My wife overloaded a circuit when plugging in a hair dryer. I attempted to reset the GFCI outlet but the reset button would not engage. I purchased a new GFCI outlet and after installing, still no power at any of the outlets in the circuit, even thought the green light is lit on the new GFCI outlet. Just like the old outlet, the test and reset buttons would not engage. Do I need to change the outlet where the hair dry was plugged into?

  • 1
    Can you post photos of the inside of the box please? Is there power at the circuit to begin with? (Check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse at the panel) Apr 10, 2020 at 14:10
  • How are you testing the outlets for power?
    – Kris
    Apr 10, 2020 at 14:11
  • plugging in an electrical device such as a paper shredder
    – Namir
    Apr 10, 2020 at 14:15
  • 1
    @ThreePhaseEel There shouldn't be a green light on the GFCI if the circuit was unpowered... GFCI's don't have batteries in them.
    – Ron Beyer
    Apr 10, 2020 at 14:16
  • Push the reset button harder. Apr 10, 2020 at 14:20

2 Answers 2


Since you have a green light that tells me there is voltage ,some gfci’s require the test then reset reset to be pushed to activate them I would try that first.

One of the things that goes wrong quite often with a overloaded circuit is a connection point fails some place in the circuit it could be on the hot or neutral.

A common source of the failure is a back stab. These push in connectors get hot and may loose contact or direct contact with the wire in some cases leaving only a carbon path or a very light contact that may power a radio but not a light bulb. You just replaced the GFCI so it is time to work back towards the breaker panel.

I would use the hair dryer and start plugging in at the other receptacles on this circuit. You may find several that won’t power the hair dryer in older homes. Once you find a working receptacle on that circuit it will be that receptacle or the first non working receptacle that has the bad connection.

It may also be a broken wire or a wire that came out of a wire nut and last it could be a bad connection in the breaker panel. We normally work back towards the breaker as this is how homes (under the NEC) are wired. If a room has a common wall the receptacles in that room are on the same circuit most of the times in older homes.

I find the backstabs ~96+% are the culprit. I mention this because you have a green light on the GFCI and on all the ones I can remember are green when properly connected.


If you don't have a non-contact voltage tester you should buy one to help solve this problem.
Start at the breaker and make sure it is on for the problem circuit. Remove the faceplate of the GFCI and carefully check for voltage on the "Line" side of the GFCI. Assuming there is voltage on that side now check the "Load" side of the outlet. If the green light is on you should have voltage there as well. If you do, continue downstream carefully checking each outlet as you go. Remember the circuit is live.
The problem will probably be in the first outlet with no power or possibly in the cable between the last outlet with power and the one with no power. Once you find it, shut down the power back at the breaker. Check the GFCI to make sure you have turned off the correct breaker and there is no power in the circuit. Then check the connections to the outlet particularly the pigtail. A loose pigtail at that point would be the prime suspect. In these cases the problem is typically something basic like a loose connection. If this is the outlet where the hair dryer was plugged in and the connections on the outlet and the pigtail are all tight, I would replace the outlet. They are inexpensive and not worth fooling with.
Turn on the breaker and test for power again. My guess is you will have power at this point. If not, the problem, unfortunately, is going to be in the cable between the GFCI and the first non-working outlet. In which case it might be time for an electrician.
Forgot to mention backstabs. Check for them. They are notorious for arcing and failing. Alaways better to attach wires securely with the contact screws.

  • I am not sure if a non contact tester will help in this case because the GFCI receptacle is lighting up. It could be a bad back stab at a previous device and the non contact will show voltage even at a fails hot, and won’t tell if a neutral is the problem if the failure is on that side.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 12, 2020 at 0:05
  • Got it. Thanks. I would have suggested a multimeter but not knowing experience level I was concerned with OP handling two leads on a live circuit.
    – HoneyDo
    Apr 12, 2020 at 0:17
  • Even a standard multi meter will show voltage without a load unless it is a low Z meter , fairly uncommon for homeowners.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 12, 2020 at 0:30
  • You referring to phantom voltage. Right? - which would be very low voltage.
    – HoneyDo
    Apr 12, 2020 at 3:36
  • 1
    Phantom voltage is not low voltage it has to be high enough to trip a no contact tester most are triggered above the low voltage contact limit. I am talking about true line voltage without a significant load, maybe even a few watts but a large load like a hair dryer 1200-1500 the back stab or damaged contact point usually opens From arcing when it heats up. this happens in less than a second and is very common in backstab failures. I have seen boom boxes run fine then plug in a real load and This takes the voltage down close to zero unplug and when things cool off the radio may work again.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 12, 2020 at 5:16

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.