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d-train 10-02-2007 10:57 AM

All GFCIs Dead, Now Working
Last week we had an issue where all of the plug-in GFCIs around the house were not working. The problem didn't last long enough for me to diagnose the problem so I am really just trying to get everyone's input (or theories) as to the cause. Here's what happened last week:

1) On Tuesday afternoon I noticed my pressure washer was not working. It has a built-in GFCI and it was plugged in to a standard outdoor receptacle (non-GFCI). I attempted to test the GFCI but it would neither trip nor reset. I then tried to plug it in to an indoor non-GFCI receptacle but had the same problem. Thinking the GFCI had gone bad, I replaced it with another one from Home Depot. Unfortunately this had the same problem.

2) On Wednesday my wife comes home with a new hair dryer. When I ask her about it, she tells me that the other one died. I looked at the old one (which has a built-in GFCI) and it exhibited the same exact problems as my pressure washer.

3) By Wednesday evening the problem had corrected itself and all GCFI connected devices were working as normal.

Now I would assume that the problem was upstream somewhere but what I am confused about is why would the problem only affect the plug-in GFCIs? My GFCI receptacles in the kitchen and bathroon all continued to function correctly through this problem. If there was some sort of power problem wouldn't it have affected those too? And what about my electronic devices? Wouldn't those have exhibited some sort of strange behavior?

Anyway, long story short, I'm just curious to know if anyone else has experienced this problem or could offer any theories.

Darrell Chapman

MgMopar 10-02-2007 12:26 PM

This sounds like for what ever reason your whole house lost it ground. There is normally a ground line connected to the main circuit panel from a cold water pipe and or a ground rod. This connection is most likely poor, loose or some other way not correctly hooked up.:( GFCI will not reset without the ground. This is the best explanation of the problem I know of from your description of all the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters not working in all the outlets tried. So that is where to start looking.

d-train 10-02-2007 05:47 PM


Thank you so much for your reply. I really appreciate your input however I have one additional question. Wouldn't the loss of ground for the whole house cause the existing GFCI's to trip?

Darrell Chapman

MgMopar 10-02-2007 07:43 PM

Yes it should.:confused: But that doesn't mean it would. GFCI do fail and that is why they have a test button. They may not be working if they are older aged units. another possibility you may have not lost the hole house ground. Maybe a section of conduit or cable is coming loose that all the tried outlets share? You may have to go around and test every outlet possible when or if the problem happens again.
I am not sure were you are from but in the USA I have seen outlet testers that will just by plugging in you can see if it is wired correctly also they can come with a button to push to set a ground fault outlet more accurately then the test button on the outlet its self.

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