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Old 12-24-2012, 07:42 PM   #1
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Gfci outlet not working?..help!


Help!! Microwave stopped working. Circuit breaker is 20 amps and never "shut off". Meter on wires in wall box reads 15volts. I installed new gfci outlet but it will not reset. Three prong tester never gets lights and meter shows 3.5 volts when touched to leads with gfci attached.. What can this be?

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Old 12-24-2012, 08:02 PM   #2
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Follow the wiring that goes to that gfci. You are reading what is normally called "Phantom" voltage. That is actually voltage that is not present on the circuit.

As long as you have wired the GFCI outlet to Line, and the breaker resets, then you can reset the trip button on the gfci, you know it works.

What happens if you disconnect the wires, have a helper turn back on the breaker, and you measure voltage to the wires with power back on? Do you get 120vac?

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Old 12-24-2012, 08:02 PM   #3
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Are you sure the breaker is not tripped? Often they do not looked tripped. Turn it off and then back on to be sure it is reset.
It sounds like there is no power to the receptacle. Newer GFCIs will not reset if there is no power. It could be a loose or open connection anywhere between the breaker and the receptacle.
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:38 PM   #4
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Using a wavetek meter set on ACV, I touch the black and white wire with the leads. The meter responds at 15.0. I attach the new GFCI and then touch the outlet screws. The meter then reads 2.5..... I then depress the reset button and nothing happens.... It does not even click on. The green light on the GFCI never turns on. I should mention that the gang box also has a light switch in it that operates an overhead light. That has its own wire and is on a different circuit. I do live in the woods but the entire house uses BX so I do not think anything gnawed on the wires.
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Old 12-24-2012, 08:47 PM   #5
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You are doing it wrong. You will always get Phantom voltage while trying to make the readings that you are. If I had to guess, you need to start at the panel, make sure the breaker is reset, then find the power wire from the breaker, make sure you still have power.

If there is a switch in that same box as the gfci, and the gfci is unhooked, of course you are not going to get any voltage to the light, if the person that originally wired that circuit, used the outlet to run power over to the lighting circuit.

Suggest getting a book on basic wiring, such as Black & Decker's Complete guide of wiring.

Just for grins, if you just hook a regular non-gfci outlet back up, do you get power going to the light or not, when you flip on the light switch?
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Ren: Now listen, Cadet. I've got a job for you. See this button? Ren: Don't touch it! It's the History Eraser button, you fool! Stimpy: So what'll happen? Ren: That's just it. We don't know. Maybe something bad, maybe something good. I guess we'll never know, 'cause you're going to guard it. You won't touch it, will you?
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:19 PM   #6
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I'll take the cover off the panel and check. What number should the meter show? Also, the light in the gang box is on a different circuit and has a different wire feeding it. When the circuit is shut off to the gfci, the light still works. When the circuit to the light is shut off, the wires for the gfci still reads 15.0.
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Old 12-24-2012, 09:27 PM   #7
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The meter should show 120volts AC on a working circuit. You need to find the incoming wire from the panel first, then figure out how it was wired, since you have obviously unhooked everything at this point, and do not know what you are doing, in getting it fixed.

It goes back, to whomever redid that box, to install the gfci, is why you cannot figure out how to hook it back up. Personally I would go back, find the incoming power to that box, and from there, you would either connect to the Line side of the GFCI, with the light on the Load side, or pigtail off of the incoming, so the outlet has a Neutral & hot going to Line, and the lights have power for it from Neutral & Hot.

At this point, post a picture of what you have where the outlet was connected, and we can go from there.
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Ren: Now listen, Cadet. I've got a job for you. See this button? Ren: Don't touch it! It's the History Eraser button, you fool! Stimpy: So what'll happen? Ren: That's just it. We don't know. Maybe something bad, maybe something good. I guess we'll never know, 'cause you're going to guard it. You won't touch it, will you?
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:09 PM   #8
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Thanks again..... Believe it or not, I was the one who originally installed the first gfci. Never had any issues until the other day when it just went dead after four years. The install of the new should be easy...heard that many times. Only two wires. Is it possible for the breaker to just go bad? Btw, thank you for all of your help!!
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:14 PM   #9
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Yes, but rarely do breakers go bad. You can try and pull a same amp breaker from another spot in the panel, hook up where the other one is, and see what happens. Hold old is the breaker panel that you have, and what brand is it? Also, where are you located.
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:16 PM   #10
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Located near New York City....... Breaker is a Square D.
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:31 PM   #11
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Okay, what version of Square D breaker? There are a couple of different versions. And btw, why are you worrying so much about this on Christmas Eve?

To make things simple, if you have voltage at the breaker, voltage coming into the box when the breaker is on, you know it is not the breaker. If you do not have voltage coming into the box, then you need to go and figure out where the line makes a junction.

Again, pictures of the box helps.
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Ren: Now listen, Cadet. I've got a job for you. See this button? Ren: Don't touch it! It's the History Eraser button, you fool! Stimpy: So what'll happen? Ren: That's just it. We don't know. Maybe something bad, maybe something good. I guess we'll never know, 'cause you're going to guard it. You won't touch it, will you?
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Old 12-25-2012, 01:13 AM   #12
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Gfci outlet not working?..help!


The other thing you should know by now with the volt meters always test with working source before you test on the area you want to check it out.

so basically my simple rules Verify then Test then Verify to make sure the meter is working properly and have it on the correct setting.

The other thing is that you mention BX cable becarefull with them if some reason the fitting ( a device which it hold the BX cable ) is going bad or it was corroded it can compreised the grounding system so that is one extra step you have to remember it.

Did you any chance you have MWBC ( Mulit Wire Branch Circuit ) ? I am not too suprised with it espcally with older homes do have MWBC BX cable do show up.

The major rules with MWBC is never ever i say never lift or disconnect the netural unless both circuits are off otherwise it can damage something if plugged in.

So if you have black et RED et white conductors then take extra step to make sure if that is MWBC or part of 3 way switch loop that will make the differnce on that.

Make sure you have good connection at all the affected receptales and also at the luminire location if that do show up.

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Old 12-25-2012, 11:37 AM   #13
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Magic!! I checked all of the other outlets on e circuit and they all were 120 volts. I reconnected the problematic outlet and depressed the reset button. It came on. I checked the voltage and it was 120. An hour later it shut off again but a reset rectified the issue. Thus far (hours later) there are no issues. No idea what happened but all appears to be ok now.

Thanks for everyone's input!! I think I will chalk this one up to magic.
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Old 12-25-2012, 04:51 PM   #14
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Gfci outlet not working?..help!


Well, the GFCI outlet is dead again.... I put the meter on the other outlets on the circuit and they are still at 120 volts. Safe to assume that I should open each of the other outlets to see if there is a broken or bad connection? Any other ideas?
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Old 12-25-2012, 05:22 PM   #15
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The receptacle closest before the GFCI could have a bad connection on the line going out of it. If there are any lights or switches on this circuit the problem could be in there as well.

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