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GFCI keeps tripping

Posted: 3 Jan 2011 5:14 PM By: topfan Replies: 5

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  • GFCI keeps tripping

    I have a GFCI installed in our lower level.  It's connected to one outdoor outlet and 8 indoor outlets (our house was built in 1991).  On occasion it trips due to a slight bit of moisture on the outside outlet, which I've always been able to fix.  This time, however, it won't re-set.  I tried using a hair dryer to dry any potential moisture on the outside outlet and checked all the indoor ones to no avail.  Is it possible the GFCI needs to be replaced?  How can I tell?

  • Re: GFCI keeps tripping

    it's easier to just replace it

  • Re: GFCI keeps tripping

    It is reasonably possible that the GFCI will need to be replaced.  But first, try a little trouble shooting. 

    Turn off the power and remove the outdoor outlet's receptacle from its box.  Then disconnect the white and black wires from the receptacle.  Cover the exposed ends of the white and black wires with tape or individual wirenuts.  Be sure that the conductors aren't touching anything.  Turn the power back on and see if the GFCI stays on.

    It's possible that the old outdoor receptacle has enough dusts and oils in it to be the primary source of the GFCI tripping.  If the GFCI holds, replace the old receptacle with a new receptacle that is rated for the location.  The National Electrical Code guides us to use a receptacle device that has a WR (weather resistant) and TR (tamper resistant) rating.

    If the GFCI still trips, the length of wiring between the GFCI and the 9 receptacles may well be the source of the problem.  But first, verify that nothing is plugged into any of those outlet.  Something still plugged in may be the source of the trip.

    If the GFCI still trips, loosen the GFCI from its box (after turning the power off), and remove the white and black wires from the "LOAD" terminals of the GFCI.  Turn the power back on and see if the GFCI will reset and stay on.

    If it still trips, replace it with a new GFCI that has a TR (tamper resistant) rating.

    If the GFCI stays on, then this shows one of the problems with the way your home was wired.  While nine receptacles on a GFCI was allowed by the 1990 National Electrical Code, it wasn't always a good design.  The long length of protected wire in the walls between all the outlets resulted in a "bleed" current that uses up some, if not all, of the 5.0 milliamp current allowed before the GFCI trips.  Replacing all of the nine old receptacles with new TR rated GFCIs, and reconnecting the original GFCI so it has no conductors connected to the "LOAD" terminals may be the best fix.

    Good luck trouble shooting.

  • Re: GFCI keeps tripping

    It is possible for a little bit of leakage current to exist normally. When you combine many outlets off a single GFCI, they can add up and cause a trip. Off hand, however, this does not sound like your problem. If you have had moisture in the one outlet, you may also have some corrosion and other items creating some leakage.

  • Re: GFCI keeps tripping

    I agree that 9 outlets is too many to protect with a GFCI outlet.  You might want to consider protecting the entire circuit with a GFCI circuit breaker instead of a GFCI outlet.  They are available at your favorite home store, but will cost about 3x what a new GFCI outlet will cost, but will cost a lot less then replacing all 9 outlets with GFCIs.   However, you may have to have a pro sparky guy install it if you are not comfortable working in the breaker box yourself.

    Good luck, and work safely,

    Marc in Il

  • Re: GFCI keeps tripping

    I agree that 9 outlets is too many to protect with a GFCI outlet.  You might want to consider protecting the entire circuit with a GFCI circuit breaker instead of a GFCI outlet.
    Welcome to the Forum, Marc.

    While changing the offending GFCI receptacle to a standard receptacle and replacing the standard breaker to a GFCI maintains the Code required safety features, as originally wired, this actually will make the branch circuit that is protected by the GFCI longer, potentially increasing the sensitivity to nuisance trips by adding a bit more capacitance.

    Changing all the protected receptacles to GFCI receptacles (with a slight rearrangement of the wiring as described) results in the length of wire protected being reduced to the length of the cord plugged into any one GFCI receptacle.  This reduces the "pre-loading" caused by the capacitive coupling of the wire to a minimum.

    Remember, Ground Fault protection is required for Personal Safety, when used for receptacles.   Ground Fault protection is not required to also protect the wiring in the walls of the building itself.  (Please note, there are some exceptions to the generalization, however, at the moment I am specifically referring to the scenario in the opening post of this thread.)

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