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Old 02-29-2008, 01:13 PM   #1
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GFCI outlets


How long are these good for? Do they generally need to be replaced after x years?

We had the toaster oven, an electric thermos, and a microwave plugged into possibly a single line connected in parallel and last night when the microwave was used, there was a burning smell. The plug in the toaster oven now has w burned smell. This is a 9 year old house, with copper wiring.

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Old 02-29-2008, 02:09 PM   #2
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You bet they wear out. like most of us, the older they are, the quicker they snap! Toaster ovens, space heaters, and blow driers will cause them to trip more than many other houshold appliances. They are pretty cheap, and easy to replace, just make sure you follow directions and wiring diagrams cafefully

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Old 02-29-2008, 02:32 PM   #3
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Should they cause a burning smell though, when they go bad? I haven't checked yet whether this has caused the breaker to trip though.
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Old 02-29-2008, 02:53 PM   #4
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first my disclaimer: I am NO ELECTRICIAN please take this advice for what it's worth and consider paying a pro to help with your problem

a burning smell could be caused by any number of things, including a ground fault situation. I would deffinetly replace the GFCI right away. look for black soot or melted insulation when you replace it. Also check to see that the wiring is sized correctly for the breaker on this circuit. Get a ground fault tester when you buy the new outlet. they are cheap and easy to use
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Old 02-29-2008, 04:58 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Wood Butcher View Post
first my disclaimer: I am NO ELECTRICIAN please take this advice for what it's worth and consider paying a pro to help with your problem

a burning smell could be caused by any number of things, including a ground fault situation. I would deffinetly replace the GFCI right away. look for black soot or melted insulation when you replace it. Also check to see that the wiring is sized correctly for the breaker on this circuit. Get a ground fault tester when you buy the new outlet. they are cheap and easy to use
Upon further inspection, I noted this:

* Hot insulation was melted at the 20 AMP GFCI outlet coming from the breaker.

* The hot leaving the GFCI to other receptacles was blackened, not melted. It was probably blackened from the heat/fire coming from the main hot wire.

* The GFCI does not click when "test" is pressed.

* Wiring looks 12 gauge.

* An old toaster oven was plugged to the GFCI and turned on. An electrical thermos was plugged in at a downline receptacle. A smokey smell was noted when the microwave was turned on.

* The 20 AMP breaker (double pointed) was partially tripped at the breaker box.

My evaluation tells me that the GFCI went bad and when the conductors were at high load, the GFCI outlet broke down. Do you guys agree?

Last edited by handy man88; 02-29-2008 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 02-29-2008, 06:07 PM   #6
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a toaster over, electric thermos, and microwave on the same 20a circuit? Sounds like a lot to me. GFI may have gone south, but that may not be the whole problem. Seems to me that the high load is the problem. GFI protects against ground faults not high load conditions. If you had a hot conductor melt, I would also look at the breaker and verify the 12g wire.
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Old 02-29-2008, 08:12 PM   #7
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a toaster over, electric thermos, and microwave on the same 20a circuit? Sounds like a lot to me. GFI may have gone south, but that may not be the whole problem. Seems to me that the high load is the problem. GFI protects against ground faults not high load conditions. If you had a hot conductor melt, I would also look at the breaker and verify the 12g wire.
If the breaker tripped, I suppose that implies the circuit was probably overloaded. How often does a breaker need to be replaced? Does anyone know?
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Old 03-01-2008, 12:40 AM   #8
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considering the load and usage . . .make sure the conductors are NOT stabbed in the back of the down line receptacles . .nor daisy chained that way . . .perly pigtail the downline recepptacles and use the side screw terminals . . .break open an old receptacle that was back stabbed . .not a lot of contact area there

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Old 03-01-2008, 12:49 AM   #9
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Sound like you got a loose connection or serious overload on the GFCI on the circuit.

what you normally run on that circuit?? the toaster oven useally take about 1200 ~ 1500 watt of power easly and most microwave usealy take over 900 + watts easly and you have the thermos warmer thing that will take couple hundred of watts and that useally pretty much push to the limit of the breaker and it will overheat the GFCI repectale or plain jane repectales if backstabbed

as far for breaker replacement not very often but i advise you replace the GFCI repcectale and standard repectale along on that circuit and make sure you get it right.

and one head up when you replace the GFCI repectale make sure you watch the connection on them they useally marked LINE and LOAD connection and make a note of them before you remove it and replace it other wise it will not work if wired up backward.

