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Old 12-21-2011, 02:27 PM   #1
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


I know I must be missing something easy. My daughter purchased a Dirt Devil Power Stick vacuum. It is corded only - no cordless option with this model. It says it has a 10 amp motor. It pops the GFCI only in one situation.

In the kitchen, we have a 20 amp breaker with 12 gauge wire to the GFCI outlet under kitchen sink. The outlet feeds (via 12 gauge wire) a 15 amp outlet at the end of the end of the cabinet and the dishwasher.

If the Power Stick is plugged into the 15 amp outlet, the GFCI will pop almost immediately. If it is plugged into the GFCI outlet under the sink, it will not pop. I see no damage to the wire or outlets. Using a different 15 amp outlet makes no difference.

Could it be too many amps on a cheap outlet? Any suggestions on what else could be causing the problem.

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Old 12-21-2011, 02:40 PM   #2
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


The amperage of the unit will not trip a gfci.
A gfci trips on an imbalance of the hot and neutral.
Since this thing trips on the down stream side of the gfci, there could be a problem with the wiring.

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Old 12-21-2011, 06:23 PM   #3
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


My first guess is that in either the problem outlet or the GFCI that protects it, there's a ground wire touching a neutral.
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Old 12-21-2011, 11:10 PM   #4
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


So it is popping a 15 amp circuit,
But not an 20 amp circuit !
If this is the case,
then it could be an amp related problem,
If the motor is 10 amps running,
then it could pull a lot more during start up !

Also what else is on the 15 amp circuit ?
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Old 12-22-2011, 12:31 AM   #5
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


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Originally Posted by dmxtothemax View Post
So it is popping a 15 amp circuit,
But not an 20 amp circuit !
If this is the case,
then it could be an amp related problem,
If the motor is 10 amps running,
then it could pull a lot more during start up !

Also what else is on the 15 amp circuit ?
I had to read the original post a few times to grasp it, but I think there's a single 20 amp circuit involved here that has one outlet that's 20A, and another downstream that's 15A.


To the original poster -- My understanding of running a 15A outlet on a 20A circuit is that it won't do anything to prevent running more than 15A through the outlet, short of at some point burning up (which I have no idea if that point is between 15-20A, or higher.) My understanding (and consider that I'm new to electrical) is that jbfan's dead on. Drawing more than 15A through this outlet won't trip the GFCI outlet -- it will only trip if there is a large enough difference between the current running through the hot and neutral sides.

I'm leaning toward a wiring issue, like jbfan and McSteve said.
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Old 12-22-2011, 07:26 AM   #6
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


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Originally Posted by darlingm View Post
My understanding of running a 15A outlet on a 20A circuit is that it won't do anything to prevent running more than 15A through the outlet, short of at some point burning up (which I have no idea if that point is between 15-20A, or higher.
Having a 15 amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit is perfectly legal. The appliance plug prevents drawing 20 amp through a 15 amp receptacle.

OP: You will have to pull the GFCI out of its box and verify the wiring is correct and that there is clearance between any ground and neutral.
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Old 12-22-2011, 11:35 AM   #7
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


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Originally Posted by brgmgb View Post
I know I must be missing something easy. My daughter purchased a Dirt Devil Power Stick vacuum. It is corded only - no cordless option with this model. It says it has a 10 amp motor. It pops the GFCI only in one situation.

In the kitchen, we have a 20 amp breaker with 12 gauge wire to the GFCI outlet under kitchen sink. The outlet feeds (via 12 gauge wire) a 15 amp outlet at the end of the end of the cabinet and the dishwasher.

If the Power Stick is plugged into the 15 amp outlet, the GFCI will pop almost immediately. If it is plugged into the GFCI outlet under the sink, it will not pop. I see no damage to the wire or outlets. Using a different 15 amp outlet makes no difference.

