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Old 10-14-2012, 11:05 PM   #1
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


Many articles I have read to get helpful information are not clear about whether the "additional circuits" to which they refer are on the line side of the GFI (towards the circuit breaker) or on the load side of the GFI.
I have an older house which did not have GFIs in the original construction and I am adding those as appropriate while remodeling portions of the house.
My problem is on a circuit run from the circuit breaker thru a portion of my house that passes thru a bathroom along with other rooms (before and after the bathroom) that do not have locations which require a GFI. After installing a GFI (Cooper TRVGF15) in the bathroom the GFI trips and shows fault. I disconnected the “downstream” (Load) hot wire and it still trips and shows fault.
My question are: (1) Will any of the devices “upstream” (wall plugs, ceiling lights, etc) cause this fault indication on the GFI? I assumed not, that only the continuity of the wires running to the circuit breaker would cause the fault.
and (2) leaving the “downstream” return and ground connected to the Load (but not the hot) affect the response of the GFI?


Thanks for any insite you can give.

J Cowan

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Old 10-15-2012, 06:50 AM   #2
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


Upstream circuity has nothing to do with a tripping GFCI.
If the gfci trips with the downstream load disconnected, check the following.
A neutral ground connection at the gfci
Using a neutral or hot not related to the incoming hot
A defective gfci.

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Old 10-16-2012, 05:12 PM   #3
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


JBFAN, thanks for your reply post.
If I could pick your brain on one other issue of the circuit(s).

The circuit that I describe before is one of two which junction to devices or downstream branches in a double gang (switch) wall box serving as a junction box, with switches. The GFI is in a receptacle box about a foot away and is fed from one of the two circuits. Totally there are six or seven cables entering the box.

To minimize the space needed to junction everything, I combined the grounds and I combined the returns, virtually like you combine them in the breaker box. Only the hot wires and their branches are kept separate.

Will the junction of either the returns and/or the grounds cause the GFI (which is downstream on one circuit) to constantly trip?

Thanks again
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Old 10-16-2012, 09:59 PM   #4
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


You tie all the ground together, but you keep the neutrals seperate if they are on different circuits.
If you are feeding other devices, make sure that the gfci is wired correctly with the neutral from the panel on the line side neutral connection.
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Old 10-22-2012, 02:10 AM   #5
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


BFAN,

Thanks again for responding to all of my questions.

I corrected the previous problem of the combined returns by seperating the returns for the desired circuit and the leg feeding the GFI Line input (now matching the Hot and it's leg to the GFI). Grounds remain junctioned together for all cables in the box.

After testing the GFI with the wires connected this way, it failed again not resseting when pushing the button. No Load was connected.

I decided to try another GFI to save troubleshooting time and this time the GFI worked as advertised. Failure of a new GFI is probably pretty rare, especially with name brands like Cooper.

Next I connected the downstream wires to the Load side of the GFI and when the circuit was energized the GFI tripped and would not reset.

Knowing the switches and recepticles are downstream, being fed from the GFI, I guessed that the nearest wall section on the other side of a double closet was most likely where the downstream cable went first. On that wall there is a wall recepticle and two light switches (room light/ceiling fan combo & a closet light). All three are wired with two wires connected to each of their Line terminals and, for the switches, a single wire on the Switched side and for the recepticle, no other hot legs just the Return and Ground on their appropriate terminals. All Returns are twisted together with a wire nut and all the Grounds are twisted together with a crimp ring.

I began disconnecting the Hot wires from each device and testing the GFI after each. Even agter disconnecting all five of the Hot wires, the GFI trips when energized. I know it is possible that the cable from the GFI may lead to other devices first but think it is highly unlikely since minimizing cable lengths and labor are foremost in a electrician's mind.

I didn't think the circuit would first go to the Light/fan combo in the ceiling in the middle of the room so I haven't that ceiling junction box since I believe Code requires going to the switch first. And I didn't think joining all the returns together at any junction point would be a problem on the Load side.

So what are your thoughts on where the problem may lie?


Thanks again !
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Old 10-22-2012, 04:58 AM   #6
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


Neutral(Grounded) conductors must be kept separated per circuit. GFI 'Load" neutrals must be kept separate from 'Line' Neutrals
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Old 10-22-2012, 05:07 AM   #7
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


Make sure there are no extra grounds or neutrals after the gfci's.
They must ALL come thru the gfci,
And there should be NO neutral to ground ties after the gfci.
There must be seperate neutrals and grounds after the gfci.
There should be ONLY one ground to neutral tie in the panel.
Every were else neutral and grounds should be seperate lines.
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:54 AM   #8
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


Double check, be sure that the power is applied to the line side terminals of the GFCI receptacle, not the load side.

With nothing connected to the load side terminals does the GFCI receptacle unit still trip?

With or without a GFCI in the box, all ground wires coming into the box are tied together but not in the same bundles as neutrals.

Are you sure you don't have more than one hot feed entering the box?

Are you sure you don't have a switch loop cable, with a hot white wire, entering the box?
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Last edited by AllanJ; 10-22-2012 at 07:11 AM.
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Old 10-23-2012, 12:56 AM   #9
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


JBFAN -
Sorry I dropped the "J" from your username, yesterday.

