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I moved into a house with an outside GFCI receptacle. The outlet didn't seem to work and the reset button had no effect. No other outlets around or outside the house appeared to be tripped.

I pulled out the outlet and while the outlet didn't work, the wires were still live. I figured the GFCI outlet was no longer working and tried replacing it.

Hooked up the new weather-resistant GFCI and used an outlet tester to confirm the wiring was correct.

The new outlet worked, connected a couple of devices fine, and could be successfully tested with the test/reset buttons on the outlet itself and the outlet tester.

A week later and the new outlet appears dead. Appliances don't work and the tester shows no response. I can't find any other tripped outlets. The 'test' button doesn't have that satisfying click, although the 'reset' button does momentarily flash the red LED (which suggests it is still receiving power?).

Obviously I'm not an electrician but I thought I'd gone through reasonable troubleshooting steps. The outlet is housed in a new weather appropriate non-metallic box, the wires inside conduit. Breakers haven't tripped.

I've even struggled to find other outlets/lights on this same circuit, so while it's possible the circuit is somehow overloaded, none of the major things like kitchen appliances or A/C are on that circuit.

So, with all that noted. What could cause a new receptacle to appear to me to have died, just like the one it replaced? Or is it dumb luck that the replacement is also bad (seems unlikely)? What am I missing?

EDIT:

I've added an image of the outlet. 14-2 going to the LINE and nothing from LOAD. I also kind find any other outlets or lights, GFCI or otherwise, affected by turning off the breaker. And since it's not clear from the photo, yes, the ground wire is connected.

In replacing this outlet I also added a new weatherproof cover to come up to code, that allows the cover to close while in use. In removing this cover to take the photo, I noticed a small amount of water in the bottom of the cover. Now, it's entirely possible the seal wasn't tight enough when installed, but the same outlet was dead with the old cover.

If that's the issue, then I suppose the GFCI has done it's job. Does that ring true? If so, can I address this with electrical tape on the outlet and outdoor grade caulking on the box? Also if moisture was the issue, is the outlet now dead and need replacing again?

enter image description here

  • What devices did you connect to it? Are other outlets fed from the GFCI outlet? – JACK May 14 at 0:37
  • I connected some outdoor fiesta string lights (the black ones we all get from CostCo – I think perhaps 3-4 lines connected?). Also an outdoor timer that receives a plug from small bulbs inside the deck posts. – user118412 May 14 at 0:44
  • "Are other outlets fed from the GFCI outlet?" I suppose both the connected devices could be. GFCI --> Timer --> Deck post lights, and also GFCI --> String lights --> Other string lights – user118412 May 14 at 0:46
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    What Jack is asking, are there any other outlets attached downstream of the GFCI. IE how many wires and what colors are attached to the GFCI. A picture of the outlet and its wires would be very helpful. – Scott May 14 at 0:56
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    Are you hooking things to the LOAD screws? If so, why are you doing that? – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 14 at 1:46
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  1. Normally, the wiring for an outdoor outlet should be from the lower side in order to prevent water coming into the device. Here the wire enters from the right side, which could be a risk, since wind may press water along the cable into the outlet, if the sealing is damaged.

  2. In humid areas an outdoor outlet should be airtight, IP 66 or higher, if a GFCI with only 5mA is mandatory. If that IP class is not available, the lower side should have some tiny openings in order to allow condensed water to leave the outlet. A supporting method would be to put some cat litter inside, which must not touch any wires.

  3. In any case the outlet needs a cover in order to prevent rain entering the rectangular openings with the live/hot metal contacts, especially in stormy weather. There are covers that even protect against rain if a plug is connected, which seems to be used here, but if there is water found in that cover, maybe a 2nd bigger cover or a tiny roof could help. It would be difficult if this wall is the Luv side of the building. But anyway an electric device should not be used outside in rainy weather, unless having at least IP66.

  4. An outdoor outlet should have a switch or dedicated breaker (suited for switching) and lamp to signal when it is powered. Otherwise the outdoor outlet could help burglars using power tools to enter the building, or neighbours could save huge energy costs with their private fusion laboratory if the owners are absent during holidays, if it is kept powered unintentionally.

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  • Good to know re: #1. It'd be a larger job to move the conduit or box but that's useful knowledge. To point #3, the outlet is under a large deck. Water certainly drips down between the Trex boards, but is generally covered from the elements. – user118412 May 28 at 1:13

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