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Subject was a 2005 colonial with full finished basement including additional kitchen. I pushed the test button on one of the kitchen counter GFI's. It tripped as it should and the corresponding downstream receptacle also went dead.

Looks good so I push the reset button and it does not reset. I figured a second GFI somewhere on the circuit and began the hunt. I couldn't find it and decided to continue with the inspection believing that I would eventually find the other tripped GFI.

Finished the inspection without finding another tripped device. I scoured the house again including additional study of the breaker panel and all other GFI's in the house. During this pass I discover the basement kitchen fridge is also tripped and its full of food. Now I know I got an issue.

45mins of time was spent on this one GFI alone. I thought I was going have to hook the fridge up via extension cord and call an electrician. Instead I decided to do a little trouble shooting myself. I shut off the breaker for that receptacle, removed the screws and pulled it out of the box. I turned the breaker back on and got out my voltage meter. Bingo! The line side still had power. My conclusion was a faulty GFI, the very GFI that I had tripped with its test button. It was my luck that it happened to fail at that time.

For a temporary solution I turned the breaker back off, moved the load side lines to the line side on the back of the faulty GFI. I then put it back into the box and put the cover back on and turned the breaker back on. While the receptacle of this GFI was still non functional, my wiring adjustment sent the juice down the line to the other receptacles, including the one powering the fridge.

Here's my report comment on the subject.

A GFI receptacle at the basement kitchen countertop malfunctioned on the day of the inspection and would not reset after being tripped. It was discovered that the refrigerator is also being powered by this GFI circuit. Refrigerators should not be on GFI circuits since nuisance tripping can cause food to spoil. Have the GFI replaced and provide the refrigerator a circuit that is not GFI protected.

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. . . A GFI receptacle at the basement kitchen countertop malfunctioned on the day of the inspection and would not reset after being tripped. It was discovered that the refrigerator is also being powered by this GFI circuit. Refrigerators should not be on GFI circuits since nuisance tripping can cause food to spoil. Have the GFI replaced and provide the refrigerator a circuit that is not GFI protected.

I encourage you to drop the bit about how refrigerators "should not" be on GFCI circuits. There's no such rule.

I also wish that people would stop referring to nuisance tripping with regard to GFCIs. Modern GFCIs are pretty reliable things. When they trip, it's almost always for a good reason.

Even if you ignore those two points, there's no need to put the fridge on a separate circuit. They can just wire the existing circuit so that the GFCI protection doesn't extend to the fridge.

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Good one, John.

I might have removed only the GFI cover and tested with the DMM for juice. That way, no need to turn off the breaker.

Then I think I would have found an extension cord for the fridge. But I'm not criticizing what you did. I rarely get that much time to do that much work in a house.

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It's a major pain in the neck when that happens but the save is that John was comfortable enough to start opening up boxes, tracking voltages and changing connections to get a temporary fix. Lotsa HI's have never done wiring and wouldn't be up to doing that. Doing it without prior experience in wiring can easily do a lot more harm than good.

Marc

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You do what YOU are comfortable with. Some can do what he did. Others should just get an extension cord. To each their own level of comfort.

Agreed. For me, it is not that I can't wire or repair an outlet.

I would be leery, and maybe not permitted, to work on a house that hasn't been sold to my client yet, that needs the attention of an electrician or competent repair man, who will immediately take offense that a layperson home inspector would dare to attempt a temporary fix on something he broke, etc.

IMO, better to say the thing broke, it needs replacement, and I've plugged the fridge in as a courtesy, bye.

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...I would be leery, and maybe not permitted, to work on a house that hasn't been sold to my client yet, that needs the attention of an electrician or competent repair man, who will immediately take offense that a layperson home inspector would dare to attempt a temporary fix on something he broke, etc...

What's a layperson home inspector? Is this one of them oxymoron things?

Marc

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...I would be leery, and maybe not permitted, to work on a house that hasn't been sold to my client yet, that needs the attention of an electrician or competent repair man, who will immediately take offense that a layperson home inspector would dare to attempt a temporary fix on something he broke, etc...

What's a layperson home inspector? Is this one of them oxymoron things?

Marc

I just made that up, picturing Mr Fixer going in after me and pontificating to the HO. And who exactly are you calling a moron? [:)]

John, the presence of the seller and buyer changes the situation certainly.

One of the worst nightmares of renovated houses is the daisy-chained GFI's and nothing labeled or logical. You did good to sort it out.

I tripped an outdoor receptacle for a feature pond one time. Only the one receptacle went dead, but so did the nifty waterfall feature. My clients had not arrived. The other outdoor outlets were on another circuit. I soon gave up searching and was phrasing the explanation to my clients in my head. In the master bedroom, I wanted to check at least one receptacle. There behind the night stand was a little old GFCI and it was tripped. Reset it and the waterfall at the other end of the house came back to life. Who'da thunk it?

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. . . A GFI receptacle at the basement kitchen countertop malfunctioned on the day of the inspection and would not reset after being tripped. It was discovered that the refrigerator is also being powered by this GFI circuit. Refrigerators should not be on GFI circuits since nuisance tripping can cause food to spoil. Have the GFI replaced and provide the refrigerator a circuit that is not GFI protected.

