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Old 11-05-2007, 01:42 PM   #1
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GFCI questions

I've just moved into a new house and am trying to take care of some of the issues raised by the inspection. The inspector noted an incorrectly wired receptacle in the kitchen, and also lack of GFCI protection. I'm fixing the reversed wiring, but have questions about the GFCI. I searched the forums but couldn't find these issues covered.

1. Is it possible that there could be a GFCI but it wasn't found? Can you test for presence of a GFCI? Is there a problem with having multiple GCFIs on the same circuit? (I'm a little surprised that these kitchen circuits were not protected given that the house was built in 1986. This is in Washington State).

2. How important is it to identify the 'first' receptacle as the place where the GFCI is installed? I expect you'll all tell me it is very important, but I wonder if there is some meandering wiring and I might miss some. It seems that I'd only get protection downstream, but maybe that would be find if all the kitchen receptacles are covered.

3. Would it be easier or better to use a GFCI in the breaker panel instead of receptacle GFCI? It seems that a panel GFCI would eliminate the need to find the first, but I think there might be a problem with compatibility. The panel is a Crouse-Hinds - I understand that Cutler CL devices are compatible. However most of the breakers are the skinny ones, so I don't know if there is GFCI available. But in this case, there are two kitchen breakers next to each other - each 20A - so maybe I could just use a full size GFCI breaker instead. Probably using an electrician.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-05-2007, 03:28 PM   #2
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I went through something similar. Hope others chime in they're far more knowledgeable than I am. As I understood my scenario:

1.) Check your breaker panel. See any breakers that have a test button on them? If so they're either GFCI or AFCI. GFCI breakers have On/Off and yellow test buttons on them like while AFCI breakers have blue test buttons. I'm not sure if they're ALL color coded that way just in general. Did you track the breakers down, as kitchens can often have their own subpanels. The problem with putting multiple GFCI's on the same circuit, besides cost is they will occasionally trip themselves so you'll have to accept the nuasance of resetting them when it happens. Are you sure these two outlets are on the same circuit? Todays code requires two seperate 20A outlets each on their own circuit in kitchens. I don't know what year that was. They make GFCI testers if you want to try that route.

2.) Very important, only those things after the GFCI are protected.

3.) It's safer to have GFCI protection at the breaker as then the entire circuit is covered. But, the problem is if it trips it's usually easier to reset it at the receptacle than having to go to the breaker panel. Also, you're supposed to test them monthly and, it's easier to remember to do that when you see it everyday. The breakers are around $10 more than the receptacles. I don't get what you mean by two 20A breakers next to each other, you mean to each kitchen outlet? That would be code kitchens require at least two seperate GFCI 20A receptacle circuits, just don't know if that was the case in 86.

I'll see what other say, at this point I think all other things aside if you have to add a GFCI you're best adding a breaker for the $10 more than the outlet IF you can find one cause, you don't want to risk doing the receptacles in the wrong order and ending up with a chance of not having GFCI protection on one of the outlets.

Last edited by Piedmont; 11-06-2007 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 11-05-2007, 05:18 PM   #3
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If you trip the breaker in the panel for the kitchen outlets and your refrigerator still works go for the breaker method. You don't want a GFCI on your refrigerator. Test the outlets that the breakers actually protect. The marking means nothing unless you know it is correct.
You can add more than one GFCI to a circuit so if you don't find #1 add another. when you press the test button it trips the GFCI and circuits protected after it will also be off.
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Old 11-05-2007, 05:30 PM   #4
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The new code will require ref. to be GFCI protected.
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Old 11-05-2007, 08:24 PM   #5
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Thanks for the help.

To clarify, when I wrote about two 20amp breakers next to each other I meant the slim breakers in the panel. There is one breaker with a GFCI on (for a jacuzzi), and it is twice the width. That was why I thought it might be tough to find slim ones. The comment about 2 circuits being required in the kitchen makes me think it would be better to do the tracing and checking needed and install two GFCI receptacles in the appropriate places.

The refrigerator has its own circuit.

I guess a GFCI tester might be worth having. It looks like they are under $8. I thought I'd seen them at $70.
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