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Common Reasons for a GFCI to Trip

The National Electrical Code requires GFCI protection of receptacles located outdoors and in bathrooms, garages, and spa areas. This GFCI circuit breaker provides protection against overloads, short circuits, and ground faults. It detects very low levels of electrical current leaks (ground faults), and acts quickly to shut off power, preventing serious shock.

Most GFCI protectors have a spring-loaded breaker button. When the GFCI senses a problem, the breaker button is “tripped.” The breaker button needs to be manually reset in order for the power to be re-established to the outlet. The breaker button will trip again if the electrical problem still persists. Continuously tripping breakers indicate that there is an electrical problem. Call an electrician if the GFCI continues to indicate there is a problem.

Basic Troubleshooting

There is an electrical malfunction in whatever is plugged into the outlet.

Remove all electrical devices from the GFCI outlet. Reset the breaker button and, by process of elimination, plug in each electrical device until you are able to determine what is tripping the GFCI.

To be more precise, an electrician is capable of using equipment to confirm if there is a ground fault (electrical malfunction) in the electrical device. There may be a malfunction within the electrical system itself.

There quite possibly could be a problem such as a short in the wiring or a problem with the GFCI. This can be confirmed by plugging other electrical devices into the GFCI outlet to see if they trip the breaker. Call the electrician if the GFCI trips no matter what is plugged into it, since this indicates there is something wrong with the electrical supply.

The GFCI is not working properly and is falsely tripping.

GFCI breakers are designed to cut the power in the blink of an eye if electrical fluctuations of as little as .005 amperes are detected. Because the GFCI is so sensitive, it is most effective when wired to protect a single location. The more outlets any one GFCI protects, the more susceptible it is to phantom tripping – shutting off power because of tiny, but normal fluctuations in current flow.

GFCI breakers can also be tripped by occurrences such as electrical storms and by moisture from rainfall. It is important that the outlets for the GFCI be kept dry and protected from the elements. Most GFCI’s rated for outdoor use come with a protective cover.

Some GFCI’s are more sensitive that others.

It may be that the GFCI is too sensitive. It is normal for continuous running motors, such as pumps, to sometimes have small electrical fluctuations. Sensitive GFCI’s may detect this and falsely trip. You may want to have the electrician try a new GFCI or a different brand of GFCI if this problem persists.