One of the most prevalent safety equipment in residential, commercial, and industrial settings is the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Single-phase outlets are most frequently seen in bathrooms, kitchens, and outside receptacles in homes close to water sources. For decades, most states have required GFCI outlets in particular locations of residential installations. However, NFPA 79, the Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery, also directed their usage in industrial applications.
What is a GFCI Outlet?
Power outlets with built-in breakers are known as GFCI outlets. A GFCI’s primary function is to guard against ground faults. The outlet will trip if it detects a 5mA leakage between the hot wire and the ground to protect anything connected.
GFCI outlets are required anywhere there may be water, including outside and in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements. Any 125-volt, single-phase, 15- or 20-amp circuit can employ GFCI outlets.
GFCI keeps tripping
Ground fault circuit interrupters instantly switch off power to an outlet to stop an electrical ground fault. Bathrooms, kitchens, and other damp places that provide a risk to electrical safety frequently have GFCI outlets. The “tripping” nature of the outlet is a safety feature to prevent electric shock.
Repairing a GFCI Outlet that Constantly Trips
First, you should usually call an electrician if you are not licensed. Cooper Mechanical Services and Cooper Electrical Services can handle nearly all home and commercial power issues. If you feel comfortable undertaking additional study, the following are some items to look for:
Missing or damaged insulation Moisture, dust, and debris can enter through holes or missing insulation in the wall and trip the outlet. Ensure that the housing is tightly sealed against the wall.
Power overload: The outlet may be overloaded and trip if too many plugged-in appliances exist. Try disconnecting a few to see if that helps. If so, consider having extra GFCI outlets installed nearby by a professional. Leakage can be measured with the help of a leakage current clamp meter.
Faulty Receptacle or Worn Wiring: GFCIs have a limited lifespan. If the receptacle is older, it has a lifespan of 15-20 years on average just replacing it might solve the issue. A skilled electrician is needed, and the solution is a bit more complicated if the problem is caused by poor electrical wiring.
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Why Do GFCI Outlets Trip?
They protect you from electrical shock, fire, and appliance damage. Here is a look at the main reasons why GFCI outlets trip and what you can do to fix them.
Unreliable GFCI Outlet
Over time, all electrical components deteriorate, and GFCI outlets are no exception. They have a reputation for lasting up to 25 years before failing, but this is not a guarantee. Many advise changing them every ten years. An electrician or electrically trained person is needed to replace the outlet.
They should be tested once every month by pushing the test and reset buttons. If the breaker doesn’t reset, the GFCI outlet must be changed. To test the GFCI, you can also utilize a ground fault receptacle tester. The issue could be with the outlet itself, even if the GFCI outlet is working correctly.
GFCI outlets can handle 15 or 20 amps. Most applications for this are acceptable. If there are too many plugged-in devices or if they are drawing too much electricity, the breaker will trip to prevent overheating. Here, the outlet is performing its responsibilities. Electrical lines over 100 feet, fluorescent lighting, lines with many splices, and even permanently installed electric motors could overload the circuit and trip the GFCI.
Another scenario is a faulty device using excessive current. Corrosion, faulty connections, or a piece of worn-out equipment are all potential causes of this. The appliance needs to be fixed in this situation. Limiting what is plugged into the socket is the best approach to see if the issue is resolved. You might need to make a separate circuit just for the appliance to limit the current passing through the GFCI and ensure it is not harmed.
The Circuit Has Another Problem.
If changing the outlet doesn’t fix the issue, there might be a defective outlet farther down the line or anything connected. Another possibility is a faulty circuit breaker.
To thoroughly investigate whether the problem is with the outlet or an appliance, unplug everything hooked into each outlet on the same line. It might be necessary to test each outlet separately.
GFCI uses and maintenance
Electrical failures that could cause electricity to flow through you to the ground or cause other physical injuries are prevented by GFCIs. While most GFCIs trip at around six mA, standard breakers and fuses have actuation energies higher than what is deadly.
A current transformer is necessary for a GFCI to distinguish between the neutral current returning from the load and the line current heading to the bag. Since both currents cancel, the ideal value for this difference is zero. A comparator inside the GFCI changes states when there is a current differential of about six mA, so if there is one, it becomes the input. A silicon-controlled rectifier is triggered when the comparator changes states, cutting off power to the GFCI’s output.
Although a GFCI outlet that trips is annoying, it is a safety precaution. A GFCI outlet that trips is generally a positive thing because it protects you from being electrocuted. These devices rarely trip without cause, but it does occasionally happen. Get to the bottom of why your GFCI is stumbling in the first place, whether you do tests yourself or employ an electrician.