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Old 04-13-2010, 09:56 AM   #1
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


My house was constructed in the early 1960s and I have been replacing the outlets above the countertops in the kitchen with GFCIs for safety and compliance with code. I started with the highest risk outlets (those which were immediately adjacent to the sink. Those both work fine. However, I ran into a problem with the third outlet which is a little bit further away.

The box has two sets of romex coming in - a line and a load. I confirmed which was which with my multi-tester. After disconnecting the power and replacing the old receptable with a the new GFCI, I screwed the receptable partially into the box (i.e. to a point where the side screws were no longer exposed) and then restored power. I tested the outlet with my receptable tester and confirmed that all wiring was correct including grounding. I then proceeded to continue screwing in the outlet when one of the other GFCIs upstream tripped. I tried to reset it, but it continued to trip (immediately). Thinking that a short was occurring, I tried unscrewing the new receptable slightly, and then I was able to successfully reset the upstream GFCI. However, upon tightening, the same thing happened.

Now, the GFCI is really much larger than the old receptable and I sometimes have a hard time fitting it into these old boxes. So I was thinking that maybe the hot or neutral screws were touching the (grounded) metallic box and that was causing the upstream GFCI to pop. So I disconnected power again, unscrewed the entire receptable and put electrical tape around all four of the screws, both hot and neutral, load and line. I screwed it back in, restored power, but same problem. When I loosened the screws just slightly, then everything works fine.

So currently, everything does work fine, but I am concerned. What was causing this? Is there a safety issue? BTW, the bare ground wire is connected to the metallic box itself and not to the grounding screw on the new receptable. The receptable is screwed in tight enough, but still, I would like to know why this happened and does this warrant further investigation.
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:12 AM   #2
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


just install a regular receptacle there...the gfci upstream from that plug is it's protection.
Was there no split receptacles on your counter top?
Kitchen code is dependant on country....where are located?
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:13 AM   #3
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


You only need one GFI device per circuit. The other downstream receptacles wired from the LOAD side would still have GFI protection.

You may have a slight nick in the insulation one one of the conductors that is leaking to ground when the device is screwed all the way in.
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Answers based on the National Electrical Code. Local amendments may apply. Check with your local building officials.
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:17 AM   #4
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


Do you have a 2wire feed or 3 wire ? IE is there a ground present ?
You said you had a ground - so I am assuming all outlets have a ground ?
Grounding the outlet to the metal box does not give you a ground unless the box is grounded back to the panel

You only need (1) GFCI on each circuit - 1st outlet on the circuit
The remaining outlets are wired off the LOAD side of the 1st outlet

Sounds like you have wires crossed somewhere or a short
Also possible a bad GFCI
By unscrewing you may be breaking the connection, thus removing the problem
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:29 AM   #5
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


I am located in the U.S. (Birmingham, AL). I have a three wire feed. The bare ground wires from the load and line are pig tailed together and also screwed into the metal enclosure.

So should I just get rid of this GFCI and replace with a conventional? If it doesn't trip anymore, is it okay to leave it in, or do you think I am risking a short?
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:42 AM   #6
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


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Originally Posted by mkrawitz View Post
I am located in the U.S. (Birmingham, AL). I have a three wire feed. The bare ground wires from the load and line are pig tailed together and also screwed into the metal enclosure.

So should I just get rid of this GFCI and replace with a conventional? If it doesn't trip anymore, is it okay to leave it in, or do you think I am risking a short?
You can't use a gfci as a split receptacle....you must have a two pole gfci breaker.
Having a 3 wire feed leads me to believe that this was a split at one point. If wired incorrectly you could be putting 240V to your devices.
Current code in the U.S doesn't allow for the 15A split i don't think....only 20A duplex gfci protected receptacles.

We would need to know exactly how many cables are at each box and how many wires are in each cable to help.
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:50 AM   #7
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


The box containing the upstream GFCI and downstream GFCI are configured identically. Both have two romex cables coming in. Each romex cable has a black, white, and bare. The bares are pig tailed together and also connected to the enclosure.

In each case, I disconnected power at the fuse box, removed the old receptacle, and carefully separated the wires. I restored power and used my multi-meter to confirm that one of the romexes was carrying current and the other was not. I once again disconnected power and connected the the wires from the hot romex, to the line side screws on the GFCI and the wires from the other romex to the load side screws. Voltage on both receptables is 120 - I confirmed that with my multi-tester.
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Old 04-13-2010, 10:51 AM   #8
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


Sorry, I forgot to mention that the GFCI receptacles are rated for 20amps not 15.
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Old 04-13-2010, 11:14 AM   #9
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


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Originally Posted by mkrawitz View Post
Sorry, I forgot to mention that the GFCI receptacles are rated for 20amps not 15.
the wire most likely isn't rated for 20A though. Anyway that's neither here nor there as long as a 15A breaker is still protecting it . Your not changing the wiring just the devices so it falls under the old code rules. Well this brings us right back around to an earlier posters comment that there's probably a break in the wire somewhere and when the plug is screwed tight is losing a little current....enough to trip the gfci. You do only need the one gfci as stated above as well. It will protect the other regular plugs as well.
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Old 04-13-2010, 11:20 AM   #10
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


Okay, thanks everyone for your help.
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Old 04-13-2010, 02:15 PM   #11
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


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Originally Posted by mkrawitz View Post
So I disconnected power again, unscrewed the entire receptable and put electrical tape around all four of the screws, both hot and neutral, load and line. I screwed it back in, restored power, but same problem. When I loosened the screws just slightly, then everything works fine.
IMO, screwing it down tight slightly warps the GFCI frame, causing an internal problem, so the GFCI has an internal factory defect.
If a new GFCI from a different manuf. does the same thing, you need an Exorcist.
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Old 04-13-2010, 02:32 PM   #12
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


Yes, its possible I warped it a bit when screwing the GFCI down. The problem is that the GFCI is really too big for the enclosure. BTW, I am using Leviton receptacles.
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Old 04-13-2010, 02:44 PM   #13
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


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Originally Posted by mkrawitz View Post
The problem is that the GFCI is really too big for the enclosure.
They all seem to be, and yet it doesn't seem to change the box fill calculation.
Speaking of which, this GFCI integrated circuit
http://www.national.com/ds/LM/LM1851.pdf
dissipates 1.3 w [which must turn into heat inside the box], while 10A going through a half-foot of #12 copper dissipates 80 mW. Seems like a GFCI should count as many wires.

You might try a deeper "old work" box with the same GFCI.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 04-13-2010 at 04:31 PM.
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Old 04-14-2010, 08:35 PM   #14
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Problem with GFCI Outlets in Kitchen


For what it's worth Pass & Seymour touts their GFCI as being 1/4" thinner than the competition (Leviton, Cooper, Hubbell). Not sure if that helps...
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