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Thread: GFCI failure?

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    Jack Wingo's Avatar
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    Default GFCI failure?

    Recently, had a GFCI receptacle that tripped when the 'Test Button' was pushed, however, using a Sure Test or a Sperry tester, in that receptacle and other receptacles down current, the breaker would not trip. Which test is accurate, the handheld testers or the test button.
    I do recall at a Florida Association of Bldg Inspectors meeting, we had a Leviton rep, give a presentation and he said the builtin test button was an accurate indicator.
    As always I would appreciate your assistance.

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    Jim Port's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    The only recognized test is using the built-in test button.

    All answers based on unamended National Electrical codes.

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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    Possible non-grounded GFCI? That will do exactly what you said happened.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

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    Eric Barker's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    The various manufacturers of GFCI devices (whether breakers, receptacles or after-market testers) have varying thresholds for tripping. When you use your own GFCI tester on a GFCI protected receptacle you may likely not be comparing apples to apples.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

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    Jerry Peck's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    Jack,

    As the others have said - the TEST button is the best test for the GFCI tripping.

    The GFCI should trip at 5 ma +/- 1 ma, so the various levels of tripping should be no less than 4 ma and no greater than 6 ma. The cheaper testers typically only have a single test current of greater than 6 ma (where all should trip), the more expensive testers typically start out with a low test current which slowly gets higher until 7 ma to 10 ma (some used to go higher, but there was no need, if the GFCI does not trip at 7 ma the GFCI is defective).

    The reason the GFCI did not trip at a downstream receptacle could be many, from a poor to no ground, to wiring the GFCI receptacle as a bypass instead of a pass-through, and other possible causes.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    John Kogel's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    I've seen GFCI's with hot and neutral reversed, the test button still trips it, the 3 prong tester won't trip it, but it would of course indicate the wiring was wrong.

    Sometimes outdoor units can be really slow to respond to the plug in tester, probably due to tarnished slots, poor contacts.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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    Lou Romano's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    Possible non-grounded GFCI? That will do exactly what you said happened.
    Jim nailed the more likely problem here!


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    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lou Romano View Post
    Jim nailed the more likely problem here!
    Dido .... but I usually do not agree with babies sticking a plug into a receptacle

    Ted Menelly, Castle Home Inspection Services
    www.inspectmycastle.com
    Fort Worth, Keller, Southlake, Plano, Flower Mound, DFW, TX

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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Wingo View Post
    Recently, had a GFCI receptacle that tripped when the 'Test Button' was pushed, however, using a Sure Test or a Sperry tester, in that receptacle and other receptacles down current, the breaker would not trip. Which test is accurate, the handheld testers or the test button.
    I do recall at a Florida Association of Bldg Inspectors meeting, we had a Leviton rep, give a presentation and he said the builtin test button was an accurate indicator.
    As always I would appreciate your assistance.
    I agree with Jim Robinson, however in reading your post I had this thought: "Breaker? what breaker would not trip?"

    Its also possible the GFCI receptacle is older and/or has failed after too many trips or exposure to voltage gradients, and will not open under fault conditions.

    Links to short but informative historical articles you may find interesting:

    Replacing 2-Wire Ungrounded Receptacles

    Three-Lamp Circuit Tester: Valid Tester or Night-Light?

    Think like a GFCI

    You should also read the instructions and limitations of your "tester", presuming it is listed.


  10. #10
    Lou Romano's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    Enjoyed the links HG thank you!


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    Post Re: GFCI failure?

    Jerry's post brings up an important consideration: know your test equipment. Most three-lamp GFCI testers will trip any GFCI that is properly wired and properly grounded. But this should be verified on a known outlet occasionally, to verify that the tester is functioning as designed. If the internal test button trips the GFCI, then it will probably trip in a fault condition. There is a "real-life" test, but I will not go into it here, and do not recommend it.

    Randy Aldering, RHI CHI
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

  12. #12
    Lou Romano's Avatar
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    Default Re: GFCI failure?

    If you take a standard voltage tester, like a Wiggy or similar and test the outlet from hot to ground it will trip if it is grounded and working properly. Obviously this does not mean the GFCI trips at the acceptable ma range but it does tell you if it is grounded and that it will at least trip.

    I have found that if the device trips by test button and or testing hot to ground it is usually working properly when verified with my GFCI tester.


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