GFCI outlet won't work

cmae17November 30, 2007

The bathroom outlet which is about two years old quit working. The test / reset buttons don't click and it's dead. I put a tester on the two wires behind it and into the outlet and the is no power. What do I do next. As far as my notes go it is on with the attic fan and the central a/c thermostat which are both working. Also the breaker was fine.

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itsunclebill

If in fact the GFCI is on the same circuit as some things that still work and the feed has no power it suggests that a splice has failed upstream of the GFCI.

It is also quite possible that there is another GFCI on the circuit upstream from the one in the bathroom. It was common at one time to have a GFCI in a garage or basement, sometimes even one outside, protect a single circuit that served all the non-kitchen receptacles required to be GFCI protected. You might try looking around for other GFCIs and see if one is tripped. With all the home inspectors running around that have no clue how things might have been originally wired in a home, and homeowners who don't know any better, many bathroom GFCIs wind up getting installed on a circuit that already has a GFCI on it.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 4:08AM
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cobraguy

You're so right unclebill. Yet that home inspector will be sure to write up that the whole house needs to be rewired or similar. Don't get me started again....

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 10:40AM
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texasredhead

There are many misconseptions about the use of GFCIs as there are repeated posts on this board about a GFCI not working when another GFCI on the same circuit is tripped. I recently did a service call at a home with the same problem. I left the GFCI at the furthest point in the circuit and replaced the GFCI in the middle of the circuit with a regular receptacle. I put tags on the other receptacle covers indicating they are covered by a GFCI. It is also a simple matter to GFCI protect only one receptacle in the middle of a circuit. You also need to understand the difference between a ground fault and a circuit overload as an overloaded circuit will trip the breaker but not the GFCI. Still, time and time again, folks not understanding the workings of GFCIs, put multiple units on the same circuit.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 9:16AM
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bus_driver

"Still, time and time again, folks not understanding the workings of GFCIs, put multiple units on the same circuit." This needs clarification. Placing GFCIs so that one feeds another through the protective circuitry of the first is not wise at all. And for that situation, I do agree with the comment. But I do have in my own house some circuits with multiple GCFI receptacles on that one circuit. In those instances, the GFCI is not connected for feed-thru, but protects only the receptacles in that particular unit, the others are connected the same way. Tripping of one unit affects no others.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 10:05AM
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brickeyee

"But I do have in my own house some circuits with multiple GCFI receptacles on that one circuit. In those instances, the GFCI is not connected for feed-thru, but protects only the receptacles in that particular unit, the others are connected the same way. Tripping of one unit affects no others."

This type if installation has some real advantages.
When something does trip the GFCI it is the one you just plugged into, and it is right there.
No hunting for the GFCI.
In my workshop I have a number of quad outlets each on a separate 20 A circuit.
Each quad is a GFCI and a regular receptacle.
The regular receptacle is on the load side of the GFCI right beside it.

GFCI devices originally were breakers only, then receptacle.
They were so expensive initially (around $35 each) that the first few code revisions allowed a single GFCI proptected circuit to cover bathroom receptacles, outside receptacles, and even unfinished basement receptacles.
The dedicated 20 A bathroom circuits came latter.

In many cases installations that complied with code initially remain grandfathered.
Some exceptions have been made for bathroom GFCI devices and kitchen counter spaces in many local codes.
The use of GFCI devices in these spaces is really worth the protection.

One of the biggest problems with the HI community is a lack of knowledge about plumbing and electrical codes changes and when they occurred.

Even the RE column in the Washington Post (writer recently died) was uninformed about GFCI circuits and their operation.
An HI squawked an older house kitchen counter outlet for not having a ground.
The seller had GFCIs installed in a 2 wire circuit with the required stickers.

The purchaser complained the job was 'not to code' since no ground was present.
The advice columnist agreed.

It is fully code compliant to install GFCI receptacles on 2 wire circuits.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 10:23AM
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texasredhead

What is acceptable and what is pratical and what is essoteric are three different matters. First, I do not have individual circuits wandering throughout my house both inside and outside. I have one 20 amp circuit feeding the four outlets on my countertop. The first receptacle is a GFCI the protects the other three down line receptacles. Why this issue keeps coming up is because many older homes have circuits that may involve two rooms and the garage or similar situations. The biggest thing we do when we rewire homes is to isolate circuits which may involve removing double or triple GFCIs on the same wandering circuit. That's why people don't know why what ever receptacles won't work because they don't know what else is on the same circuit.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 1:55PM
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cobraguy

texas...is this a misprint or am I not understanding what you're saying? How does a GFCI at the END of a run protect those in front of it?

"I left the GFCI at the furthest point in the circuit and replaced the GFCI in the middle of the circuit with a regular receptacle. I put tags on the other receptacle covers indicating they are covered by a GFCI."

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 8:26AM
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texasredhead

You either misunderstood me or I said it incorrectly. The GFCI is placed on the receptacle closest to the panel which protects all downstream receptacles or where ever it is placed in the circuit it will protect any downstream receptacles. GFCIs are most commonly used in locations subject to moisture. It is also good to use them where a lot of small appliances and power tools are used. My main point has been about not having multiple GFCIs on the same circuit.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 9:20AM
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guitar42

yes, the "GF" stands for "Ground Fault" not "CO"...:)

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 5:07PM
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bryan_m_johnson_yahoo_com

"The GFCI is placed on the receptacle closest to the panel which protects all downstream receptacles or where ever it is placed in the circuit it will protect any downstream receptacle"

Would you ever place a light switch at the end of the circuit mentioned above?

Also, how many wires are allowed to join in one junction box?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2008 at 9:59PM
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petey_racer

Bryan, you already asked these questions in another thread on this board.
Check that thread.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2008 at 10:46PM
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