Could it be too many amps on a cheap outlet? Any suggestions on what else could be causing the problem.
You have something mis-wired between the GFCI and the receptacle at the end of the cabinet. Check the wiring at the GFCI to be sure the other receptacle is properly wired to the load side. If the neutral and ground were touching, the GFCI would trip immediately, without anything plugged in.
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Old 12-23-2011, 07:05 PM   #8
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


Problem solved. Nothing in the house was miswired. I noticed that the GFCI only blew if the vacuum was switched on. If the switch was already in the on position when the vacuum was plugged in, the GFCI did not blow. I took apart the vacuum. The on/off switch on the handle pushes a rod that presses a momentary switch which was not set in the correct place. The vacuum now works as it should.
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Old 12-23-2011, 08:13 PM   #9
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


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Having a 15 amp receptacle on a 20 amp circuit is perfectly legal. The appliance plug prevents drawing 20 amp through a 15 amp receptacle.

OP: You will have to pull the GFCI out of its box and verify the wiring is correct and that there is clearance between any ground and neutral.
I wanted to double check my understanding. In the end, I haven't been understanding why it's OK to use a 15A outlet on a 20A circuit, but I know code allows it.

The different plug surely prevents a device designed to take 20A from plugging in.

But, if you plugged in a 15A or less device that malfunctioned and was drawing much higher than 15A, but still low enough not to trip the 20A breaker, couldn't that burn up the outlet?

Or, what if someone plugged in a splitter or plug bar, and the total draw for all the devices plugged into that were much higher than 15A, but still low enough not to trip the 20A breaker?
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Old 12-23-2011, 08:27 PM   #10
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


A 15A outlet will actually handle a 20A draw just fine, and anything malfunctioning enough to draw excess current will generally draw more than enough to trip a 20A breaker. 15A and 20A outlets are usually completely identical on the inside. The difference in the slots is only to prevent tripping a 15A circuit by plugging in a 20A appliance.
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:01 PM   #11
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


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Originally Posted by McSteve View Post
A 15A outlet will actually handle a 20A draw just fine, and anything malfunctioning enough to draw excess current will generally draw more than enough to trip a 20A breaker. 15A and 20A outlets are usually completely identical on the inside. The difference in the slots is only to prevent tripping a 15A circuit by plugging in a 20A appliance.
Whilst a 15a outlet may indead handle 20a,
if you go that road, it just gives the insurance company
an excuse to deny your claim should anything happen,
its really not worth it, considering the small cost of an outlet.

Do it once ! Do it well (properly). !
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:06 PM   #12
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


I think you missed my point. I certainly wouldn't suggest intentionally plugging a 20A load into a 15A receptacle, and it certainly wouldn't be easy to do so; you'd have to change the plug to a 15A plug.

My point was that a if you have 15A receptacles on a 20A circuit (extremely common and perfectly legal), a defective appliance drawing too much current isn't going to be able to burn up the outlet.
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:32 PM   #13
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


The 15 amp devices are rated for 20 amp feed-through.
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Old 12-23-2011, 10:03 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by darlingm View Post
I wanted to double check my understanding. In the end, I haven't been understanding why it's OK to use a 15A outlet on a 20A circuit, but I know code allows it.

The different plug surely prevents a device designed to take 20A from plugging in.

But, if you plugged in a 15A or less device that malfunctioned and was drawing much higher than 15A, but still low enough not to trip the 20A breaker, couldn't that burn up the outlet?

Or, what if someone plugged in a splitter or plug bar, and the total draw for all the devices plugged into that were much higher than 15A, but still low enough not to trip the 20A breaker?
I'm with you on this! I think that A7E needs to reconsider what he was saying.
An over-load isn't likely to burn up the outlet because a 200% safety factor is designed into them.
The 20 amp breaker would trip before the current reached 30 amps.
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Old 12-23-2011, 10:13 PM   #15
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10 amp Vacuum popping GFCI Outlet


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Originally Posted by Wildie View Post
I'm with you on this! I think that A7E needs to reconsider what he was saying.
An over-load isn't likely to burn up the outlet because a 200% safety factor is designed into them.
The 20 amp breaker would trip before the current reached 30 amps.
Where is this 30 amps coming from? Your reply is doesn't make sense.
NEC writes the code not me........

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