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Old 10-29-2007, 02:31 PM   #1
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


The issue I'm having is this:
I'm selling the house, and during inspection it was noted that there is a regular outlet in the guest bathroom rather than a GFCI outlet. The owners asked us to repair this. I accepted this request assuming I could get out with a $20 trip to my hardware store and just replace the outlet with a GFCI outlet.

When determining what circuit this bathroom outlet was on I realized that the outside power receptacles and indoor smoke alarms are all on the same circuit. I installed the GFCI with line and load properly inserted at the back...all worked fine (test and reset functioned) and all other outlets and smoke alarms functioned.

The problem started when I went outside the next day to fire up my leaf blower. The blower came on for a second then went dead. I went to check the GFCI figuring it had just tripped only to find it wouldn't reset (no power coming to it any more). I went to the breaker box and it wasn't tripped either. Just to be safe I fully reset the breaker switch off and back on. Now I have one smoke alarm (of 2) on that circuit that works and 3 outlets that do not. I tested all of the outlets and have found that I have 120 from black to ground but not from black to neutral. When I turn the circuit off I have 0 between any of them.

Is it possible that the one working smoke alarm has failed in the process and is no longer passing neutral? How do I go about troubleshooting this issue? Furthermore, if I can restore power to the outlets, can I pigtail power to the GFCI so that it isn't "in-line" with the other units? That way, if it tripped it would only trip itself and not everything that sits after if on that circuit?

Attached is a diagram of the situation (as I know it)
Attached Thumbnails
GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues-gfci.jpg  

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Old 10-29-2007, 04:13 PM   #2
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


# 6 guy, Youve lost a neutral somewhere, but where. I'd be leary of putting ANY KIND OF LOAD on this circuit until resolved. At least not stuff you like, like the flat screen and stuff.

Pull the smokie and see what you have there.

When this is fixed I concur with your description of how you want to hook up the GFCI. EVERYTHING on the line side and be done with it.

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Old 10-29-2007, 04:18 PM   #3
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


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Originally Posted by Andy in ATL View Post
# 6 guy, Youve lost a neutral somewhere, but where. I'd be leary of putting ANY KIND OF LOAD on this circuit until resolved. At least not stuff you like, like the flat screen and stuff.

Pull the smokie and see what you have there.

When this is fixed I concur with your description of how you want to hook up the GFCI. EVERYTHING on the line side and be done with it.
Yeah, I can only conclude that I have in fact lost a neutral. Is that common? I was just trying to figure out how I did that by plugging something in. I'll start tonight by dropping that smoke detector to see if I can't bypass it. I'll let you know what I find out. Thanks for the suggestions!
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Old 10-29-2007, 04:32 PM   #4
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


I'd check first the GFCI receptacle you installed since that is where the wiring has been disturbed. If that is OK, put it back with pigtails so the only attachment is to the line side. Then check the outside outlet where the leaf blower was plugged in. Most likely scenario is a loose push in connection at a receptacle, not a wiring problem at a smoke detector.
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Old 10-29-2007, 04:35 PM   #5
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


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I'd check first the GFCI receptacle you installed since that is where the wiring has been disturbed. If that is OK, put it back with pigtails so the only attachment is to the line side. Then check the outside outlet where the leaf blower was plugged in. Most likely scenario is a loose push in connection at a receptacle, not a wiring problem at a smoke detector.
I already removed the GFCI that I installed and connected black to black and white to white without any results. I did this to completely remove this outlet from the equation. I didn't think to check the connections at the outside outlet (I guess I figured it was too much coincidence that the outlet would break at the same time I made these changes). I will pull it (the one I plugged the blower into) and check it's connections as well.

Thanks,
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Old 10-29-2007, 04:42 PM   #6
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You will figure it out. Take one device at a time, check them all. be patient and safe. WEAR YOUR SAFETY GLASSES!
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Old 10-29-2007, 04:46 PM   #7
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


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You will figure it out. Take one device at a time, check them all. be patient and safe. WEAR YOUR SAFETY GLASSES!
Thanks, I sure hope I can. I'm not exactly an electrician, but hopefully I know enough to fix this. I broke it...surely I can make it work again
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Old 10-29-2007, 10:07 PM   #8
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


I found the problem tonight. I went to the second (non-functional) smoke alarm and found that there were pigtails serving the other outlets from this junction. Apparently one of the neutrals had slipped loose, cutting power to the rest. I guess it was coincidence that this happened at the same time I wired the GFCI outlet in the bathroom?!? Anyways, all receptacles and smoke detectors are working again. Now I just have to reinstall the GFCI with a pigtail rather than line & load in the bathroom. Thanks for all the help and suggestions!
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Old 10-30-2007, 12:17 PM   #9
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GFCI and Smoke alarm circuit issues


It has been code for some years now that outside outlets need gfci protection. Looking at your diagram you will lose gfci for the outside outlets if you line connect the bathroom gfci. Consider still using the load side of the bathroom gfci or put gfci's at the outside outlet locations.

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Old 10-30-2007, 02:41 PM   #10
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Good job, dude. I knew you would figure it out.

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