1

The bathroom includes a GFCI outlet that will not reset. Research revealed that such outlets do seem to stop working sometimes. So I am attempting to replace the outlet.

After pulling the faceplate off, I found an unexpected situation in the junction box. 3 wires come into the box, and the same 3 wires leave. There are black, red and white leads.

The black lead comes in and is directly spliced to the outgoing black lead with a wire nut. It is not connected to the GFCI at all.

The red lead is wired to hot on BOTH the load and lead terminals of the GFCI. Likewise, the white lead is wired to neutral of both the load and lead terminals.

The red and white wires are both continuous in that they come into the box and leave the box without a break or splice. In each case, the insulation was stripped in the middle of the wire to allow it to wrap around the terminals of the outlet.

Now, questions...

  1. Is this wired correctly, and if not, how do I rewire it so that it is?

My instinct says that I should wire it so the incoming red and white leads are wired to the hot and neutral on the lead side, and that the outgoing red and white leads should be connected only to the hot and neutral load terminals. I don't know what is downstream, but I believe whatever it is would be GFCI protected at that point.

  1. Is it okay to strip insulation in the middle of a wire this way? I mean it works, but is it code compliant?

If it's important to know where the hot and neutral wires eventually terminate, that will require more investigation... who knows what's been done. Not a single thing in this house has ever been done correctly as far as I can tell (e.g. built-in microwave is powered from a lighting circuit instead of having a dedicated 20 amp branch).

  • Can you post a photo? – Tester101 Sep 30 '14 at 18:11
  • It sounds like this might be a multi-wire circuit, so you might have problems with nuisance tripping due to the shared neutral. – Tester101 Sep 30 '14 at 18:15
  • Thanks, the multi-wire comment provided me a crucial clue. I will have to trace the hot leads to their origin to determine if this is truly multi-wire (i.e. see if both hot leads terminate at the panel). This bathroom has a fan with an integrated light, and it could be that it used to be wired with separate switches for the light and fan (it is not currently), and the two hots are an artifact of that. That would not be multi-wire... i.e. there would only be one hot and neutral coming from the panel, and nuisance tripping would not be an issue if the GFCI is connected to those leads. – bobfandango Sep 30 '14 at 19:08
  • Oh, and re: the photo, I'm currently at work and will post one tonight some time. Thanks... – bobfandango Sep 30 '14 at 19:13
  • This sounds insanely wrong, and if it is in fact an Edison circuit -- two hots, shared neutral -- then a GFCI cannot possibly work right because the current on the neutral will not be the same as the current on the hot being measured by the GFCI. It will trip frequently. There was a similar circuit in my house when I bought it and I ended up just pulling new correct wiring through the walls and doing it over. I concur that when you are rewiring an old house, everyone who lived there before you was dangerously ignorant; I've found terrifyingly bad wiring in GFCIs. – Eric Lippert Oct 15 '14 at 16:58
1

The red lead is wired to hot on BOTH the load and lead terminals of the GFCI. Likewise, the white lead is wired to neutral of both the load and lead terminals.

This sounds insanely wrong, and if it is in fact an Edison circuit -- two hots, shared neutral -- then a GFCI cannot possibly work right because the current on the neutral will not be the same as the current on the hot being measured by the GFCI. It will trip frequently.

I don't like shared neutral circuits at the best of times because remember the current on the shared neutral can be as high as the sum of the currents on the hots. Just because the neutral has no voltage does not mean it has no current, but the overcurrent protection on the breakers is on the hots. You don't want to get into an overcurrent situation on the neutral because nothing stops those wires from overheating.

Is this wired correctly, and if not, how do I rewire it so that it is?

There was a similar circuit in my house when I bought it and I ended up just pulling new correct wiring through the walls and doing the whole thing over. I concur that when you are rewiring an old house, everyone who lived there before you was dangerously ignorant; I've found terrifyingly bad wiring in GFCIs.

So, solution one: rewire everything so that there is one circuit for the GFCI and everything downstream that you want protected by it, and another circuit for the non-protected stuff.

However, if you don't want to actually pull new wire through the walls and do it all again, the next best thing to do is solution two: get a two-pole GFCI breaker and replace the breaker in the panel. Now you can throw away the GFCI outlet and replace it with a regular outlet. The downside is (1) expensive, and (2) when it trips you have to go to the panel to reset it.

I just replaced the outlet by splicing the outlet inline i.e. both the incoming and outgoing are connected to the hot lead terminal, same with neutral.

That's solution three, and it will work, but whoever wired it up originally might have wanted things downstream of the GFCI to be protected by it. This solution breaks that property.

0

You want to get one of these: (A GFCI Outlet Tester). You plug it in, and it will check if your wiring is correct, or flipped. It is the fastest and best way to figure out why a GFCI outlet is not working right.

GFCI Outlet Tester

To answer Question #2 in my experience working with both old and new(er) homes, contractors seem to cut corners. However, it is very dangerous to splice a wire to just a stripped portion of another wire. The wires are much more likely to slide off and short out, causing a major problem. It isn't hard to cut the wire and do a junction (Bunch of wires and a huge wire nut)-- And it will definitely be worth it!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.