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Identifying GFCI Circuit Problems


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

How can I find out what is tripping a GFCI Breaker? Problems that Cause GFCI Circuits to Trip, Clearing the GFCI Circuit of Possible Problem Devices.

GFCI Problems

Electrical Question: How can I find out what is tripping a GFCI Breaker?

Any help with my vicious circle would be awesome.

This electrical wiring question came from: Mike, a Handyman from Casper, Wyoming.
Additional Comments: A lot of useful info thanks.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Mike.

How to Identify GFCI Circuit Problems

Application: Troubleshooting GFCI Circuit Problem.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best if wired by a Licensed Electrical Contractor.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and a Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools and the number of GFI outlets that will be added.
Precaution: Identify the GFCI outlet circuit, turn it OFF and Tag it with a Note before working with the wiring.
Notice: Installing additional GFCI Outlet Wiring should be done according to local and national electrical GFCI Codes with a permit and be inspected.

Problems That Cause GFCI Circuits to Trip

Please Note: It is mentioned in this question that GFCI Outlets in the room are connected directly to the hot tub 50 amp GFCI circuit breaker, however the GFCI outlets should be connected to a separate circuit breaker which is sized appropriately to the size of the circuit wiring.

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Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
Electrical Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
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MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC: 220 Volt Wiring, GFCI Problem, Hot Tub





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4 Responses to “Identifying GFCI Circuit Problems”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Tony,
    A shared neutral as with a mulit-wire circuit should work fine for the GFCI outlets. However the configuration of the two circuit breakers at the panel should be checked to make sure they are connected to a 2pole circuit breaker that has a tie bar installed across the two switch handles. If the GFCI continues to trip off then the circuit wiring and connections will need to be checked carefully.
    I hope this helps,
    Dave

  2. Tony says:

    I have two circuits in my kitchen, one for the counter receptacles and one for the dishwasher. They were wired by using 12/3 cable so they are sharing the neutral. The receptacles were not GFCI protected, so I tried to replace the breaker with a GFCI breaker, but it trips. Do I have to have a separate neutral which means running a new cable for one of the circuits or is there perhaps something else that is causing this tripping?

  3. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Dan,
    The circuit breaker for the pool lights will trip only if there is a direct short to ground or the current load exceeds the amperage rating, which in this case is 20 amps.

      How to Troubleshoot a GFCI Problem for a Pool Lighting Circuit:

    Because the GFI outlet trips off I would suspect a voltage leak somewhere the lighting circuit somewhere between the GFCI outlet and the light fixtures. This could be caused by moisture entering into a lamp enclosure because of a gasket problem, or a related problem due to a damaged light fixture. I would also locate the junction boxes where the connections are made between the cords leading to the light fixtures and the lighting circuit wiring. Make sure the connections are made properly with water proof connections and that there is not deterioration within the wire splices. If there are any other components or controls within the light fixture circuit such as a time clock, then these device should all be checked as well.

    VERY IMPORTANT: Until the problem is found I would keep the pool lighting circuit OFF and do NOT bypass the GFCI Outlet because of the Potential Shock Hazard this condition may present.
    I Hope this Helps – Be Safe!
    Dave

  4. Dan Larocca says:

    I’m hoping you can help me. I’m having a problem with my GFI protected pool lights. While troubleshooting, I initially thought my 15 amp GFI outlet (located near the pool pump) was bad because it wouldn’t reset, and my lights would not light. But when I bypass the GFI, the lights work fine. (The breaker is a 20 amp, the GFI, 15 – I’m pretty sure it’s wired correctly, with the LINE connection coming from the circuit breaker (and the white, common from the electrical box as well) and the LOAD going out (and white common) going to the on/off switch for my pool lights and then out to the lights.) I’m confused, because I figured if I had a wiring problem, the breaker would have tripped, but the lights worked fine when connected directly. Can you help me?
    Thanks!

    Dan