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Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3598
Experience:  30 years Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, Adjunct College Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma: Digital Electronics, FCC Technician License
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I recently installed three gfci recepticals in a line, only

Customer Question

I recently installed three gfci recepticals in a line, only because my grandfather wanted each outlet to be independently protected as if one went out the others would remain active. I cannot get the reset button to stay in on any of them. There are two outdoor lamps on the same circuit, and they work, but only one at a time. Can you please tell me what i have done wrong?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago. name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question. My goal is to exceed your expectations on Just Answer!
1) Did you wire the hot circuit feed to the LINE side only at each GFCI receptacle?
2) If each GFCI receptacle will be independently controlled, the the GFCI LOAD side connection is not necessary.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Yes, i only connected to the line side
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the replies.
1) Where in the chain is the light connected? Are the lights before the 1st GFCI or in the middle of a GFCI or after the 3rd GFCI?
2) Are the lights wall switch controlled or receptacle plug-in types?
3) Can you temporarily disconnect the 2 lights and see if the GFCI test and reset buttons work correctly?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Both lights are connected between the 2nd and 3rd gfci. There is no switch, he wanted them connected without one as they both have built in photo sensor. It would be a lot of work and a last resort to disconnect the lights.
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
OK, each device needs to be isolated.
1) Temporarily back each GFCI receptacle out from the wall box but DO NOT disconnect any wires at this time. Perform a visual inspection that no bare copper wires are coming into contact with the LINE and LOAD side screws. If all looks good, then proceed to below. I always recommend placing a few layers of black electrical tape around the exterior perimeter of the GFCI screws. All it takes is for one bare copper wire to come into contact with a hot or neutral terminal and the GFCI will trip. Thus the purpose of the black electrical tape on the GFCI side screws.
2) Start at the 1st GFCI and disconnect the pigtail splice that goes to the next downstream GFCI. Test the 1st GFCI if working correctly. If working correctly, proceed to the next downstream GFCI. Re-splice the pigtail wires at the 1st GFCI and remove the pigtail wires at the 2nd GFCI but leave only one set of LINE side wires connected from the previously installed upstream GFCI. Remove the lights and/or photo sensor connection. The devices need to be isolated one at a time to determine the problem. You will now have 2 GFCI's each connected to the LINE side only and no other splices or connections.
3) If the 1st and 2nd GFCI works correctly, repeat the same procedure for the 3rd GFCI. Leave the lights/photo sensor disconnected at this time. Since the lights are connected in between the 2nd and 3rd GFCI, all you need to do to isolate them is to remove the photo splices at the 2nd GFCI?
At each step, try the Test and reset button and see if all 3 work correctly.
Let me know the results.
4) Do the lights have an internal (built-in) photo eye? What are the wire colors on the photo eye? Black, Red and White? If so, does the photo eye black splice to a GFCI LINE side connection and the red photo eye wire splices to the switched loop or hot conductor of the light fixture?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I turned the breaker off, and theres still power??
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Power where? At the breaker or at the GFCI receptacles? Did you measure voltage with a volt meter?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I turned it off at the breaker designated for those outlets, and my pen tester tells me theres electric running thru, it doesnt tell me how much
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Thanks for the confirmation.
1) Pen testers or TIC testers as they are called, sense voltage based on induction and those types of testers are inadequate when troubleshooting an electrical problem such as yours. Your tester is sensing voltage from another nearby circuit and is providing a false reading. You need an AC voltmeter to troubleshoot the problem.
2) Voltage at the circuit breaker needs to be confirmed with the breaker in the ON position. Next is to measure for voltage at the LINE side of the 1st GFCI receptacle in the chain. Each GFCI needs to be isolated until the problem can be located. Somewhere in the circuit you most likely have a loose connection or a faulty splice.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Im in the process of checking every splice, this may take awhile since im also doing other things. I wilk let you know the outcome
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
No problem. I will be logged on the site all weekend long, so just reply back to me when you are ready.
