I'll try to include every detail I know. Sitting in the office one day where my computer is and the power goes out knocking out the power in the office. Computer and hard wired lights on the ceiling. I check the electrical panel and the GFCI has tripped. I reset it the power goes back on and I continue using it. Couple minutes later it trips again, I reset and go on. This happened about 5 times in a day and couldn't figure it out. I also noticed that the bathroom upstairs power goes off as well.

I unplugged a heater which was really the only thing in the wall that was added in the last month. It didn't happen for a few weeks. Then it started again. One day it trips, two days its fine and then it trips again. I can't figure out what is tripping this.. I've unplugged everything in the two rooms that I can (except my computer) and it still trips.

So I didn't want to get an electrical company to come out until I talked to you guys since there is no way for me to reproduce this on demand. But where would you start to trouble shoot this issue? If i get an electrical company to come out, they might do something and not be able to test if it works so I could be paying a lot of money each time.. kinda trying to avoid that...

1 Answer 1


I think you were on the right track by looking for recent changes:

I unplugged a heater which was really the only thing in the wall that was added in the last month. It didn't happen for a few weeks. Then it started again.


While you mentioned GFCI, the breaker may actually be a combination GFCI + AFCI breaker. As I understand it, the type of damage from a high current device like a heater may actually be more in the nature of an arc fault than a ground fault. The solutions are largely the same - track down the damaged parts of the circuit and replace. But an arc fault as a cause seems more plausible to me.

It could be unrelated, but logically it may be due to damage caused by the heater's frequent tripping of the breaker. That could be anywhere, but the most likely places are:

  • The breaker

Nothing lasts forever. While I suspect the breaker is rated for thousands of cycles MTBF (mean time between failure), it may not really have handled so many trips very well. The problem is replacing it may not be so easy, and probably not recommended for you to do that yourself if you are not familiar with breaker panels. In any case, it would need to be with a proper compatible replacement - same or compatible brand, same type (including GFCI and/or AFCI), same current rating.

  • The outlet

The outlet and/or the wiring going into the outlet may have been been damaged in a way that caused the trips and now, due to repeated problems, it may have become the source of a new problem even without the heater. To check this, turn the breaker off and open up the outlet. If you see any burnt wire, melted insulation or other damage, or a backstab connection instead of screws, replace the outlet. Actually, I would just replace the outlet in any case - just get a standard 15A or 20A outlet matching the old outlet, and make sure to use the screw terminals.

  • 1
    Ditto on the possible presence of back stab connections at the back of the existing outlet. High current loads like a heater cycling on and off can expose the intermittent nature of a faulty back stab connection.
    – Michael Karas
    Nov 4, 2018 at 13:57
  • 1
    You want the breaker to be the correct breaker for the panel, not the same breaker that's in there now. Back when I was naive, I did a roadside panel where the breaker's busbar had burnt up. I obediently went and got another GE breaker. It was a Siemens panel. Nov 4, 2018 at 16:27
  • @Harper If the breaker brand/type doesn't clearly match the panel brand/type then this is a job for an electrician to check everything out as odds are there is more than one problem. Nov 4, 2018 at 16:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.