I have 14 ground fault circuits split 7 on each side of my panel. I have recently had 5 or six trip on the left side and 1 or 2 on the right. It happens at all hours. It appears I have some kind of problem mainly on the left. It is a Square D box with all square D breakers and a single ground stake. I have had all trip in bad storms before. Thinking maybe I need to add more ground stakes.

Any ideas of what could be tripping the breakers like this?

  • 2
    Do you live in an area with frequent lighting?
    – Tester101
    Oct 28, 2013 at 12:20
  • Other than lightning, I could imagine a faulty neutral connection causing issues. One clue that that's the issue would be a large voltage swing when you run a major appliance on a 110v circuit (like a microwave). If the voltage on any circuit increases when you run the microwave, that's a major giveaway.
    – BMitch
    Oct 29, 2013 at 11:36
  • 1
    You have a lot of GFCI breakers. Is there something special about your situation? Mar 5, 2014 at 6:38
  • Most of these possibilities sound good but working in live panels especially if you are not properly trained is a good way to get dead . If you have had plumbing work done recently you should make sure that they didn't insulate your cold water ground from the panel by installing plastic pipe.
    – user24125
    Aug 1, 2014 at 7:12

7 Answers 7


I highly doubt they have 14 GFCI breakers in their panel. I would all but guarantee that they are referring to AFCI breakers, and they are experiencing nuisance trips. Could even be that the breakers are the early Square D AFCI breakers that were recalled. This was very common of early AFCI breakers which is why you see so many subsequent incarnations.

I'll also add that grounding and bonding, or the absence thereof, would have NOTHING to do with nuisance tripping of AFCI or GFCI breakers.


I had a similar issue when some power-factor-correction capacitors were failing down the road from me. One night, the capacitors blew up, and the problem ceased. We were having lights flicker occasionally, too. Perhaps a failing transformer could cause this issue. These are all things that your power company is responsible for (and a customer can't repair).

One thought is that there's some sort of intermittent short between neutral and ground, but this would generally effect only one circuit at a time....

There could be issues with a faulty connection in the supply to the breaker panel. Take a look at the service entrance (mast attached to roof?). Perhaps the insulation is failing on the line going to your house and causing intermittent opens or shorts. If so, get help from your power company or an electrician because a homeowner can't de-energize the electric service.


GFCIs work on the principle of a differential current transformer. If the difference between line and neutral is > few mA or so, they trip the breaker, on the assumption that the difference in current is flowing via ground wire thus a potential hazard wherever that current may be flowing. If ground were to be open (fault) then a hazardous leakage current might be the cause. But in your case a false alarm.

The distribution transformer is grounded to Neutral for the split line power. If you also have GFCIs installed at your panel then have Neutral grounded anywhere in the home, then you have an imbalanced Return Path in your home which can trigger faults on transients. To check, Turn off master breakers disconnect neutral and measure home neutral to ground voltage then resistance or ask an Electrician to test.

Do you notice lights flickering on any circuits that do not trip, when these events occur?


All of my GFCI breakers would trip, one by one, over the course of about 6 hours. Based on posts here, I opened the panel to check for loose neutrals and found it swarming with ants, a few leaves and spider webs. I shut off the main breaker, lifted all the other breakers, and blasted the panel with compressed air. I shot a can of contact cleaner in, avoiding the service entry lines, and some outdoor insect killer around the sides and cable entry points. After putting everything back together the problem was solved.


Unless your structure is incorrectly wired (like a lot of those circuits being tied together somewhere), the only thing in common to the failing GFCIs is the power feed.

I would start by a) shutting off the main breaker, and b) opening the main breaker panel and inspecting the main leads, especially the neutral/ground from the meter. Give them a firm tug and make sure they are extremely secure. Be sure to stay clear of the wires from the meter to the main breaker: They are live! Even though the main breaker is off.

Also, examine the neutral bus connection(s) to the ground/neutral terminal strips: In every Square D panel I have seen, there are bolts which connect the bus bars together. Other brands may use a heavy wire with each end in an eye nut arrangement which goes over a bolt into the bus bars.

Especially, if there was recent wiring work, check that all those circuits have their neutrals properly run to the breaker, the "curly white wire" secure in the ground bus, and all the grounds securely in the ground bus.

Next check that the ground rod is intact and the wire which goes into the service panel is securely connected at both ends. If there is any doubt, go ahead and remove it for a few minutes to polish the copper wire and rod into the clamp with 100–400 grit sandpaper, wire brush, steel wool, etc.

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Next, look at the meter and service wires (if above ground). Are they in good shape?

If all of those are beyond question, call the power company. They will probably repeat the latter steps, but will eventually escalate it to a electric technician which will come armed with a meter to see what is going on. They probably have a faulty neutral or bad ground on their side.

  • Tugging on live wires is not at all a good idea. If they are in fact loose, doing this will likely cause some reasonably spectacular sparks that you'd probably not want to be within arm's reach of. While most of your suggestions are good, the power from the meter needs to be off to do most of this work.
    – gregmac
    Mar 24, 2014 at 15:37
  • @gregmac: Updated accordingly. I disagree about shutting off the meter. That is an unnecessary and significant barrier for getting to the bottom of the problem.
    – wallyk
    Mar 24, 2014 at 15:43

It's possible you have AFCI (or CAFCI) breakers, not ground fault. If this problem has existed since they were installed, it could be improper installation, for example in multi-wire circuits.


Like all things when it comes to electricity of any kind, always check the ground cable, wire, spike or grounding source. A good ground is needed for sensitive GFI breakers. They are super sensitive. Also replacing some weak breakers is possibly necessary. Good luck and I would add a ground.

  • Grounding has NOTHING to do with the functionality of AC building wiring. It is a "safety backup" of sorts and does NOT play a role in the operation of circuits. Aug 2, 2014 at 11:52

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