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Frequently Asked Questions

At Express Electrical Services, our trained and licensed electricians are familiar with every aspect of ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI/GFI) outlets. Installing them properly requires an experienced professional. However, many issues and questions can arise. To address potential concerns, here are answers to common questions we receive about GFI outlets.

Why Can’t I Reset My GFCI Outlet?

A ground fault circuit interrupter, otherwise known as a GFCI or GFI, rarely fails. It’s designed to cut power to the circuit if there’s a ground fault and prevent shock. If a GFCI outlet doesn’t work, the situation can be dangerous. Here are some possible reasons this may happen:

  • It may not have been reset after its last trip.
  • The GFCI outlet is not getting power.
  • An upstream GFCI has tripped.
  • The outlet isn’t properly connected.
  • A ground fault is still occurring downstream of the unit.

How Can I Tell If a GFCI Is Bad?

If the reset button doesn’t pop out when you press the test button, the GFCI may be defective. This can also mean the unit isn’t receiving 120 volts. If the reset button is out but plugged-in devices are working, the outlet may be defective (or the line and load may be reversed). When nothing works and the reset button is in, the GFI may be defective, miswired, or not receiving power.

How Do I Troubleshoot a GFCI?

The symptoms can help you determine the source of the problem. The easiest way to troubleshoot the unit is to push the reset button. If the GFCI still won’t click, there is likely a downstream ground fault. However, the GFCI may be miswired. 

A recently installed device may have a reversed line and load or may need more current. Also, make sure you push the button far enough. Check how your GFCIs are connected as well; if you originally installed one in the garage, it can trip one you later added in the bathroom. If the GFCI is connected to several outlets, the trip can come from any one of them.

How Do You Fix a GFCI That Won’t Reset?

If the reset button won’t work, toggle the test and reset buttons. The best way to do this is to unplug all the appliances on that circuit. Then press the reset button; it should click and all appliances and devices should work once you plug them back in.  If the reset isn’t successful:

  • Check the circuit breaker to see if there’s a trip.
  • Unplug one device at a time to correct an overload.
  • Have an electrician check the GFCI for issues.

What Causes GFCI Outlets to Fail?

You can get 15 to 25 years out of a GFCI outlet. However, GFIs do wear out. Some may last only 5 years before having to be replaced. Repeated exposure to moisture, water, high heat, or UV light can cause the unit to fail. An overload, internal corrosion, and mechanical wear can also shorten the outlet’s life.

If a GFCI Outlet Has Tripped Too Many Times, Should I Replace It?

After a few dozen trips, your GFCI breaker may wear out. At that point, it won’t reset or will trip soon after being turned back on. However, the number of times it can survive tripping depends on the unit’s design, how close the power load is to its maximum rating, and how strong the overload is.

What If all GFCI Outlets Are Not Working?

Check the main electrical panel to see if a circuit breaker has tripped. After turning the breaker back on, try resetting the outlets. If this doesn’t work, there may be a wiring problem, a loose connection, or multiple GFCIs have gone bad.

Why Won’t a GFCI Outlet Reset After a Power Outage?

If the GFCI won’t reset after power is restored, check to see if the circuit breaker has tripped. A faulty wire, loose terminal screw, or poor connection can also prevent the outlet from working. An electrical surge when power was restored could also have damaged the GFCI.

Is It Safe to Leave a Tripped GFCI Outlet Alone?

Choosing not to reset a tripped GFCI outlet is not dangerous if other devices on the circuit are working and there are no other signs of electrical issues. There just won’t be power downstream of the outlet.

How Do I Know If Moisture Is Tripping My GFCI?

Accumulated moisture is a common reason for a GFCI to trip or not work. Outdoor GFI outlets are the most vulnerable. Rainfall and high humidity can cause water to get trapped in the receptacle box. To see if there’s a moisture issue, turn off the breaker and open the box. Let it dry out before attempting to reset it.

Should I Avoid Plugging Appliances Into a GFCI?

GFCI outlets are most often found in kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms, where an electrical circuit may come into contact with water. It’s unnecessary and potentially unsafe to plug a refrigerator, freezer, or sump pump into a GFCI. Lights should also be put on a separate circuit (you won’t have to figure out why the outlet tripped in the dark).

What Is the Correct GFCI Capacity?

Regular appliances and devices should be plugged into a 15-amp outlet. However, GFCIs installed in a kitchen and laundry room should be rated at 20 amps and be connected to a 20-amp circuit breaker.

Where Is the Best Place to Install a GFCI Outlet?

The best location for a GFCI outlet is within six feet of a sink, water heater, or washing machine. If you have a wet bar in your home, you should also install a GFI outlet within six feet of it. It’s recommended to install one in a garage or unfinished basement as well.

Why Won’t My GFCI Outlet Stop Tripping?

No matter where your GFCI outlet is installed, it should not trip constantly. If it does, moisture may have gotten trapped inside the outlet. Trapped dust or debris can also cause a problem. Or, the outlet may be faulty, old, or have damaged wiring.

When Should I Call an Electrician?

If you can’t resolve a faulty GFCI outlet, multiple GFIs fail, or resetting a circuit breaker doesn’t correct the problem, there may be an electrical issue, for which there’s no DIY fix. It’s time to call in an electrician. A professional can troubleshoot and repair the issue and avoid dangers such as personal injury or property damage. Oftentimes, a faulty GFCI must be replaced, which an electrician can do quickly.

Contact Express Electrical Services

When you can’t reset a GFCI outlet, contact Express Electrical Services. Our electricians can arrive at your Los Angeles or Southern California home in 60 to 90 minutes, equipped to repair or replace the outlet. They’ll also assess if your home needs additional GFCI protection. Call (323) 727-7799 to request service and learn about opportunities to save.


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