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I have a GFCI tripping problem. My garbage disposal is connected to an outlet protected by a GFCI breaker. I am still able to run the disposal several times within one or two hours after I reset the breaker of garbage disposal. HOWEVER, the next morning, it is always tripped... The breaker indicates ground fault. Outlet tester shows no lights (indicating no power?). I am not familiar with electricity at all. I appreciate any help!

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  • Is there anything else at all on that circuit? If you turn off the breaker that disables the disposal, does anything else turn off.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:43
  • I don't think so. When it's tripped, we don't find anything else not working properly. Also in the breaker panel, it says it's for disposal which I interpret as "for disposal ony".
    – loop
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:45
  • GFCI breakers and receptacles are sensitive electronic devices and Motor loads like your disposal are electrically noisy and may have damaged the GFCI. I might change out the breaker to see if it is faulty. 2 year old disposal is not very old at all but your breaker not properly resetting is an issue and the reason I would replace it .
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 27, 2020 at 16:03

1 Answer 1

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The outlet tester shows no lights, because there is no power until you reset the GFCI.

A GFCI can trip because there is a ground fault or because the GFCI itself is bad. Most of the time, it is an actual ground fault - a life-safety condition. Consider the different possibilities:

  • The disposal has a fault which only appears after an extended period of time. For example, there could be a very small leak of water into the motor. It could be that it is a very slow leak, so it does not show up on immediate use, but does trip the GFCI after several hours of drip-drip-drip. Then it trips in the middle of the night. By the time you get to it, the water has dried out and you are able to reset the GFCI and use the disposal again for a while. Key question: How old is the disposal? Any signs of cracks in the case? Any water under the sink, anywhere?

  • A downstream device has a fault. A GFCI can be connected to multiple devices (receptacles or hard-wired) using the LOAD connections. This is unlikely for a disposal receptacle, but it is possible. If that is the case, or if you have something else plugged in to the 2nd receptacle (assuming it is a typical dual receptacle) then a different device could be causing the problem.

  • Water dripping into the receptacle. A long-shot, but if there is water leaking under the sink and slowly making its way down the cord to the receptacle, that could cause a GFCI trip. If that's the case, you want to to trace back to the disposal, drain and sink to find where water is leaking.

Based on discussion in comments, it is not clear whether the disposal is causing the trip or something else. Suggestion: Next time you use the disposal for the "usual" amount, assuming you have no GFCI trip at the time, unplug it. Then the next morning see if you find:

  • GFCI tripped before you plug in the disposal. This would indicate a problem with something else on the circuit or with the GFCI breaker itself.
  • GFCI trips immediately upon plugging in the disposal or after plugging in as soon as you try turning the disposal on. This would indicate a problem in the disposal itself.
  • Disposal runs fine for a while after plugging it in. This would indicate some sort of leakage inside the disposal causing the "usual" trip and drying out before you plug it in (or on a regular day, drying out before you reset the GFCI).
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  • Thank you so much for your response! I did reset the GFCI in the breaker before I tested the outlet. In fact, immediately after I got no lights from the outlet tester, I connected the disposal and it ran ok. My disposal is about 2 years old (it's a new condo I bought two years go and it came with it). Didn't notice there is any water leak.
    – loop
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:26
  • If your first point is the cause, what would you suggest in this situation? Thanks!
    – loop
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:28
  • No lights from the tester, yet the disposal ran OK? That seems odd. Is the GFCI in the receptacle (TEST/RESET buttons right next to the outlets) or is the GFCI in the "breaker panel"? Jul 27, 2020 at 15:28
  • If the problem is actually in the disposal, then it is time for a new disposal. That would be unusual for a 2-year-old disposal - they typically last 10 - 15 years - but not impossible. Jul 27, 2020 at 15:32
  • I thought it was odd too....The test/reset button is in the breaker panel. The tester works fine with other GFCI outlet...
    – loop
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:36

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