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Electrical Wire and Cable

Identifying GFCI Circuit Problems

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

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How to Wire a GFCI Outlet
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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.

More about GFCI Circuits and Electrical Wiring

Electrical Circuits
Electric Circuit Listing
The size of the home electrical service panel is designed by calculating the square footage of the home and factoring in the code requirements for the electrical circuits that are required.

Hot Tub Wiring
Hot Tub Wiring Diagram Information
Electrical Codes and Details for Spa and Hot Tub Wiring. Essentials for your installation, including the required GFCI ground fault protection and circuit wire size.

GFCI Wiring
GFCI Wiring
GFCI Wiring
This list of articles will help you learn about the features and benefits provided by GFI and GFCI Receptacles and how they are wired.

The following may also be helpful for you:

Dave's Guide to Home Electrical Wiring:

» You Can Avoid Costly Mistakes! «

Here's How to Do It:
Wire It Right with the help of my Illustrated Wiring Book

Great for any Home Wiring Project.
  electrical wiring  

Complete Guide to Home Electrical Wiring

Perfect for Homeowners, Students,
Handyman, Handy Women, and Electricians
Wiring GFCI Outlets
Wiring Home Electric Circuits
120 Volt and 240 Volt Outlet Circuits
Wiring Light Switches
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Electric Range
Wiring 3-Wire and 4-Wire Dryer Cord and Dryer Outlet
How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Wiring
Wiring Methods for Upgrading Electrical Wiring
NEC Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
....and much more.

Learn more about Home Electrical Wiring
with my Online Video Course:
Basic Home Electrical Wiring by Example

Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
This handy tool has multiple uses:
The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
The end of the tool can be used to grip and bend wire which is handy for attaching wire onto the screw terminals of switches and outlets..

The wire stripper will work on both solid and stranded wire. This tool is Very Handy and Easy to Use.

More articles about 220 Volt Wiring, GFCI Problem, Hot Tub and Home Electrical Wiring:
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Remodeling a Bathroom with GFI Outlet and Lights How to Repair a Kitchen GFCI Circuit

FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

4 Responses to “Identifying GFCI Circuit Problems”
  1. 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?


  2. 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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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,