In addition to checking splices and the receptacle terminations, you should also be confirming voltages along the circuit path using a voltmeter.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Just to confirm, did i install the new breaker correctly by running the nuetral to the nuetral bus only, or do i have to pigtail the nuetral to the bus and breaker switch. I didnt see a spot on the switch for the nuetral, but im not too experienced
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
1) If the breaker is a GFCI or an AFCI breaker (both types have a "Test" button, then the neutral curly pigtail from the breaker terminates onto the neutral bus bar and the circuit LOAD neutral terminates to the neutral termination screw on directly to the breaker. GFCI and AFCI breakers have 2 termination points.... ie......1 for the LOAD hot and 1 for the LOAD neutral. Regular breakers only have 1 termination screw terminal for the hot.
2) If a regular standard breaker (not GFCI or AFCI types), only the LOAD side hot wire terminates to the breaker and the LOAD side neutral terminates to the neutral bus bar. Sounds like you have a regular circuit breaker installed correctly based upon your description.
3) Once you obtain a voltmeter, measure from the hot screw terminal to the neutral bus bar with the breaker in the ON position and you should measure approximately 120 volts. This will confirm the breaker is functioning properly and is cranking out 120 volts. If the breaker is good, then the problem is downstream of the main electrical panel and is a loose wire termination or a faulty splice somewhere along the circuit path. Start at the 1st receptacle you replaced and measure for voltage there and check those splices and/or terminations in that box. Then continue to mode further down the chain (downstream) to the next box and repeat the same voltage confirmation measurement and so forth.
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
1) Perhaps you can borrow a meter from a friend or a neighbor? If not, a good voltmeter costs around $22 at any Home Depot or Lowes. Shown in the link below is a good AC voltmeter for the money sold at the Depot:
2) Anytime working on electrical and troubleshooting an electrical problem, an AC voltmeter is a "must have" testing instrument. Without a voltmeter, troubleshooting the problem now becomes a time consuming labor effort as well as a guessing game. A meter can pinpoint where the problem is located and can identify which wire is causing the problem.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
During the process, ive noticed the nuetral wire is the only one that has current running through it. I know i only have a pen tester, but it doesnt show anything when i place it on the hot wire, but it lights up on the nuetral
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
1) As I mentioned in my previous replies, the pen tester can pick up voltage from other wires in the box if they are on a different circuits. The branch circuit can also be wired as a shared neutral circuit and can also be a possibility as to why the pen tester is triggering a voltage. Get rid of the pen tester as it is a useless testing instrument in troubleshooting this problem. Get an AC voltmeter or you will need to call a local licensed electrician to troubleshoot the problem.
2) With a voltmeter, you need to confirm that the following voltages are present on the LINE side of each GFCI:
A) Hot to Neutral = approximately 120 volts
B) Hot to Ground also = approximately 120 volts
C) Neutral to Ground should = (0) zero volts or very close to it.
A pen tester cannot measure and confirm any of the aforementioned voltages, only an AC voltmeter can.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ill go get one tonight
Expert:  Kevin replied 2 years ago.
Very good! Sounds like a Home Depot or a Lowe's run is in order:)
1) The voltmeter will measure the 3 to N, H to G and N to G at points along the branch circuit. Once you are unable to measure or confirm one of these measurements, now you know what to look for.
2) If a loose wire connection or a faulty splice, the problem will either be an open hot or an open neutral. The meter will confirm this. Now that you know what the problem is, the next step is locating and fixing it.
When measuring the voltages at each GFCI, temporarily back the GFCI out from the wall box to make sure that there are no bare copper ground wires coming into contact with the screw terminals on the GFCI. Or if you have metal boxes, the metal plaster rings are not coming into contact with the side screws of the GFCI receptacle.
3) Electrical troubleshooting is a methodical process of confirming, isolation and troubleshooting. I can walk you thru the process, but you need the correct testing instrument:)