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Jason
Jason, Service Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3546
Experience:  Over 15 years of experience in all types of installations, troubleshooting, and repairs.
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Im replacing a GFCI outlet. There are three wires in the

Resolved Question:

I'm replacing a GFCI outlet. There are three wires in the box - white, red, and black. The black was capped. Only the white and red were attached to the old receptacle. A tester shows open hot. When I hold the receptacle to press the reset button, I get shocked - so clearly there is juice to the receptacle.

Suggestions?
Submitted: 5 months ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Jason replied 5 months ago.

Jason :

Hello. Welcome to Just Answer.

Jason :

I would leave the black wire capped. If you are getting shocked when touching the sides of the outlet, there is clearly power there.

Jason :

Your tester may show open hot if the GFI outlet is tripped. Once you mount it back in the box, and push the RESET button, it may work normally.

Customer:

so don't worry about being shocked - that there is an open wire / circuit somewhere?

Customer:

is there a reason i can't reset while in my hand?

Jason :

The RESET buttons are sometimes very hard to push in far enough, even with the outlet mounted to the box. If you are holding it in your hand, it could be even more difficult to get it to reset. The open wire that is shocking you is probably the screw terminal on the side of the outlet.

Customer:

i may have been touching the side, but was surely touching the mounting base. guess that's why I completed the circuit. there should never be power to the mounting bracket, correct?

Jason :

That's right. If the metal yoke is energized, that's a definite problem. Did you get shocked from the mounting yoke?

Customer:

that's what I thought i touched.

Jason :

With no ground wire in place, the mounting strap shouldn't even have a wire that is common to it.

Customer:

i did attached a ground wire to the metal box.

Jason :

Is that from the outlet to the metal box?

Customer:

Yes. of course, i would have to have touched something else to complete the circuit, so maybe I touched the side as well.

Customer:

can i skip the ground wire?

Jason :

OK. Are you open to turning the breaker off while you mount the outlet in the box? You don't need a ground wire for the outlet to work properly.

Customer:

yes, i can turn off the breaker. i did that while i wired it.

Customer:

I'll skip the ground wire, just in case that's contributing to it.

Jason :

OK. I would turn off power at the breaker, mount the outlet in the box, turn the breaker back on, then push the RESET button on the outlet.

Customer:

Thanks. I'll go do that. How do I reach you if I have further questions in a few minutes?

Jason :

You can just keep this chat open while you do the recommended steps, if you prefer to do so.

Jason :

Then reply to me afterwards.

Customer:

thanks. will do that.

Customer:

see you in a few.

Jason :

Sounds good. I'll be here.

Customer:

Hmmm. receptacle secured without ground wire. circuit breaker back on, power in nearby outlets. Tester still shows no lights - meaning open hot. neither reset nor test button click when pushed. red light, which indicates circuit is tripped, is dark.

Customer:

Suggestions?

Customer:

any reason to swap the red and white connections?

Jason :

I wouldn't swap them, unless the red wire is on the silver screw, and the white wire is on the gold or brass screw.

Jason :

Are the wires connected to the terminals marked LINE on the back of the outlet?

Customer:

i mounted them where the label shows (hot - red, the other says white.

Customer:

yes - i didn't remove the protective label

Jason :

OK, that's good. Do you have any other type of electrical tester, other than the plug-in model with indicator lights?

Customer:

actually, i tried two different three light testers. I don't have an ohmeter or anything like that.

Customer:

could plug something in to see what happens, i guess.

Jason :

You can try that. I doubt it's working though, if two testers showed open hot. I have another idea, after you plug something else in to test.

Customer:

okay - your idea?

Jason :

There may be a loose connection in the previous box on the circuit.

Jason :

We would need to try to find it, and open it to check connections.

Customer:

there are four different outlets and one switch (controlling this outside outlet) on the circuit. All seem to work fine.

Customer:

i could use the tester on each, though. let me try that.

Jason :

So this is an outside outlet that's controlled by a wall switch in the house?

Customer:

yes. just checked all other outlets on this circuit and they are wired correctly.

Jason :

There may be a loose wire in the switch, just ahead of the outlet. Have you opened the switch box yet?

Customer:

yes. seems secure, but I'll double check.

Customer:

the switch does work. I didn't get shocked when it was turned off.

Jason :

Are the wires on the switch connected via the small push-in holes on the back of the switch?

Customer:

no - via the screws on the side.

Customer:

one black, one red

Jason :

OK, that's a much better connection.

Jason :

Is there a splice of two white wires in the switch box?

Customer:

yes

Jason :

Please verify the integrity of that splice. Do you think a neighbor may have a volt meter with two leads and numeric display?

Customer:

unlikely. I have to head out, so will pick one up at the hardware store and tackle this later. Thanks for your help in the meantime.

Jason :

Happy to help. Looking forward to helping you wrap it up.

Jason :

I will be away from the computer this afternoon and evening, but I'll stay Online as much as I can, and keep an eye out for your reply.

Customer:

so leave the session open?

Jason :

Yes, if that's okay. You can rate now if you want to, but it changes the format of the question from a chat to an older format that is more like a message board. I think it's slower to work with, but it doesn't cut off future communication.

Customer:

Jason?

Customer:

I had another idea. Just wired a standard outlet in place of the GFCI outlet. All works fine - tester shows two lights, meaning its wired correctly. I think I have a defective GFCI outlet, which I'll return for a new one and start the process over.

Jason :

You may indeed have a bad outlet. Once or twice, in my twenty years of electrical work, I've had bad ones brand new out of the box.

Customer:

Is there a code requiring GFCIs on outside outlets? There is one other GFCI outlet on this circuit already.

Jason :

Yes, for residential installations, outside outlets must be GFI protected. You can get GFI protection through outlets or breakers. With GFI breakers, standard outlets can be used outside.

Jason, Service Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3546
Experience: Over 15 years of experience in all types of installations, troubleshooting, and repairs.
Jason and other Electrical Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 months ago.

Jason -


 


Just so you know, I exchanged the GFI outlet and installed the replacement in moments. It worked succesfully, so the real problem was the purchased outlet was defective. Thanks for the diagnostic assistance.


 


Bill

Expert:  Jason replied 5 months ago.
Hi Bill. I'm glad to hear the problem was so easy to solve. I appreciate the rating, and the opportunity to help. I hope you'll keep me in mind for any future electrical problems that may arise.

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