1

I think my issue may be similar to this post but I'll explain my situation. I have an older home and the living room is on a circuit that contains 2 non-grounded outlets and a wall switch.

The wall switch operates one of the outlets, the other is always hot. When the switch is OFF, the light plugged into that outlet turns off, but my contactless voltage tester still beeps on both the white and black plastic insulated wires attached to the terminals on that outlet.

The other outlet (the always hot one) appears to have fabric-insulated hot and neutral wires attached to the top terminals (right and left side respectively), and another neutral wire (this one plastic insulated) connected to the bottom left terminal. In the box behind this outlet, a fabric-insulated wire is connected to a black plastic-insulated wire with a wire nut. I'd like to replace the "always hot" outlet with a GFCI outlet but the GFCI outlet doesn't like that second neutral wire being attached to the "load" terminal. When I removed it from the load terminal, it worked and the little light was green, but as soon as I flipped the wall switch on, the GFCI outlet tripped.

If any of that makes sense, I'd love some assistance figuring out what is going on.

3
  • Can you upload pictures showing each all the wires and how they connect in each box - the always on receptacle, the switched receptacle and the switch? Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 23:51
  • 1
    You cannot have a split always-hot/switched-hot setup on a GFCI receptacle. Your switch will become dead (not connected to the receptacle) and confuse people, or both outlets on the receptacle will be switched, but not both.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 12:22
  • I'm glad you got this working! Since you took the tour, though, you should know that we don't work like other discussion based forums and that editing your question to supply the answer (and changing the question title to indicate [solved]) isn't how things are done here. Please write up your answer down below in the box labeled "Your Answer", then click the check mark next to it so that future readers will know what worked for you. You can "thank" people who helped you by clicking the up arrow next to their answers - that's all the thanks necessary.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 17:56

3 Answers 3

2

You don't know how "Load" terminals work. There was warning tape saying don't use them if you don't know how they work. They aren't just "an extra screw connected to the other screw, convenient for attaching an extra wire without needing a wire nut pigtail" like on a regular outlet.

You didn't mention what other wires are in that box, and which wires are partners to the whites on the socket. By the fact that there's only 1 hot on the outlet I would gather it's pigtailed. If so there's nothing wrong with the neutrals being on there like that, they're just using the outlet as a splice instead of a pigtail.

When installing GFCIs, If you want to duplicate the "2 wires as a splice" thing, read the GFCI instructions - it will tell you how to put 2 wires on the LINE terminal.

You won't ever need the LOAD terminals until you want to use the downline protection feature to GFCI-protect another outlet location using this outlet.

1
  • Thanks, that makes sense. I saw that in the instructions but I tried it anyway like an idiot. I connected both neutrals under the plate on the LINE terminal and all is working now (after also finding the wall switch was faulty and leaking current).
    – PaulB
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 17:16
1

SOLVED! - After sleeping on it, I decided to test the wall switch and it was leaking current in the OFF position. I replaced the switch and took a suggestion that a couple different posters made to connect both neutrals to the LINE terminal and all is in working order! Thank you. (I realize this solution does NOT protect the downstream outlet)

2
  • Leaking current? That's extremely doubtful. Your no-contact voltage sensor does not detect current, and in ungrounded wiring systems like yours, quite frequently does not even give meaningful results for voltage.
    – kreemoweet
    Commented Mar 26, 2023 at 2:40
  • Well it detected voltage on both sides of the switch when in the OFF position and it didn't do that for the other switch right next to it. Plus, when in the OFF position, the hot wire would beep from at least 1/4 inch away while the other would beep, but I had to be practically touching it. Once flipped to ON, both sides would beep from 1/4 inch away. After replacing the switch, there is no more beeping from the other side when the switch is OFF.
    – PaulB
    Commented Mar 27, 2023 at 5:22
0

A single neutral wire by itself is very odd. Most likely, someone "stole" the neutral for another use (e. g. A neutral wire for a switch loop box to allow a smart switch to be installed). This is actually against code.

As to your GFCI question - Do not connect that neutral wire to the LOAD terminals. The only thing you can connect to LOAD terminals is a complete, isolated circuit going to other loads that you want to protect with the GFCI. This is the ONLY way you can connect the LOAD terminals and make it work!

I would first try leaving the extra white disconnected (cap it with a wire nut) and see what stops working. Again, most likely, this will be a smart switch nearby but could be just about anything. If you are lucky, nothing will stop working and you can leave it that way.

If you must connect this white wire, it most connect to the LINE terminal, along with the other neutral. The best way is to make a pigtail to the switch and connect all of the wires in a wirenut.

I would not recommend leaving it this way for long. You may need to call an electrician to sort this out.

1
  • Thanks - leaving it disconnected didn't work but I tried your second suggestion and connected both neutrals to the LINE terminal and that worked! However, before I did that, I thought it might be a good idea to check the wall switch and sure enough it was faulty. It was leaking current when in the OFF position. I replaced that, implemented your suggestion with the two neutrals to the LINE terminal on the GFCI, and all is good. I am fully aware the downstream outlets is NOT protected by the GFCI outlet but I'll probably replace that at some point. Thank you!
    – PaulB
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 16:55

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.