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Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters or GFCI outlets are an important safety feature in our homes. Their main purpose is to trip in the case of any unusual electrical behavior, and as a result, prevent accidents, electric shocks, and electrical fires.
So, in essence, if your GFCI receptacle does trip, it is doing what it was meant to do perfectly well. However, if the GFCI outlet keeps tripping, that may be a cause for concern. In this short read, we’re going to discuss why this may be happening, as well as some troubleshooting tips.
Common reasons why GFCI receptacles trip
Ground faults could be causing the GFCI outlet to trip
All electrical appliances have a ground wire. Ground fault occurrences take place when hot wires or live electric wires come into direct contact with the grounded area or the ground wire of an appliance. This causes a current leak.
GFCI receptacles detect when electrical currents flow off the path they are meant to, like through water, for example. The moment they detect electrical leaks measuring even as little as 0.0005 amps, the circuit breakers trip right away. This is what makes them an essential safety component, especially in kitchens, bathrooms, and other wet areas of our homes.
But how can you be sure that the GFCI outlet tripped because of power leakage? Turn off the switches to all the electrical outlets on the circuit that tripped. Then, unplug the appliance plugged into the outlet and check it for damaged wiring and electrical wear and tear.
Any signs of electrical ear and tear mean that the appliance is not safe to use until repairs.
It could be the presence of moisture
The presence of moisture in GFCI receptacles could be the reason for the GFCI to trip. This commonly happens in outdoor receptacles after rains, especially in very humid places. The humidity makes it difficult for moisture to evaporate from the GFCI receptacles.
To confirm this is the cause, turn off the circuit breakers to the outlets and inspect the receptacle box. If there is moisture in the receptacle, we’d advise you to leave getting rid of the moisture to professional electricians, in order to avoid the risk of electrical shocks.
Once the moisture has dried up, you can reset the GFCI. It is also advisable to upgrade the weatherproof receptacle boxes in high humidity areas, including the outdoors, bathrooms and kitchens, and to lock these boxes up.
Circuit overloads can cause tripping
When an electrical current of larger amperage than the circuit can handle flows through it, it causes the GFCI outlets to trip. This could happen due to malfunctioning appliances, corroded wiring, or even loose wires.
To confirm that overloading is the source of the problem, first, disconnect power to the circuit and remove the appliance connected to the outlet when it tripped. Then, reset the GFCI outlet and plug the appliance in again to test if it still trips.
If it does, then reset the GFCI again by pressing the reset button on the box, and plug in a different appliance into the outlet. Also, If it doesn’t trip, it means that the appliance is at fault. If the outlet still trips, it could be that the wiring is, or the outlet cannot handle the amperage required by the appliance.
In the case of the latter, you will need to invest in a new dedicated circuit that can handle the required amperage for those appliances.
The reason could be electrical faults
Electrical faults caused by faulty electrical wiring could be why your GFCI constantly trips. Another possible reason is that an electrical outlet that was not originally part of your home’s wiring has been connected to the same circuit, resulting in electrical faults.
These, however, are not simple fixes and require the skill and experience of a certified electrician.
The GFCI outlet could be faulty
If none of the above causes are the reason why your GFCI keeps tripping, the problem could be with the GFCI outlet itself.
All GFCI outlets have sensitive circuitry designed to detect any electrical anomalies in the circuit and switch them off immediately. With time, this gets damaged and leaves you with an outlet that is of no use.
In this case, you will once again need to call upon an electrician to help you replace or repair the outlet.
Exercise extreme caution while working with electric circuits
While we have told you how to go about investigating why your GFCI could be tripping, you ought to always experience extreme caution while working with electric circuits. Always make sure you turn off switches before you check any circuits or receptacle boxes.
Electric shocks can be very painful, even fatal if not handled properly. If you are inexperienced with working around electrical problems, or at any time doubt what you are doing, don’t think twice about calling upon an experienced and licensed electrician. However, it is always advisable to check multiple electric service companies before you choose the right one to work with.