Home GFCI Outlets Not Working

Messages
319
Location
La
Thread starter
Any electricians listening? Bought my home ~6 years ago. It was only 18 months old at the time. Due to my lack of due diligence prior to purchase, I later found that 2 outside GFCI receptacles do not work and a spare bathroom receptacle does not work (but the GFCI light still glows). I replaced the bath receptacle, but it still does not work. There IS power to all of the receptacles in question. What are some troubleshooting techniques I can go through before breaking down and calling an electrician? thanks
 
Messages
292
Location
D-FW, Texas
This is odd for a new home. Do you have a tester that plugs in and allows you to force a ground fault? These are $5 at Harbor Freight. Assuming your line/load is wired correctly, my first thought was a bad ground. Not an electrician tho…
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
44,526
Location
New Jersey
Originally Posted by WagonWheel
This is odd for a new home. Do you have a tester that plugs in and allows you to force a ground fault? These are $5 at Harbor Freight. Assuming your line/load is wired correctly, my first thought was a bad ground. Not an electrician tho…
A ground isnt required for a GFCI. In fact, one of their key uses is protection of two-wire circuits that dont have a ground. I agree 100% on the circuit tester. However Im not sure that it will work if the outlets are "not working". OP, when you say does not work, do the test and reset buttons work? Will it reset? When it resets, you just dont have any voltage on the two main prongs? How did you verify that there is power to them? You put a multi-meter on the conductors screwed to the outlets, and saw 120V? You hit reset, and it stayed in that position (didnt pop back out immediately)?
 
Messages
4,031
Location
Chicago, IL
Ditto on the fact that GFCI's do not require a ground. they measure the difference in current between hot and neutral. yes, please explain "not working", especially since you state that there is power to the outlets in question.
 
Messages
24,836
Location
Upstate NY
A GFI typically has a feed from the circuit breaker box and a supply to downstream outlets. All the downstream outlets will be protected. Did they reverse the feed and supply to downstream? Mix up hot and neutral (not sure this would do it, but I would check).
 
Messages
4,184
Location
Texas
Just off the top of my head , are any on the same circuit / circuit breaker ? Not much of a stretch of the imagination , for any out side receptacle to get wet & mess up . If so , replace them and possibly the weather proof covers . Be sure to turn the power off first . Be safe . Buy a " plug checker " and possibly a cheap Volt Ohm Meter . You should also have the garage receptacles on GFCI . Check them too . GFCI devices contain electronics . Could be messed up by lightning storms .
 
Messages
2,779
Location
USA
On some GFI outlets the little light means it is working properly, on others it means there is a problem, and many don't have a light at all. There is no standard for this. They are designed to not reset and stay off if mis-wired. So if you have some that stay live all the time and don't trip when the test button is pressed, it's probably the GFI itself that is bad.
 
Messages
1,409
Location
Ohio
What does "not work" mean? No power, or they don't test properly? I've had outside GFCIs fail frequently, they get exposed to the elements even inside a covered box, and they'll either keep tripping because they have moisture in them, or the mechanisms got corroded and they get stuck. The test buttons also get corroded and they may not test properly. If they do trip, the rusty mechanisms may not latch so they can't reset. Relatively new house I'd be very surprised if they cheaped out and didn't run a real ground to the outlets, but in the off chance they didn't, then the test buttons may not work properly because they create a small ground fault current. No ground, no fault, but they will still do what they are supposed to do. I'd get a 3-light GFCI tester from HD, Lowe's, Menard's, etc. and see if the lights show hot and neutral correct, and if there's a ground.
 
Messages
16,699
Location
NH
I'd get an outlet checker, they're cheap. In my "new" to me house I had a GFCI not working. Light was on but no AC power. Bought a new GFCI and while replacing I found that the old one was never wired properly in the first place. I elected to replace it anyhow (it's not like it's big money). if not comfortable then just call the electrician, I would hope that they stock outlets in their vehicle and could just replace on the spot if it was truly bad.
 
Messages
5,489
Location
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Some have a light that comes on when it's tripped, like Cooper. Some have a light that is on when it's NOT tripped, like Leviton. I'm not sure what other brands do, I like to only have one type of these in any given house.
 

JHZR2

Staff member
Messages
44,526
Location
New Jersey
OP, If youre comfortable, and know how to turn off and verify that power is off.... Go to HD and buy a 98c made in USA standard recepticle. Wire it up properly. Use the outlet tester and report back on the lights. We can go from there.
 
Messages
292
Location
D-FW, Texas
How does the TEST function work on the GFCI? My understanding is it shunts some current to ground thus forcing a fault trip. Agree gnd isn't required to work, didn't mean to imply that. I was assuming that the OP was saying the TEST was failing, not the power delivery.
 
Messages
2,779
Location
USA
The test button creates an unbalanced current in the detection transformer. Since both sides of the transformer are available inside the device, that test does not need to involve the building ground conductor. A plug in tester does leak its test current to the ground pin, since there is no access to the before GFI live or neutral wires from the outlet. A 6 year old house must have a ground system, and it should be verified to be intact.
 
Messages
2,028
Location
WY
I think the threshold for ground current tripping the circuit is 5 milliamps on home receptacles. They also have testers that can simulate varying ground currents to check the accuracy of the fault intervention. To the OP, find a friend or relative that has more understanding of this subject and allow them to troubleshoot and repair the issue(s). Pay close attention for the next time.
 
Last edited:
Messages
319
Location
La
Thread starter
Lots of good questions/comments/recommendations. I should have waited til I am at home to post this question! I am at work today. Will get out the multimeter tonight and check the circuits. Yes, the breaker reset buttons stay 'in' when I push them in. Yes, from memory (been a year or two since I last looked into this problem), I think I measured 115V at the receptacles. No, nothing happens when I plug in a light, appliance, etc. GFCI button does not 'pop out' either. Let's put this on hold until I am home where I can do some testing. thanks!
 
Messages
964
Location
Arizona
If you have a voltmeter you don't need a tester. The hot line should show AC volts to the neutral line and to ground. The neutral line checked to ground may show a small voltage difference as it floats in reference to true ground. in my house w 2 bathrooms if the gfci pops in one bath the outlets in the other also go out. check that you don't have a gfci closer to power panel that is tripped or bad.
 
Messages
24,122
Location
MA, Mittelfranken.de
I ran into this exact same thing when I installed one in the bathroom. I had the wires on wrong, not on the wrong side mind you but on the correct side. I had them on the top terminals and they should be on the bottom where it is labeled "line". [Linked Image]
 
Messages
4,415
Location
Guilford, CT
This is the way I would personally troubleshoot it: Turn off breaker and disconnect all wires from the GFCI Turn breaker back on and use a multimeter to see which Romex cable is the "feed." Turn breaker back off and connect the feed wires to the "LINE" side of the GFCI. Do NOT connect anything to the "LOAD" side of the GFCI; leave all other wires disconnected for now. Turn breaker on and confirm GFCI works by plugging something in (make sure the device you plug in works properly. Plug it into a known-good GFCI and ensure it doesn't make the GFCI trip). Push the test and reset buttons and confirm that everything functions normally. If it STILL doesn't work, and the breaker did not trip and you still have voltage on the LINE terminals, then the GFCI is bad. Replace it. If it starts working, then turn the breaker off again, reconnect the other wires to the "LOAD" terminals, and turn the breaker back on. If the GFCI stops working again, then you have a problem with the wiring downstream that's causing the GFCI to trip. You'll have to see what else is not getting power, and disconnect them one at a time to isolate the problem.
 
Top