A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) trips when there is leakage of current.
If your GFCI won’t reset after tripping, it could be because:
- There is no power supply to the receptacle
- GFCI has gone bad
- Wrong connection
- Power turned off by the circuit breaker.
GFCI plays a vital role, and the law (National Electrical Code) requires every homeowner to have it.
It protects us from the electric shock that may arise from power surges and ground faults. That is why we install them in places like the kitchens and bathrooms where ground faults are common.
Note: GFCI doesn’t protect circuits and appliances, the standard type of circuit breaker does that.
How the GFCI outlet works
GFCI does the same work with circuit breakers and fuses. But unlike breakers that protect devices and appliances, GFCI protects human beings.
The outlet has an internal breaker that turns OFF power when the input and output current varies. Once the outlet is OFF, it will need resetting to restore power.
When the current flowing through the hot wires differs from the one returning through the neutrals, the breaker trips to prevent leakage.
Once the outlet is OFF, it will need resetting to restore power.
If the GFCI won’t reset, it may mean there is a problem along the branch circuit.
Reasons your GFCI is not resetting
There are some factors that may cause your GFI not to reset, they include
1. Ground fault some where along the circuit
A ground fault occurs when a current follows an unintended path to the ground. Common causes include incorrect wiring and damaged cords.
When a ground fault occurs, currents flow through any conductor around. If it is a human, electrocution occurs.
But since water is a good conductor of electricity, greater chances of ground faults occurring in wet areas such as the kitchen and bathroom are always higher.
Ground fault circuit interrupters respond to those faults by tripping the breaker.
A gfci that is not resetting may be responding to a ground fault along the downstream.
2. No power supply to the outlet
Most times when there is a power surge, the circuit breaker trips off the branch circuit to prevent fire outbreak and over heating.
Once the breaker is off, it will require someone to ON it again before it can supply the current.
The GFI that cannot reset may not be receiving current.
3. Wrong connections
Since 2002, GFCIs come with special features that won’t let them reset if installed incorrectly.
An outlet that is not resetting may be responding to a bad connection.
4. Bad receptacle
While 99% of outlets not resetting are due to ground faults and wrong connection problems, a GFI can still go bad.
Once you discover that your outlet has gone bad, replacing it is the only option.
Troubleshooting a ground fault circuit interrupter that is not resetting
If your outlet cannot reset when you press the reset button, follow these steps to find out the cause.
1. Unplug any appliance plugged into the receptacle
Unplug the device or cord plugged into the outlet box. This is to rule out the chances of short circuits and overload, causing the problem.
After unplugging the cord, reset the GFCI again. If the problem continues, move on to the electrical panel.
Reset your circuit breaker
You will see your circuit breaker inside the main panel usually installed near the area where electrical wires enter the house. Other places to look for your service panel include the attics, basement, garage, etc.
Once you locate the panel, look for the breaker that controls the circuit. If it is OFF, reset it. If not, move on to the outlets.
Test the GFCI outlets on the circuit
Press the test button on the outlet, and test it using a multimeter. If your outlet is good, it will read on the tester. But if otherwise, loosen out the outlet and check if there is a wrong connection. If everything is fine after checking, including the circuit breaker, wiring system and there is no ground fault, change the receptacle, it has gone bad.
Sometimes, your outlet will be good, but the reset button doesn’t pop out when you press the ‘test’ button, such may mean that you did not push the button enough to reach the unit.
You can buy a new GFCI here on Amazon if yours has gone bad.
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens when a GFCI cannot reset?
If your outlet cannot reset, first check the breaker box to make sure the breaker of the circuit has not tripped off. Reset it if necessary. If it still won’t reset, it may have moisture in it. Dry it with a hairdryer. When it’s thoroughly dry, try resetting it again.
How do you fix an outlet that cannot reset?
You can fix it by checking the circuit breaker that controls the outlet. Breaker trips if overloaded. Once the breaker has tripped, ON it again and reset the outlet.
Also, check for the wrong connection to make sure it is ok.
Can a GFCI outlet go bad?
GFCI can go bad if
- It no longer trips when you press the test button
- The trip button stays outside and won’t reset
- The button trips out, but the outlet remains ON.
GFCI won’t reset after rain why?
If your GFCI won’t reset after rain, it means you have a ground fault along the circuit. Call a licensed electrician for troubleshooting and repairs.