Disclaimer: I know nothing about electrical things.

House is 4.5 years old.

GFCI in wet bar had red light. Refrigerator was off. Hit RESET button and refrigerator turned on and light indicator turned off. Hit TEST button and refrigerator turned off and red light appeared again. Hit RESET once more and same thing happened light turned off, refrigerator turned on. FYI, all GFCI receptacles in house normally have active solid green light on.

Checked GFCIs in kitchen. All lights were off, however, GFCIs still working. Hit TEST and red lights turned on and GFCIs not working. HIT RESET and GFCIs are working but no light indicator on any.

Checked GFCI in laundry room and in master bedroom bathroom. Both locations GFCIs have solid green light. Hit TEST on them and green light appeared and no power. Hit RESET and both have solid green light again. Other bathrooms do not have a GFCI receptacle but instead have GFCI circuit breaker I think is what they're called so couldn't check lights.

Turned all breakers off and turned them on one by one but this didn't do anything.

Other weird thing: normally plug laptop into outlet in living area in lower level ranch that's near the wet bar but in the living space vs. bar area. I use a surge protector in this outlet. Same day noticed red light on GFCI in wet bar, both red and green indicator light on surge protector went out when plugged into that outlet. Outlet is still working but lights indicate that something is wrong and that surge protection is no longer working. Plugged surge protector into outlet on same wall a little further down and both indicator lights are on.

  • 2
    What make/model are the GFCIs in question? GFCI indicator light behavior isn't standardized... Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 0:18
  • Some surge protectors discharge surges into the ground wire, potentially tripping the RCD (aka GFCI). Also, the noise Suppression (the nains RF filter in the device) can "leak" current into the ground wire. Too many devices together can trip any RCD/GFCI.
    – Klaws
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


A couple things here.

GFCI devices differ one from the other

I'd imagine that most of your GFCI receptacles are one brand/model, and then you have a few of another brand/model. Expect differences between them, and to understand any particular one, you need read its documentation: which in practicality means yank it out, obtain its model number, and look it up on the Internet. The "yank it out" part is not something a novice should undertake. So if the lights on different units do different things, I really don't care. What I'm looking for is:

  • If you push TEST, the power is knocked out.
  • If you push RESET, the power comes back.
  • If I use a plug-in GFCI tester in a location that is grounded and supposed to have GFCI, a GFCI trips somewhere, knocks out power, and power comes back when I reset.
    • It is forgivable if power doesn't come back because another GFCI also needs to be reset.

Some things should not be on GFCI

This is a matter of "best practice", not safety. So if you have someone out for another reason, have them fix these.

Top of the list is refrigerators. That actually is a safety thing. Suppose Person A makes lunch so they plug in a sandwich griddle. The GFCI trips. A can't figure it out and walks away. Family goes out for dinner. Next day, B is making breakfast, finds tripped GFCI, unplugs griddle and GFCI resets OK. Ducky doo, right? The refrigerator has been off for 18 hours.

Second is most hardwired loads, i.e. those that don't get near water. Lights which are not in a shower are at the top of the hitlist. You don't want the room turning pitch black the moment the grill, curling iron or circular saw trips the GFCI, because now you have hot things or fast moving blades inches from your body and you can't see. The only way to make that worse is to add zombies.

Other things that don't need GFCI are other non-water appliances that are properly grounded: Range hoods, built-in microwaves, dryers ranges and ovens that have 4-wire connections and are actually grounded, etc.

In fact, having GFCI protection on a washer right next to a 3-wire-connected dryer is a picture postcard example of bad priorities: the grounded washer was never a threat, and the 3-wire dryer is waiting to kill someone. It's like a "No Smoking" sign right next to an unmarked open pit.

Other GFCIs should not be on GFCI. If testing one GFCI knocks out power to another, the second GFCI is redundant and is not needed. It doesn't do any direct harm, but it does the indirect harm of someone being tempted to rip out annoying GFCIs. However, don't confuse GFCIs with AFCIs, they provide completely different protections. GFCI stops electrocutions, AFCI stops house fires.

As for mysteries on Chinese power strips, I don't try to solve those. Consumer grade power strips have weak surge protection that is only designed to last 3 months to a year depending on how many surges you get. The 2020 Electrical Code will require a "whole house surge suppressor" on new and remodel houses and panels, and these typically come from the same Tier 1 suppliers who make the panels themselves, such as Siemens, GE, Eaton etc., so the good stuff.

  • For those in the EU: your whole house has a GFCI so while above post is great the reasoning works differently over here.
    – Borgh
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 7:52
  • @Borgh Not necessarily. That depends from country to country.
    – glglgl
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 9:38
  • Wow, they found something even more expensive than AFCIs to legislate a market for? Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 10:33
  • A modern fridge should, when powered back on, sound an alarm when it finds out that it has been off for 18 hours and the temperature is no longer in the set range. Also, had one case where a fridge had become lethal do to a fault, if not for the RCD.
    – Klaws
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 11:54
  • Surely those are arguments for putting lights, fridges, &c on different GCFI circuits, not for having them on no GCFI at all? (I'm in the UK, where houses generally have several lighting circuits, several circuits for power sockets, and maybe dedicated circuits for cooker/freezer — each protected by an RCD.)
    – gidds
    Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 12:02

Typically, the red light indicates that the GFCI has tripped. When you push the "test" button, it intentionally trips the GFCI so you can see that it's working normally. The light should come on, the power should go off, and the Reset button pops out ever so slightly. During normal operation, the light should be off, power on, and both buttons flush with the surface of the outlet.

I'm not sure what you mean about your laundry room and bedroom GFCIs, I think there may be a typo there. The behavior sounds correct but the lights sound strange.

The surge protectors I've seen that have red and green lights, the lights have different meanings. Green means surge protection is active or that the strip is recieving power. Red could mean that the outlet is grounded (important for surge protection) or that it is NOT grounded (meaning a fault).

The outlet near the bar you mentioned is probably "downstream" of the GFCI and protected by it, so when that GFCI trips the outlet loses power also. It helps when these non-GFCI outlets are labeled "protected by GFCI" so it's less confusing to troubleshoot.

If there's not a tiny description near each of your lights (the green on your GFCIs and the green and red on your surge protector) you may need to consult documentation on what each light means.

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