Merci, Marc
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Old 03-01-2008, 07:57 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by frenchelectrican View Post
Sound like you got a loose connection or serious overload on the GFCI on the circuit.

what you normally run on that circuit?? the toaster oven useally take about 1200 ~ 1500 watt of power easly and most microwave usealy take over 900 + watts easly and you have the thermos warmer thing that will take couple hundred of watts and that useally pretty much push to the limit of the breaker and it will overheat the GFCI repectale or plain jane repectales if backstabbed

as far for breaker replacement not very often but i advise you replace the GFCI repcectale and standard repectale along on that circuit and make sure you get it right.

and one head up when you replace the GFCI repectale make sure you watch the connection on them they useally marked LINE and LOAD connection and make a note of them before you remove it and replace it other wise it will not work if wired up backward.

Merci, Marc
Great advice from everyone here.

It was just this occurrence, I think, when the microwave (always set at high power), toaster oven, and thermos was running at the same time, which was dinner time.

I did also check the GFCI, and it was backstabbed. It seemed like a lot of the copper in the conductor was contacting the plastic casing. I'll make sure I will "perly pigtail" the next one.

If backstabbed is dangerous, then why are receptacle makers allowed to offer this feature?

Last edited by handy man88; 03-01-2008 at 08:34 AM.
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Old 03-01-2008, 07:59 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kingsmurf View Post
considering the load and usage . . .make sure the conductors are NOT stabbed in the back of the down line receptacles . .nor daisy chained that way . . .perly pigtail the downline recepptacles and use the side screw terminals . . .break open an old receptacle that was back stabbed . .not a lot of contact area there

my cent and a half
If I understand correctly, you're saying that it's better to "perly pigtail" conductors by twisting them and tightening down with the side screw, rather than just stabbed into a slot and tightened up because you say there's more contact area for the wire?
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Old 03-01-2008, 12:44 PM   #12
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ok first off gfci's have the kind of back wirring that you turn the screw to tighten them more contact area and much easier to wire than haveing to loop the conductor. as for the breaker you said that it "partially tripped but not fully" i would replace this breaker as it is a hazard. the gfci replace since it dosnt trip when you push test. and on a side note it is recommended that you test all your gfci recepticals monthly.
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Old 03-01-2008, 12:51 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Pudge565 View Post
ok first off gfci's have the kind of back wirring that you turn the screw to tighten them more contact area and much easier to wire than haveing to loop the conductor. as for the breaker you said that it "partially tripped but not fully" i would replace this breaker as it is a hazard. the gfci replace since it dosnt trip when you push test. and on a side note it is recommended that you test all your gfci recepticals monthly.

Yes, kingsmurf said that those "backstab" type of connections are not as good as the loop and screw (perly pigtail) connections. Some GFCI's or receptacles allow you the option of doing either. Also, it seems that GFCI's don't allow "test and reset" unless there is a current. Must be magnetic controlled.

When we got the smokey smell at the gfci, the breaker did not trip. It tripped the following day when someone in the house tried to operate the microwave again. I checked the breaker panel and the switch was in the halfway position, which means it tripped. The full position the opposite way indicates "off." I checked the outlets at the tripped position and there was no current. When a breaker trips, the breaker switch moves to the halfway position, but the power is still cut. To reset, you must move to "off" and then back "on."

Guys, when you switch out breakers, I assume you turn off all the power coming into the house at the panel?

The breaker is 20 amps, the GFCI is 20 amps, the wiring is 12 gauge, but the receptacles on the line are 15 gauge. Is this common?

I have a box of 15 amp receptacles and the instructions in the back say that it can accommodate 12 gauge wires at the screw, but only 14 gauge for quickwire (aka backstab). Wonder why.

Last edited by handy man88; 03-01-2008 at 01:07 PM.
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Old 03-02-2008, 11:45 AM   #14
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Most breakers trip to the mid position. This does not mean it partially tripped.
If it was in the mid position and you had no power, then the CB did its job.
I do not see a need to replace the braker, unless it is tripping all the time.
You need to find the cause of the overload, and fix that before declaring a bad breaker. In all my years, I think I may have changed 10 breakers that were truly bad, and most of those were caused by HO's resetting tripped breaker without finding the problem.
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Old 03-02-2008, 04:05 PM   #15
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Most breakers trip to the mid position. This does not mean it partially tripped.
If it was in the mid position and you had no power, then the CB did its job.
I do not see a need to replace the braker, unless it is tripping all the time.
You need to find the cause of the overload, and fix that before declaring a bad breaker. In all my years, I think I may have changed 10 breakers that were truly bad, and most of those were caused by HO's resetting tripped breaker without finding the problem.
Thanks, I think it could be the 16 year old toaster oven. Even at low toasting mode, the plug and cord on the toaster oven gets really hot. Looks like a candidate for the garbage.

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