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Kevin, Licensed Electrical Contractor
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 3542
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'm having issues with a GFI outlet. I noticed it was

Customer Question

I'm having issues with a GFI outlet. I noticed it was tripped and would not reset. I bought a new one and installed it, it is possible I crossed up the load/line wires but I think I have that set now. I tested with a tester and one of the hot/black wires is not hot....therefore, that is the load to the next outlet. Tell me if I'm thinking of this wrong. Anyway, regardless I tried like every combination of wires. I now have current running to the outlet. I have only the line connected...when I put my tester on the screws I have current...also on the load screws (nothing connected however). The reset button will not stay in, therefore the outlet will not work. What am I missing here?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.

1) It is possible that you may have the LINE and LOAD wires reversed.

2) If you have a 2 wire lead AC voltage tester or an AC voltmeter, locate and measure for the constant hot 120 volt pair across the hot and white neutral wires. These 2 wires will be the LINE side connection. LINE side connection requires a constant 120 volts. Then terminate the LOAD side hot and neutral.

3) If the GFCI still trips, then remove the LOAD side connections and see if the GFCI does not trip with just the LINE side connection. If the GFCI works correctly and is able to Test and Reset without a LOAD side connection, then the problem is either a direct short circuit possibly caused by a bare copper ground wire coming into direct contact with the GFCI side terminal screws or a problem downstream of the GFCI.

4) I always recommend to wrap a few layers of black electrical tape around the GFCI perimeter and side screws to prevent short circuit or a ground fault from occurring.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Ok, so I had the incorrect neutral wire on the line side (incorrect voltage). That now works and the GFI works with only the line side connected. As soon as I connect the load side, it trips. I do not see any bare wires touching right in that box (although there a lot of wires in there). I can pull other outlets too, to see if there are any bare wires.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

OK, thanks for confirming.

1) Temporarily back the GFCI out from the wall box but leave the LINE and LOAD side wires connected. Does the GFCI still trip when not secured to the wall box?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
it is already out of the wall box I can get a very good view. The moment I put the hot wire on the load side, it sparks and trips. I pulled off the over plates and pulled the outlets of all the other outlets on the circuit and I didn't see anything bare touching.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for the replies

1) It is possible that you may have a hot wire connecting to the LOAD side. Sparks & arcing indicates a hot wire. The downstream hot and neutral extending to the LOAD side need to be confirmed.

2) Another possibility is that this circuit may have been configured as a shared neutral circuit. If a shared neutral, the LOAD neutral cannot be connected to the GFCI LOAD side as it will trip the GFCI every time. What part of the home is the GFCI located at? Kitchen countertop receptacles or other?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
ok, I do not think the black/hot wire going to the load (which is disconnected now b/c it keeps tripping) is hot. When I test the raw wire with one of the neutral wires I get no voltage. It is the downstream hot wire (charge when connected to the outlet). As far as your second point, what do you mean? I had the whites crossed before and didn't have the right voltage...and GFI was not working. After your first email, I uncovered that with the voltmeter and switched them. When I took the other one off, all 4 of these wires were connected.Also, this is kitchen countertop, 4-5 outlets...all downstream as nothing works right now.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for the replies.

1) At the GFCI box, give me the total count of black and white wires in that box. Are the receptacles wired using Romex cable? Any red wires in the GFCI box?

2) Turn the breaker to the OFF position. Locate the hot circuit feed that you previously identified. Place some black electrical tape around that black/white pair to identify it as the circuit feed (LINE). Then separate all of the remaining wires in the GFCI box and see if you can locate any other hot pair combination by measuring from black to white. You've already identified the GFCI LINE pair, so disregard measuring here since it is already confirmed. Any other 120 volt measurements present in the GFCI box?

3) It is somewhat common for kitchen countertop receptacles to be wired as a shared neutral circuit. How many separate single pole breakers control the countertop receptacles? 1 or 2 separate full size single pole breakers or 1 double pole breaker that has a common trip handle tie?

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

1) Measure voltage from each individual white neutral to each individual black in the GFCI box with the exception of the original hot circuit feed that you previously measured. This will confirm if any of the remaining black wires in the GFCI box are hot.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
ok, there are a lot of wires in that box so that will take me awhile to pull it all apart...a bunch of pigtails as well....I'm guessing that is where the problem lies. In terms of breakers, there are 3 breakers labeled appliances...and to be honest, I didn't feel like figuring out which was which ( to avoid trips to the basement) so I just shut them all off. One of them is this circuit...and I know of at least one more circuit in the kitchen b/c there are other receptacles and GFI on that circuit (it is separate). Each breaker is 20amp.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

OK, Thanks

If the 3 breakers are all separate/individual single pole breakers that are stacked on top of each or right side of the panel, it is possible that one of these circuits may be wired as a shared neutral. You will need to isolate and determine which breaker controls which receptacles by taking measurements and turning the 3 breakers ON & OFF. It is possible that another of the kitchen hot circuit feeds thru or tandems thru the GFCI box via splices and is actually feeding the other kitchen circuit.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

Any red wires in any of the wall boxes? What is the wiring scheme that was installed? NM Romex cables or conduit or other?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
well, the 3 breakers are not next to each a matter of fact 1 is on 1 panel and the other 2 are in another panel (I have 2 panels). That said, there are a ton of splices and holy mess in this box....I just killed the power, was going to start trying to pull it all out and make sense of it.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I don't see any red. I do see 1 14 that should be 12, but nothing I can do about that right now. Sending you a picture with the mess...I can only see 2 wires coming into/out of box...but a lot of mess.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

OK, thanks for confirming.

Since 2 separate panels, highly unlikely that a shared neutral circuit was configured.

Going back to your sparking comment, I suspect there is another constant hot wire in the GFCI box from another feed thru circuit. A LOAD wire will be dead and does not contain any voltage. I suspect you connected hot wire from a different circuit to the GFCI LOAD side which caused the sparking/arcing.

If you have an ohm meter or better yet, a continuity tester available, this can easily confirm the hot/neutral for downstream receptacle LOAD pair.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

The 14 AWG will reside on a 15 amp breaker. Since your breakers are 20 amps and countertop receptacles, you are only interested in the 12 AWG copper wires and not the 14 AWG wires.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
here is a picture of the mess.I checked the load wires and I get the beep for continuity. Also, when I tested them for voltage, I got none...which is why I was thinking that black wire is NOT hot. However, it does spark and trip the gfi when I connect it...I was thinking b/c of a short downstream
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

I did not receive any pictures.

1) Yes, a downstream short can also cause a spark and trip the GFCI. The spark can only be caused by either a hot wire or a direct short.

If you have continuity and confirm the correct downstream LOAD pair and back out each downstream LOAD receptacle out from the wall box, the GFCI should work and not trip. Un-plug any connected loads at the wall receptacles when testing.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
When I had the other white wire connected (the one I now believe to be the load wire), the voltage was like 100, not I'm assuming that was NOT the line wire and is in fact the load. I'm at a loss right now...find it hard to believe that something would be up with that wiring wasn't disturbed...I don't see any evidence of bare wires as far as I can tell.
Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

You may have a loose neutral connection.

H to N voltage should measure approx 120V

H to G should also measure approx 120V

N to G voltage should measure 0 volts or very close to 0 volts. If measuring higher voltage from N to G, this indicates a loose neutral connection.

Expert:  Kevin replied 1 year ago.

If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.

Otherwise, don’t forget to rate me before you log Off.


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