I do have a question about your Post from 10-17.
You posted in part "If you are feeding other devices, make sure that the gfci is wired correctly with the neutral from the panel on the line side neutral connection."

The GFI that I have, has only one neutral (ground) terminal like a regular recepticle. Did you actually mean the return(s)?

I would still like to hear your response to my last post on 10-21 unless I am confusing you, too. The others who have posted don't all seem to understand what I have posted or haven't read all of my posts under this thread.
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Old 10-23-2012, 06:20 AM   #10
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


Gfci's have a line side and a load side set of terminals.
A gfci will only work when it is wired correctly.
The hot wire feeding the circuit and the neutral wire feeding the circuit must go to the line terminals.
The hot wire, typically black, will land on the brass screw, and the neutral, typically white will land on the silver screw.
All ground wires tie together and land on the green screw.

If you are protecting other receptacles with one gfci, then the hot and neutral feeding the next receptacle will land on the load side.

After that, you use non gfci receptacles for any others.

A gfci will trip when it reads an unbalance between the feed and return of 4 to 6 ma of current.
This could be several reasons, and is not limited to my list.

A ground/neutral connection on the downstream side.
A loose or corroded connection under load on the downstream side.
A true ground fault on the downstream side.

As I read your problem, I have to ask if it necessary to protect the downstream receptacles with a gfci?
If not, then you can make all connections on the line side of the gfci.



The GFI that I have, has only one neutral (ground) terminal like a regular recepticle. Did you actually mean the return(s)?

The ground is not the neutral as you call it.
What you are calling the return is the neutral.
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Old 10-23-2012, 08:36 PM   #11
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Troubleshooting circuits which have GFIs


JBFan -

Thanks once again!

As I read your response from this morning, I began to recognize the issue you were to allud to at the end when you stated,
"The ground is not the neutral as you call it." I was totally in left field on that term. My experience in your profession is not deep and, not to make an excuse - I definitely misspoke, but due to my limited experience, I may have been swayed by the first reponse to my 10/17 Post from another contributor, "Neutral(Grounded) conductors must be kept separated per circuit."

Anyway, I blew it, so time to regroup, if I could.

First, I understand and concur with your statements -
"Gfci's have a line side and a load side set of terminals.
A gfci will only work when it is wired correctly.
The hot wire feeding the circuit and the neutral wire
feeding the circuit must go to the line terminals.
The hot wire, typically black, will land on the brass screw,
and the neutral, typically white will land on the silver screw.
All ground wires tie together and land on the green screw.
If you are protecting other receptacles with one gfci, then the
hot and neutral feeding the next receptacle will land on the
load side.
A gfci will trip when it reads an unbalance between the feed
and return of 4 to 6 ma of current.


All of the wiring before and (immediately) after the GFI meet the above requirements. Simplifying, hopefully, what I said in my Post of 10/17 –

The Hot circuit ("A") from the breaker box is spliced in a junction/switch box, to the Hot wire of the cable going to the box of the GFI.
And likewise, the Neutral/Return from both are spliced there also.
The other Hot circuit ("B") and all the other Neutral/Returns in the junction/switch box do not connect to those connected to the GFI.
All Grounds (bare wires) related to both circuits "A" & "B" are tied together in this junction/switch box.

The new GFI does not trip with no load connected to it's terminals. The first GFI stayed tripped all the time. When I connected the downstream wires to the Load side of the GFI and then energized the circuit the GFI tripped and would not reset.

The wiring downstream of the GFI feeds the following devices:

- a bedroom with four receptacles and a ceiling fan/light combo
- a closet light
- lights in one narrow hallway
- and the dining room with a small chandelier and two receptacles.

I guessed, maybe wrongly, that the nearest wall with electrical devices is located on the other side of a four foot deep double closet. It is in the bedroom and on a wall adjoining and perpendicular to the wall with the GFI. I thought that it was most likely where the downstream cable went first.
On that bedroom wall there is one wall receptacle and two light switches (room light/ceiling fan combo & a closet light). All three are wired with two “Hot” wires connected to each devices Line (Gold) terminals and the switches (as expected) also have a single wire on the Switched (Load) side to power each light.
The Neutral/Return wire from each light fixture is tied together in each switch box with the Neutral/Return of the feeder leg.
The Ground wires are connected the same.
The receptacle simularily ties the Return and Ground wires together and also to their appropriate terminals.
All Returns are twisted together with a wire nut and all the Grounds are twisted together with a crimp ring,

I began disconnecting the Hot wires one at a time from each of the three devices and testing the GFI after disconnecting each wire.
Even after disconnecting all five (correction: actually six) of the Hot wires, the GFI tripped each time when energized.
I know it is possible that the cable from the GFI may lead to other devices but thought it was less likely since during installations, electricians are very aware of minimizing cable lengths and the related labor costs.

So where I am now is trying to decide if I should work my way through the area fed by this circuit, disconnecting the remainder of the Hot wires from the devices or is there another possible problem I would be better off locating?

Thanks again!

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