Broken Ground Fault Circuit Breaker
LESLIE: Heading over to Florida, where Peter has lost power in the bathroom.
Peter, what’s going on and can you see what you’re doing?
PETER: Yeah, I had a GFI go bad. And when I went to change it over, for some reason I couldn’t get any juice to the receptacle underneath the sink. So, I got juice to where I put the new one in but – so I went down to Home Depot – I listen to you folks all the time – and I got a new one. And the gentleman over there told me to find the hot wires go and put them on the receptacle where it says, “Line.” And then the other two hook up on the bottom of it.
TOM: Peter, do you know that the ground fault circuit worked properly and then it stopped working?
PETER: Yes, sir.
TOM: So it worked properly and then stopped working. Have you considered the fact that the ground-fault circuit interrupter could be doing its job and then there could be a problem elsewhere in the circuit?
PETER: Yeah, I didn’t give a thought about that. No, I didn’t.
TOM: So, I think that when ground-fault circuit interrupters start to trip, people say, “Oh, it must be a bad circuit breaker,” and they don’t consider the fact that the circuit breaker is, in fact, doing its job detecting a diversion of current to a ground source and tripping to prevent you from getting a shock.
So, the solution wouldn’t be necessarily first to replace the ground fault. I would investigate further to see what exactly is happening and causing that to trip. I think, based on your description of what you’ve done thus far, that this might be just a little bit above your skill set. And while we can respect the fact that you’re doing this on your own, when it comes to electricity you want to get it right. And if you were to miswire that and in fact, perhaps, you – there are different ways to hook up ground faults. And if you do it one way, you can get it to trip and not protect the rest of the circuit. So, it would appear to be working correctly when, in fact, it wouldn’t.
So this is not the kind of thing I would recommend that you do yourself, Peter, with all due respect. I would definitely have an electrician look at this because I suspect that the ground fault is doing its thing. They rarely go bad. And if it’s tripping, it’s probably tripping because something is going on elsewhere in the circuit.
The ground faults will cover everything that’s on that circuit. So if you had, for example, a loose wire somewhere down the line and that was causing some sort of an arcing condition, that could trigger the ground fault to go off.
So, contact an electrician. This is the kind of job that you should not do yourself, because I want to make sure that the problem is what you think it is and it gets properly fixed.
Peter, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.