I have a small condo with one bathroom. There is a GFI in the kitchen and bathroom.

The GFI in the bathroom trips off on a regular basis. It started slowly (like 1/week) and now it happens multiple times a day. It happens whenever I go to switch on the light in the bathroom and I can also cause it to go off if I use the receptacle with items like my hair clippers (I think it draws a lot of watts).

The GFI in the kitchen also trips off. This one happens less frequently (like 1/month) but it will also happen completely on it's own. I'll just be sitting there, with nothing plugged in and the GFI will trip.

What could be causing this? Is it dangerous? Is there a way for me to debug some of the problems before I call someone in? Can it cause a fire?


I am not a professional electrician but one possibility is failing component. If yours are plug in (or if you are happy with mains wiring) then try swapping the two dodgy ones with each other or with non-dodgy ones. Make sure you swap like with like (current/wattage ratings etc). Make sure you take all necessary precautions.

If the fault follows the component then it would point to a failed component.

If the fault doesn't follow the component but is on the same circuit then I would say there is something wrong with the install. My top three issues are: water damage; rodent damage; or deteriorated installation. Good luck trying to find it!

Water is notoriously nasty for troubleshooting and just because you found some at point B it isn't necessarily coming from point A (the closest source). It could be coming from point R (a totally random point nowhere near). It likes to follow the scenic route from source to where it manifests.

Yes it's dangerous! The GFI is there for a reason. At least you have not said that you have forced it permanently on my taping it in the on position. And that is not a suggestion. DON'T DO IT!

Yes it could potentially cause a fire. Especially if it is a fault in the installation. It could be sparking unseen and sparks are a good source of fires.


If the GFI's are old, might as well replace them. If the problem still persists then there is something else going on. Typically the GFI's will only trip if there is a current on the ground or if there is an unbalanced load (more or less current on the neutral than on the hot). Fire risk is low.

  • 5
    GFCI devices don't monitor the grounding conductor at all. In fact, a grounding conductor isn't even required at all for the device to function properly. – Tester101 Sep 17 '14 at 22:46
  • I know they don't require a ground to work but I've always assumed they monitored the ground as well as the current on the hot and neutral. I guess if there is a current on the ground it means the neutral will not be in balance with the hot. – diceless Sep 18 '14 at 4:15
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    @diceless: The ground is not wired to a GFI at all. – wallyk Oct 18 '14 at 4:26

GFCI breakers are way easier to deal with than the outlets. Replace all outlets with regular ones and stick a GFCI breaker in the panel.

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