GFCI Nuisance Tripping

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A GFCI outlet in my garage constantly trips. I am unable to reset it with power going to it and nothing plugged in, but when I turn off the circuit breaker I can reset it, but when I turn the circuit breaker back on it trips. What would be the cause of this?

Sounds like you may have a defective GFCI. You should replace it.

Newer GFCI receptacles will not allow you to reset them if the power is off, or if they are wired incorrectly; so the $12 you’ll spend for a new one is a good investment!

I have a refrigerator in my garage. It keeps tripping the ground fault (GFCI) outlet. If I plug it into a regular outlet, it works fine. Should I change the GFCI outlet out for a regular one?

I wouldn’t if I were you. The GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) receptacle is there to protect you from leakage current caused by faulty appliances. There most likely is a problem with the refrigerator and it is leaking enough current to potentially give someone a fatal shock, but not necessarily leaking enough current to trip a regular circuit breaker.

To give you an idea of the numbers involved, a person can receive a potentially fatal shock from as little as ten-thousandths of an amp, represented as 10mA (milliamps) or 0.01A (amps). A GFCI device like a receptacle or circuit breaker can detect leakage current in the range of 4 to 6mA and trip.

By comparison, it takes a MINIMUM of 15 amps to trip a circuit breaker attached to a regular outlet, and sometimes as much as 20 amps. Regular circuit breakers are designed to protect your property from fire due to electrical circuit overload; Ground Fault (GFCI) circuit breakers and GFCI receptacles are designed to protect YOU from electrocution.

Remember, there is NO SUCH THING as nuisance tripping when it comes to a GFCI device, no matter what any ‘expert’ tells you. If the appliance is tripping a GFCI device and the GFCI device is testing as OK, then you need to address the problem with the appliance before using it any further.


Appliances are replaceable items. Your life is not.

What outlets in a kitchen need to be ground fault protected?

Only countertop receptacles and any others near water. However in commercial applications, all receptacles must be GFCI protected.

We recently had an earthquake in my town. Previously, the GFCI outlet in my bathroom was working fine when I plugged in my hair dryer. Since the earthquake, it stopped powering that appliance. Other appliances still work fine when plugged into the GFCI and the hair dryer work when plugged into outlets in other rooms. I've pressed the TEST and RESET buttons on the GFCI outlet. Is there anything else I can do?

When you plug the appliance into the GFCI receptacle, does it trip the button on the face of the outlet?
If so, try plugging it into another GFCI receptacle in another part of the house (kitchen perhaps?). Does it trip the button in that receptacle as well? If it trips both receptacle buttons (not the circuit breaker), then you may have a bad appliance. If it has only a ground fault, then it will work in a regular receptacle with no problem, but you are exposing yourself to the possibility of electrocution.

More GFCI outlet questions

Wurtsboro Electric Service, Inc.

Licensed electricians serving Orange county, Sullivan county, and Ulster county in New York

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