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mnweaver1 06-04-2012 04:19 PM

GFCI Adventures
Hi All,

My house is from 1988/89 and I am having some GFCI related issues. The 3 bathroom outlets share a 15 amp circuit with the 2 outdoor outlets, outdoor lights, and several hall light areas. I realize this isn't up to modern code, but it's what I'm stuck dealing with. The 3 bathroom outlets and 2 outdoor outlets all had GFCIs on them, which I understand is not a great idea but they worked for the first 2 years or so. My wife recently has been having trouble using her hair dryer in the bathroom so I did some investigating. The dryer will not run in the outlet, but the GFCIs are not tripping since other devices will work without flipping any breakers or pressing any buttons after I try to turn on the dryer. My first step was to replace the standard breaker with a GFCI breaker and convert all the outlets to regular outlets. No luck, and now the GFCI breaker stays tripped. I'm confident I wired the breaker properly. I assume the fact it is tripped means it's trying to tell me there is a problem somewhere. I did notice while doing the outlet change that there is a 1v phantom voltage on one bathroom that shows up when the circuit is off, but I have no idea where that may be coming from. Any thoughts on what is going on here?

Cossack 06-04-2012 04:27 PM

mnweaver, soryy I do not know enough to help, but I would like to know how you know there is "phantom voltage." What is that?

electures 06-04-2012 05:09 PM

Try a standard breaker and separate gfi receptacles where needed. Ultimately the best thing to do would be to install a new 20a circuit to the bathroom receptacles.

mpoulton 06-04-2012 05:18 PM

The 1V "phantom voltage" is almost certainly irrelevant, no matter where you're measuring it. It sounds to me like the original GFCI receptacle that wasn't working properly was bad, and the circuit is probably either wired as a multi-wire branch circuit, or it has a cross-connection with another circuit somewhere that is causing the GFCI breaker to trip. Why not just replace the bad GFCI with a new one, put the standard breaker back in, and see if it works?

Just to be sure though, how do you have the GFCI breaker wired?

Safety note: There's a significant chance that there is a cross-connection with another circuit here or a MWBC, so there may be current on the neutral wire even when the breaker is turned off. Be careful of that.

mnweaver1 06-04-2012 06:17 PM

I forgot to mention I have already tried using a new GFCI outlet in the bathroom where this started, and it still will not power the dryer. I agree a new 20A circuit may be what I end up doing. I have also noticed my garage door opener is on this same circuit, and using it just caused the breaker to trip. It stayed closed for a few minutes prior to that. This whole house is a rats nest of terrible wiring. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise I find beer cans from construction when I start opening things up. The GFCI breaker is wired with the pigtail to the neutral bar, the white neutral is to the breaker terminal with a white mark, and the black hot goes to the other terminal.

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