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GFCI 20 amp breaker in main panel powers 1 bathroom on far end of house, 2 lights 1 fan on switches, and 2 GFCI receptacles.

Occasionally the power panel GFCI trips. I think the GFCIs are fighting each other.

I believe this is redundant and should not be wired this way because the GFCIs are causing the power panel to trip with nothing plugged in. Would it be proper to replace the Receptacles or the circuit breaker with non-GFCI?

I bought this house a couple years ago, older but remodeled some years ago. Every so often the power goes out only in the Master bath when nobody is in it, so far every time it shuts off it is because of the circuit breaker tripped and not a receptacle. When everything is working, when I trip the receptacle test button it only affects the one receptacle that was tested. When I trip the circuit breaker test button it affects the whole bathroom.

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As long as you are sure you have a panel GFCI breaker (not AFCI (AFCI + GFCI is fine, just not AFCI by itself)) then yes, you have a redundant system and can replace the GFCI receptacles with ordinary receptacles.

If the panel breaker is actually AFCI (and not also GFCI) then it is a good thing to have but does not provide sufficient protection for bathroom receptacles.

If the panel breaker is AFCI or AFCI+GFCI then you may have an arc fault triggering the panel breaker rather than a ground fault. These are two different types of problems with different fixes. The short version is:

  • Ground faults kill people, especially in wet areas (bathrooms & kitchens). GFCIs stop the power fast enough to save you from serious injury or death. To work effectively, GFCIs can be installed anywhere from the panel up to the point of likely problem (e.g., the bathroom receptacle).
  • Arc faults cause fires. AFCIs protect your house from burning down by detecting the problems at an early stage. To work effectively, AFCIs need to be installed in or near the panel.

If you do replace the GFCI receptacles, I recommend getting a GFCI tester like this one. After installing the receptacles, test each one (and any other receptacles that are supposed to be protected by the panel GFCI breaker) to make sure that the panel breaker does trip when it is supposed to. If you find that the panel breaker does not always trip, then it may be failing and should be replaced.

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Find out if your breaker is actually GFCI and not something else. If it is, someone played a "yo dawg" joke on you:

yo dawg, I herd you like GFCIs

so I put a GFCI on your GFCI

so you can trip while you trip

To be more precise, what happened is the guy who installed the GFCI breaker may have failed to install the mandatory "GFCI Protected" sticker on all the outlets, or the wife tore them off because they're ugly. Later, someone else e.g. A home inspector came along, saw no TEST button and no sticker, went "OMG, this outlet is not GFCI protected" and fit a GFCI socket.

Stacked GFCIs won't fight each other, but they are wasteful of GFCIs, and resetting a trip that's downline of two requires a very picky reset sequence.

A GFCI will not trip on a ground fault that is not downline of it. That may help you find this bug, because you can cross off any part of the circuit that's behind a GFCI that did not trip. Temporarily installing redundant GFCIs is useful for troubleshooting.

So yes, ultimately remove either the GFCI sockets or the breaker, depending on if you want the other things on the circuit GFCI protected. Damaged or old loads are the #1 reason for a trip, and that can inclunde hardwired loads. Having the whole circuit on GFCI obviously enhances safety, but it also causes "bug hunts" like this.

To do the bug hunt, remove one load or section of the circuit at a time, and see if the trip problem goes away. It lends itself to "divide and conquer", i.e. cut the circuit in half to see which half that's in, then cut that half in half, etc.

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The GFCIs will not "fight" each other. If there is a ground fault downwind from either of the bathroom GFCIs then the one to trip will be the one with a more sensitive detection circuit. If the ground fault is between the circuit breaker panel and one of the bathroom GFCIs then the circuit breaker GFCI would be the one to trip.

It is possible that one or the other of the bathroom GFCIs has developed a failure mode inside its circuitry that causes the trip of the more sensitive GFCI. In addition I suppose it is possible that the failure mode in the bathroom GFCI could feasibly be so bad that the unit itself cannot trip, but you can easily check that using the test button on the bathroom GFCI in question.

  • When everything is working when i trip the test button it only affects the one receptacle that was tested. I bought this house a couple years ago. Every so often the power goes out only in the Master bath when nobody was in it, so far every time it shuts off it is because of the circuit breaker tripped and not a receptacle. – Alan Sanders Nov 30 '18 at 4:35
  • "Trip the test only affects the one receptacle" may mean "test is designed in a way that it will, by its very nature, affect the receptacle rather than the whole circuit" (which is fine if designed that way) and/or "receptacle GFCI is more sensitive than panel breaker GFCI" (which is also fine). It doesn't necessarily tell us anything about the state of the panel breaker GFCI. If you can post a picture of the panel breaker that would tell us exactly what type of breaker it is. When that breaker trips, it may be due to a ground fault, an arc fault (if it is also an AFCI) or it may be failing. – manassehkatz Nov 30 '18 at 5:36

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