #1.
What do you mean by this. If these receptacles are all on the same 20amp circuit then how can there be on different branch circuits?


 
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Old 06-07-21, 06:21 AM
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I may have wired them wrong. Will have to think about how to explain it so that i don't make things more confusing.

What do you mean by this. If these receptacles are all on the same 20amp circuit then how can there be on different branch circuits?

When I wired the 3 outlets with 3 GFCIs, they didn't work and neither did the adjacent light switch. The third outlet with only 2 wires coming in had no power at all and didn't trip, the middle one tripped immediately every time I reset it, and I'm not sure about the first one with the messy crammed box and loose ground. I assumed it was the source of the problems and since I couldnt get it mounted properly (I need an extender box) I didn't test it except to confirm there was power to it.

Meanwhile the rest of the circuit worked. The bathroom, and two other rooms. Again I'm not a savvy guy when it comes to electrical work but this suggested that there are two "branches" (or whatever you want to call it) on this circuit. One that goes to the 3 outlets and light switch in the laundry room, and one or more that goes to everything else on that circuit.

 
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Old 06-07-21, 09:26 AM
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Okay worker9999 - no big deal. I think it is just a bit of terminology difference that thru me when you said same circuit and different branch. I understand better what you mean now.

Let me try to make this easier for you. Since you already have the three GFCI receptacles wire each of them to the "line" side of the GFCI - if you look at the back of each GFCI receptacle closely you will see where it indicates "Line" and "Load". Do not use the "Load" side at this time. It will only confuse you more and make it more difficult to solve this issue for you.

If you connect all the wires to the "Line" side the GFCIs will function correctly and will be as safe as any other way of wiring. I am just trying to make it easier for you.

Be sure you put the black(hot) and the white(neutral) wires on the proper screws (back of GFCI will indicate this). Hint: The shorter slot is the hot and the longer slot is the neutral on the face of a receptacle.

Because GFCIs have pressure plates for the wires it is ok to utilize them instead of wrapping the wire around the screw itself.

When tucking the wires of the GFCIs back into the box and screwing it back in be extra sure that a ground wire is not touching a neutral screw. This will cause the GFCI to trip instantly when attempting to reset it with the button on it. You can put a small piece of electrical over the neutral screw to help with this; there is no need to wrap the GFCI completely with tape. You can put a small piece of tape on the hot screws also if you want. If the box is small this will help the ground wire from touching the hot screws when tucking it back in the box and causing a dead short (spark and tripping the breaker).

If you hook up the three GFCIs the way I explained then each of those GFCIs will be independent of each other which is fine.

Just be sure you shut off the proper circuit breaker before doing this. Just a bit of info. We are here to help you. Don't worry about not being savvy electrically.

NOTE: Each screw of the GFCI has two holes by the pressure plate. It is permitted to place one wire into each hole. If you have more than two wires you will need to use a pigtail (jumper) wire and place it in a wire nut with the other wires going to the same screw.
 
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Old 06-07-21, 12:31 PM
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OK I will try hooking them all to line.

I just disconnected the Load wires from what I thought was first in line, the one near the light switch. That black is a hot wire. The other black that is connect to line is not hot, and the 2nd outlet still trips and the third one still has no power and doesn't trip. I had load/line wired the same way as the original outlets were wired.

So clearly my assumptions were wrong somewhere, or they were miswired to begin with, or I still don't understand something.

But I understand how to wire them all to Line, so I can do that.
 
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Old 06-07-21, 01:11 PM
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Bingo, they all work and trip properly now. I wired them all to Line and just put the loose ground wire back where it had been, in touch with the ground that is attached to the GFCI.

But I'm kind of curious what I've leaned from all of this, as I leave still not quite sure which one is first in line or why it wasn't working before, but I'm not sure it matters either.
 
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Old 06-08-21, 03:46 AM
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Worker9999

Glad to hear they are working properly now.

As I see in your other thread for a GFCI you were confused about 'line" and "load" thinking that it also applied to regular receptacles (top and bottom). This is not the case with regular receptacles and I think this overall confused you when hooking up gFCIs properly.

Finding the first receptacle inline (upstream) is not always easy to do. Since you had the three GFCIs already I figure it best to just have you wire them all "line" side. If you wire a GFCI to protect downstream regular receptacles then you would take the wires going from that gfci to the downstream regular receptacles and wire them to the "load" side of the gFCI. You could have done this to save yourself the cost of 2 GFCIs but since you had them already was easier this way.

Unlike a regular receptacle it does matter what set of wires go on the top or bottom of a GFCI receptacle. Also, on some GFCI receptacles the line is on the top and some the line is on the bottom so always look in the back of the GFCI for "Line" and "Load" and always remember power into the "Line" and going out to the next regular receptacle those wires go to the "Load'.

If you plan on using multiple GFCIs on the same circuit then all wires to the "line" side only on all GFCIs.

I hope this clarifys it a bit for you.


 
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Old 06-08-21, 11:55 AM
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If you wire a GFCI to protect downstream regular receptacles then you would take the wires going from that gfci to the downstream regular receptacles and wire them to the "load" side of the gFCI.

In that case of protecting downstream receptacles which side of the upstream GFCI do the wires come from?
 
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Old 06-08-21, 01:30 PM
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worker9999
Sorry I thought I made that clear to you already.
If you want to protect anything downstream of the GFCI then you connect the wires going to what you want to protect to the "Load" side of the GFCI.

In your case I would leave well enough alone. The GFCIs are functioning correctly as they are wired and they are safe and to code.

Remember - "Line" IN "Load" OUT

And again regular receptacles do not have "line" and "load". On a regular receptacle the top or bottom function the same. This is what was confusing you. On a regular recepptacle just be sure you put the hot wire/s on the brass screws side and the neutral wire/s on the silver screws side.
 
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Old 06-08-21, 03:26 PM
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No it wasn't and isn't completely clear because in your last post you said

If you wire a GFCI to protect downstream regular receptacles then you would take the wires going from that gfci to the downstream regular receptacles and wire them to the "load" side of the gFCI.


Its not clear which ones you mean by "that GFCI" and "the GFCI". I took it to mean that you wire the downstream one to the Load side, but that still leaves the question about which side of the upstream one the wires should come from.

 
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Old 06-08-21, 05:33 PM
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OK nevermind I get it now.
 
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Old 06-09-21, 02:30 AM
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Good, I am glad you understand it now. It will help when you go to put GFCIs in other places.
 
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Old Yesterday, 08:32 AM
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What if I want to take the presumptive #1 upstream outlet out of service completely (and legally)? Do I just wire the like wires together and get a box cover? I have never used that outlet and its just going to be more trouble than its worth to get the GFCI into the existing box or mess around with extendors when I can just eliminate it. There are already 2 outlets within 6 feet of it so I'm not sure why it was ever even installed. .
 
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Old Yesterday, 09:23 AM
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Do I just wire the like wires together and get a box cover?
Yes. Splicing it through and putting a blank cover on is OK.
 
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