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In my kitchen there are several outlets that are not working, including a GFCI outlet which is not able to be reset. I have checked the breaker and it had not been flipped, I reset the kitchen outlet breaker regardless and there was no change.

I contacted an electrician and after a great deal of search, including checking all the outlets in the series, he pulled the individual breaker out and discovered that there had been a loose wire, when it was reseated the outlets worked again. About a day later they stopped working and he returned. Unfortunately I was not able to be there for the second attempt so I have second hand knowledge of what he did, which was look at and adjust the wiring on the wall that the GFCI outlet sits. The outlets worked and he left. About an hour later they went out again.

Neither time had any sort of load outside of a few appliances plugged in. Does anyone have an explanation as to what may cause this and if so what to do.

Thank you.

  • Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Are all the non-working outlet downstream of the GFCI? In other words, if things had been working and the GFCI throws, would the same set of outlets turn off? – Daniel Griscom Oct 10 '18 at 0:37
  • I believe so, yes. Though I do not have any way of checking this at the moment. – DBian Oct 10 '18 at 0:55
  • It may be that the GFCI has an internal fault test function once the power is turned off and back on the error is gone so the GFCI will reset. After sometime has gone by the electronics heat back up and trigger the fault. – Ed Beal Oct 10 '18 at 19:20
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As I understand your description:

  • The GFCI protection device is in one location in the kitchen
  • The circuit breaker in the main panel does NOT have GFCI protection built in (if it does then things are a bit more complicated having double-protection)

Three possibilities:

Bad Appliance

Before doing anything else, disconnect EVERYTHING from all of the affected kitchen outlets. If you can then reset the GFCI and the outlets function then you have a faulty appliance - plug each appliance back in until you find the problem. It is quite possible that there is an intermittent ground fault so that things could work for a while and then stop working. But in the end, if you have a faulty appliance then either fix it or throw it away.

Replacing the GFCI and troubleshooting other outlets should be done with the circuit breaker turned off for safety:

Bad wiring or outlet on "load" of GFCI outlet

All the other affected outlets should be connected to the load side of the GFCI outlet. To determine whether the problem is in the GFCI device or one of the other outlets, disconnect the wires from the load screws. If the GFCI can be reset and the outlet works then you know the problem is on the load side. If that is the case then you need to reconnect the load wires and check the wires to each outlet one at a time until you find the culprit. One thing to watch for is back-stab connections - if you find any then switch to using the screw terminals as they are more reliable. Loop connections are OK if installed properly - tightened well, correct amount of insulation removed, but pigtail connections (which require a little more work) are better.

If a new GFCI does not work - or if you feel like checking before installing a new GFCI: Check the wiring going in to the line side of the GFCI to see if it is live. The safest way to do this is with a non-contact tester. If the wiring is not live and the breaker in the main panel has not tripped then you have a wiring problem somewhere in between the breaker and the GFCI.

Bad GFCI device

The outlet with the GFCI device may simply be going bad. That can happen. It is fairly straightforward to replace one, and that is often the simplest way to diagnose the problem. If the problem goes away with a new GFCI outlet then either the old one was bad or the wiring into the old one (which should have been checked by the electrician) was bad.

  • - Currently there is nothing plugged in and the GFCI cannot be reset. - The outlets were removed and re-installed by the electrician so it seems that the wiring should be fine. I noticed loop connections when he was doing this. - I can double check this, will look into it next. Is there any reason that would cause the wire to come loose behind the breaker? The weather here has been consistent so I doubt that typical expansion/contraction would cause it to come loose. – DBian Oct 10 '18 at 1:02
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    With nothing plugged in, you have ruled out an appliance as the cause. As far as the breaker (assuming you mean "the breaker in the main panel" and not "the GFCI outlet combination device which is technically a breaker of sorts"), wires can come loose, but if properly tightened/fixed then that is unlikely to be the problem. Unless the main panel is outside, weather should have no effect. I'll add some more stuff to look for... – manassehkatz Oct 10 '18 at 1:07
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Manassehkatz did an excellent job of answering your question. I am only adding to his answer and this would take more than a comment could handle.

First there is one other thing that may be causing your GFCI to trip, the would be an area where part of your circuit is subject to moisture. Are there any parts of that circuit where it might be getting wet? Notice I am talking about the entire circuit after the GFCI not just the outlets. It really doesn't take much moisture to trip a GFCI and if you pull out a device and dry it out or if it just dries out itself it will reset and continue to work.

Second, I have worked on many outdoor kitchens and tripping GFCI circuits are common when one of the devices continues to get wet. So to counteract that, we would change the wiring from a feed through circuit and install a GFCI at each outlet. More expensive? Yes. A little excessive? Probably. But it did stop all of the GFCI's from tripping at one time and now we knew which one was the problem device.

I agree that your problem is probably just loose wiring and how that happens is poor installation. So before going into everything else

make sure all connections and splices are electrically and mechanically sound.

That's taken right out of the first year apprenticeship training material.

Good luck

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