0

I have one GFCI outlet in my kitchen and sometimes it just tripped and cut off power without anyone touching it. The annoying thing is that it is the head of the circuit which ends up cutting off power of many other outlets in the kitchen area including my internet modem.

I was reading this post Which Kitchen outlets do NOT need GFCI? and learnt that GFCI outlet is required for countertop outlet. I got that.

BUT few questions:

  1. Why GFCI outlet is tripped for a random reason? I am not sure what triggered it. Would it be possible if the current is overloaded somewhere else causing that specific outlet to pop?

  2. Is there a way to rewire and avoid the chain reaction where one outlet leading to the next? I would like to isolate the outlets so they don't end up blowing each other off like that.

Thanks.

  • It's possible that you have a total leakage on your system that is high enough to trigger a single GFCI, so my suggestion is to replace each other outlets with GFCI and 'parallel' all, so you have a total allowed leakage current that is Nx the current you have now – DDS Nov 4 '18 at 6:55
  • 2
    Those outlets that lose powr. What is plugged into them? List everything. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 4 '18 at 8:40
  • 2
    Also do you have any idea how old the existing GFCI outlet is? Has it been there for a really long time like 25 years? – Tyson Nov 4 '18 at 12:08
3

How to ignore the problem

A GFCI device of any kind, even the kind that looks like a receptacle, is able to provide GFCI protection to other loads beside itself. It has a couple of output terminals called the LOAD terminals, and anything attached to LOAD will get GFCI protection also. This is an efficent way to use GFCI devices, but only for people who actually treat electrical maintenance seriously and have a healthy fear of it.

For others, you get this situation.

Others are discussing how you can use multiple GFCI+receptacle devices to separate one receptacle's problems from another's, by tactical use of the LOAD terminals (or rather, tactical disuse). It's straightforward enough; just leave the warning tape on the LOAD terminals and pigtail everything onto LINE. Once you do that, only things plugged into a GFCI+receptacele can trip that GFCI.

How to fix the problem

A GFCI has one job. What is it? Detecting ground faults: Cases where electrical insulation is not tight anymore, and the appliance is leaking current in a way that could shock you or start a fire. So if something trips a GFCI, what is most likely to be? Right.

One of your appliances has a ground fault.

This news tends to be disliked. We've had flame wars with askers who were in full military denial. If you're not interested in that...

It is a process of narrowing down. An appliance may have a ground fault, but it can't trip a GFCI if it's not plugged in. So unplug all the appliances that have been plugged into those GFCI protected sockets for the last 10 years. See if the problem goes away. Once a day, plug one back in and see if the problem returns.

Here's a useful tidbit: a 2-prong appliance can't trip GFCIs unless it can reach ground somehow - sitting in a puddle of water that often leaks from the sink, a cable modem through the TV cable shield, or a plumbed coffeemaker through the water in the supply pipe.

For a big machine like a refrigerator, run an extension cord to a receptacle on a different circuit, solely for temporarily testing. Ideally that other circuit is also GFCI, so you get the double confirmation of a) the kitchen stops tripping and b) the other circuit does trip.

Once you find the culprit appliance, you can take a swing at giving it a good clean-up... But realistically, into the trash it goes. This is an age of throwaway appliances.

Don't be surprised if it's your refrigerator. That's common, and here's the thing: Refrigerators don't belong on GFCI. Refrigerators are the exact opposite of the use-case for GFCI: a grounded machine with all the electrical bits shielded by all metal, in the back bottom where you could not possibly access them, and you aren't going to drop it in your sink. I have seen cases where the fridge was the last outlet on the kitchen countertop chain, and as a result every single kitchen countertop outlet needed its own GFCI+receptacle, with LOAD terminals not used at all. If a fridge has a 10ma ground fault, I really do not care. It's not going to threaten anyone but the ground wire.

1

Let's start with an explanation of you kitchen circuits. Pretty much all kitchen circuits are GFCI protected. This is accomplished by installing either a GFCI breaker in the panel or the most common method is to install one GFCI outlet per at the beginning of the circuit and feeding through it to the other receptacles in the circuit. So one GFCI receptacle protects other downstream receptacles. I believe this is you configuration. Note that the other receptacles should be labeled "GFCI Protected", but this may not have happened or someone has taken the labels off.

After turning the power off to the GFCI receptacle you can take it from the box and if you look on the back side you will see that there is an input marked "Line" and an output marked "Load". The easiest way to fix you problem is to move the load side conductors and attach them to the line side the go through your entire circuit and install a GFCI at each receptacle location. That way you will not trip out an entire circuit just the one that is giving you trouble. This way it is easier to identify which receptacle is giving you problems, making it easier for you to correct.

Here are a few diagrams to help you understand.

enter image description here

This is what you configuration looks like now.

enter image description here

This is what you can do to fix your problem.

Good luck and stay safe.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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