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Old 03-26-2018, 10:38 AM   #1
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GFCI outlet issue


I'm a recent first time home buyer and I've gone through and swapped out the outlets in my kitchen for GFCIs (house was built in 89). I successfully swapped out all of the outlets above our counter top, the only remaining outlet is in our kitchen island. I installed this outlet the same as the others with the one exception that the ground wire for this outlet connects to the outlet box, the others had a ground wire that came along with the hot and neutral (some pictures attached that I hope will prove helpful). When I finished putting the outlet in the box and tested, I got nothing. The reset button would not stay in and I had no lights on the outlet at all. After disconnecting and reconnecting several times, I still had nothing.

Eventually, I tried connecting the outlet but leaving it out of the box and trying the breaker. When I did this, I got the normal lighting (both red and green lit). I then turned the breaker off and tried screwing the outlet into the box. When I flipped the breaker back on, back to nothing. After a few more iterations, I've found that once I screw the outlet about halfway into the box, everything stops working. As one of my less well conceived troubleshooting steps, I attempted to press the reset button while the circuit was on and the outlet was not screwed into the box. This caused some sparks to fly out of the outlet and everything to shut off (I'm using a new outlet now).

I can't figure out why screwing the outlet into the box is causing an issue. When I unscrew the outlet after everything stops working, all three wires are still in place. I don't see any cuts in either the hot or neutral wires. The only issues I can seem to identify are that the box feels packed tightly when I put the outlet in (not sure what this would mean exactly) and that I have the different setup for the ground. If the ground IS the issue, I'm not sure why it is only effecting things when the outlet is screwed in.

Just a few other notes: there are 4 basement lights connected to the circuit, nothing else that I can see; only 1 set of wires comes into the box, so there shouldn't be a line/load mixup.

Please let me know if you have any insight or if I'm about to burn my house down or anything. Please let me know if there's other information that would help. Thanks in advance.
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GFCI outlet issue-back-box.jpg   GFCI outlet issue-empty-box.jpg   GFCI outlet issue-mostly-into-box-lights-off.jpg   GFCI outlet issue-out-box-lights-.jpg   GFCI outlet issue-partially-box-lights-.jpg  

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Old 03-26-2018, 10:44 AM   #2
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Re: GFCI outlet issue


To shallow of a box used. Shorting out inside once forcing it in. Get 3.5" in. deep metal box with ears.https://www.lowes.com/pd/RACO-1-Gang...al-Box/3129395
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Old 03-26-2018, 03:28 PM   #3
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Re: GFCI outlet issue


I just replaced the box with the deeper box you suggested, still having the same issue. Any further thoughts?
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Old 03-26-2018, 05:01 PM   #4
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Re: GFCI outlet issue


Will the GFCI stay on, if not pushed back in the box ? Always try to "pre-fold" the wires neatly back in box, rather than just allowing them to wad up and forcing them in with the device.

The side clearance for a GFCI is really tight on the metal box being used, so I suspect the Madison box support strips could be touching one of the outlet conductor screws.

You can only get a couple of wraps of good electrical tape round the outlet/screws to protect the screws, before it will be too tight to get back in the box. Also, the cabinet walls look to be 3/8" in. thick on my screen ?

If it is, then get 4 - # 6 x 1/2" long flat wood screws and screw the box plaster ear flanges to the cabinet. Then, the Madison box support strips could then be removed, allowing more side clearance between the receptacle sides and the box. Good luck..... JMO
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Old 03-26-2018, 08:23 PM   #5
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Re: GFCI outlet issue


I tend to agree with Greg. It's pretty tight and the box support strap is intruding into the very limited space available and the way you have it mounted that's the hot side of the receptacle (although it would fault either way). Electrical tape might do it. Also, the stripped portion of the conductors looks a little long. Any exposed copper runs the risk of contact.
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Old 03-27-2018, 05:42 AM   #6
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Re: GFCI outlet issue


Instead of wrapping tape around the gfci just place a piece of tape on both sides enough to cover the screws where the conductors are attached. This box is very tight to begin with an wrapping it with tape will make the receptacle even harder to install.

Also, since the box is very tight it is very possible that when you push the receptacle into the box that the ground wire is touching the neutral screw which is causing a constant ground fault thus not allowing you to reset the gfci. When you unscrew the receptacle from the box the wires don't touch anymore. Or when screwing in the receptacle you get sparks, same theory. The ground wire is touching the hot wire but if that were the case ad you are getting sparks the breaker should have tripped.

Also, not impossible but improbable. A house built in 1989 not having any GFCI countertop protection. Are you sure these receptacles are not being protected from another GFCI receptacle somewhere else or the circuit itself is not a GFCI breaker.
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Old 03-27-2018, 06:20 AM   #7
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Re: GFCI outlet issue


The is likely no reason for a GFCI at this location. It could be protected by a GFCI upstream.

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Old 03-27-2018, 01:57 PM   #8
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Re: GFCI outlet issue


Electrical tape over the side screws seems to have been the ticket. Breaker is staying on when fully into the casing. No sparks on test. Now my outlet tester is telling me that I have missing earth, but I suspect that problem is a different can of worms that this one. Thanks everyone for your help.
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