Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter Device Defective

Problem: When the test button is pushed, the device does not trip to indicate that it is working.

Background: A ground fault circuit interrupter, often referred to as a GFCI or a CR, is designed to interrupt the flow of electricity if a current leakage to ground occurs anywhere in the line. Circuits protected by such a device reduce the danger of current leakage and the possible shock hazard when some one touches an appliance or light fixture that is not properly grounded. The National Electrical Code and most local codes require that bathroom circuits, outdoor and underground wiring, especially swimming pool lighting, be CFCI protected. Several types are avail able that include GFCI receptacles and GFCI circuit breakers, which combine a ground fault interrupter and circuit breaker in one device.

What to do: When the test button is pushed, a similated ground fault is introduced into the sensing circuit. A properly installed device will trip and must be reset after the test but ton is pushed. If the device does not trip, make sure that the circuit is receiving power; the device must be energized to operate, even when testing. If it is receiving power and does not trip when tested, have an electrician check to see that all connections are properly made. If a properly wired and energized GFCI does not trip when tested, it should be replaced immediately because the protection has been lost.

Special advice: Receptacles with built-in ground fault protection are installed similarly to the way standard duplex receptacles are installed. Some models have “pigtails” for connections; others have normal screw connections. Feed-through models provide ground fault protection to other receptacles connected to the same cable “downstream” of the GFCI receptacle.

Helpful hint: Some GFCI receptacles require extra-deep electrical boxes, so check the instruction sheet provided for size before buying and attempting to install. Also note that GFCI circuit breakers are connected in the main panel differently than standard circuit breakers.

Electrical Circuit Fails

Problem: Fuses blow or circuit breakers trip because of problems at the main panel.

Background: Circuit breakers and fuses act as the first line of defence when an electrical failure occurs. When a fuse blows or a circuit breaker trips, it indicates that some thing is wrong within the circuit. Re placing the fuse or resetting the circuit breaker should not be done until the cause is determined. Ignoring this condition could cause a fire hazard, draw excessive power and run up your electric bill, or make appliances run below optimum levels, which could possibly damage motors and compressors.

What to do: Check for problems caused by short circuits, and for problems caused by overloaded circuits. Check below for circuit failures that are caused at the main panel. Do not work on a fused or breaker panel unless you are familiar with electrical safety procedures and are confident of your abilities.

Loose connection in a fused panel: After turning off the power, remove the fuses. (Warning: The connections where the main wires enter the panel are hot.) A loose screw may be found in one of the fuse sockets. If the bottom of the fuse is blackened, discolored, or pitted, a loose connection may be at fault.
Loose connection in a circuit breaker panel: After turning power off, remove cover from panel. Inspect the panel for darkened or pitted marks on the bus (the strip of metal where a number of connections are made on the panel) or circuit breakers. Also check the wires connected to the circuit breakers for signs of excessive heat.
Fuse poorly seated: Although the fuse window shows no indication of burn out, and the bottom is not pitted or discolored, the fuse may not be making contact with the bottom of the receptacle. Remove the fuse and replace it with one of adequate length to make contact.
Special advice: If any of the above conditions exist, contact an electrician. If there is an unused branch space in the existing panel, it may be possible to move the branch wire from the damaged fuse or circuit breaker to the unused space and in stall a new fuse or circuit breaker. If there are no unused spaces, the en tire panel may need to be replaced. If so, consider having the electrician install a larger service to meet future electrical needs more adequately.

Helpful hint: To avoid overloaded circuits, never insert a fuse in a panel that has a higher amperage rating than the rating on the wire for the circuit. Never use a penny or tin foil in a service panel instead of a fuse.

Circuit Wiring Overloads

Problem: Power to a circuit is cut off because of either temporary overloads or constant over loads.

Overloaded electrical power strip

Background: Most circuit failures are caused by overloads. Electricity in home wiring flows under pres sure, much like water moves under pressure in a plumbing system. The electrical pressure is known as volt age. The flow of electricity is called amperage. Wire of a specific size may have too great a resistance to handle the current required of it. If a fuse blows and the window remains clear, an overloaded circuit is most likely the cause. Cartridge-type fuses will give no visible indication of an overloaded circuit. Circuit breakers will be in the “tripped” or “off” position.

What to do: If a circuit fails repeatedly, there may be a short in it or there may be too many heavy appliances on that circuit. If removing some of the appliances from the circuit does not eliminate the overload, an individual circuit must be added for the appliance with the heaviest current drain. Fused circuits can be corrected to handle temporary overloads by using a time delay fuse of either 15 or 20 amperage. This type of fuse will handle temporary power drains from the start-up of appliance motors. Many electric motors need nearly three times the normal line current for initial starting. Circuit breakers are designed to automatically handle temporary overloads.

Special advice: To check loads on a specific circuit, total the number of watts used for appliances and lights on that circuit at the same time. Appliance wattage rates are usually on the nameplate at the back of an appliance, or on the motor. After adding up the total, divide the sum by 120 volts to calculate the amperages. For example, if the total exceeds 1,800 watts for a circuit with a 15-amperage fuse, or exceeds 2,400 watts for a circuit with a 20-amperage fuse, the circuit is overloaded. One or more appliances may be plugged into another circuit to avoid an over load, as long as new overloads are not created. If overloads remain, call an electrician to add an additional circuit.

Helpful hint: When calculating circuit loads, you may find appliance plates give amperages rather than watts. To convert into watts, multi ply amperages by voltage (120 or 240). If horsepower is given on motors, multiply horsepower by 746 to find wafts.