I encourage you to drop the bit about how refrigerators "should not" be on GFCI circuits. There's no such rule.

I also wish that people would stop referring to nuisance tripping with regard to GFCIs. Modern GFCIs are pretty reliable things. When they trip, it's almost always for a good reason.

Even if you ignore those two points, there's no need to put the fridge on a separate circuit. They can just wire the existing circuit so that the GFCI protection doesn't extend to the fridge.

I can't agree more with Jim's comment.

As for fixing the GFCI, I'm in the extension cord group!

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. . . A GFI receptacle at the basement kitchen countertop malfunctioned on the day of the inspection and would not reset after being tripped. It was discovered that the refrigerator is also being powered by this GFI circuit. Refrigerators should not be on GFI circuits since nuisance tripping can cause food to spoil. Have the GFI replaced and provide the refrigerator a circuit that is not GFI protected.

I encourage you to drop the bit about how refrigerators "should not" be on GFCI circuits. There's no such rule.

I also wish that people would stop referring to nuisance tripping with regard to GFCIs. Modern GFCIs are pretty reliable things. When they trip, it's almost always for a good reason.

Even if you ignore those two points, there's no need to put the fridge on a separate circuit. They can just wire the existing circuit so that the GFCI protection doesn't extend to the fridge.

X2

Also a side note that refrigerators in commercial kitchens require GFI protection.

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?319. Electrical System

A. The home inspector shall inspect:

....

6. test ground fault circuit interrupters and arc fault circuit interrupters, unless, in the opinion of the inspector, such testing is likely to cause damage to any installed items or components of the home or interrupt service to an electrical device or equipment located in or around the home.

That's what our SOP says about GFCI's. Some fellas around here openly admit to never touching any GFCI. Those that do are simply sticking their neck out a little more to better serve the buyer.

I always test them if the initial walk through reveals no computer in operation. And yes, I've left some half-baths and outdoor receptacles without power because I couldn't find the series connected GFCI.

Marc

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Having Jim Katen and Douglas Hansen here to advise and concur on electrical issues is surely a gift to us all. I'll no longer say that refrigerators "should not" be on GFI protected circuits. With that in mind, I'll still mention to clients that inadvertent tripping of GFI devices could cause power interruption that can lead to other issues including spoiled food.

It's interesting that even in the 2012 IRC they make an exception in unfinished basements for alarm equipment. I'm sure we can all agree how important alarm equipment is. Can anyone elaborate why they would make an exception such as that listed below?

I think that the idea of nuisance tripping can be viewed as very unlikely. But what about inadvertent tripping? Through human error, things get de-energized and problems happen. Is not the language below implying that unintended power interruptions on GFI circuits can be problematic?

E3902.5 Unfinished basement receptacles.

All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in unfinished basements shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel. For purposes of this section, unfinished basements are defined as portions or areas of the basement not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and the like.

Exception: A receptacle supplying only a permanently installed fire alarm or burglar alarm system.

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It's interesting that even in the 2012 IRC they make an exception in unfinished basements for alarm equipment. I'm sure we can all agree how important alarm equipment is. Can anyone elaborate why they would make an exception such as that listed below?

[/i]

The IRC quotation is only half the story. If you look at the source of that text that was extracted from 210.8 in the NEC, you see a fine-print note directing you to also look at sections 760.41(B) and 760.121(B) in the article on fire alarm systems. Those sections tell us that the branch circuit for the fire alarm has to be an individual circuit with no other loads, that the circuit disconnecting means shall have red identification, that it shall be accessible only to qualified personnel, and that it shall not be supplied through a GFCI. The IRC does not have a section on fire alarms, so they did not bring in this language.

The idea is that they do not want someone testing it since these are central station alarms. The fire alarm company and fire marshal can have a key to the fire alarm control; the homeowner can't. The last thing the fire department needs is to get a false alarm because someone pressed a GFCI test button that said "test monthly."

Keep up the good work.

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When we test a GFCI and it will not reset, I have heard in the past that it may not be a bad GFCI. It could be that the line and load wires have been reversed on the GFCI when it was installed. I have also heard that border line or lower voltage may keep the GFCI from resetting. We should not automatically assume that the GFCI is bad and call for replacement.

Will low voltage or line and load wires reversed keep the GFCI from resetting?

Jeff Euriech

Peoria Arizona

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When we test a GFCI and it will not reset, I have heard in the past that it may not be a bad GFCI. It could be that the line and load wires have been reversed on the GFCI when it was installed. I have also heard that border line or lower voltage may keep the GFCI from resetting. We should not automatically assume that the GFCI is bad and call for replacement.

I supose you could say to have it repaired instead of replaced, but a new unit costs $15 and an electrician will charge $100+ to work on an old one, which may be less dependable than one of the new ones.

Will low voltage or line and load wires reversed keep the GFCI from resetting?

Jeff Euriech

Peoria Arizona

If the circuit has two GFCI's daisy-chained together, the downstream one won't reset until you restore power to it. That I know.

Give me a few hours and I will let you know about the low power thing. I have a variac in my shop, but no GFI receptacle handy at the moment.

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When we test a GFCI and it will not reset, I have heard in the past that it may not be a bad GFCI. It could be that the line and load wires have been reversed on the GFCI when it was installed. I have also heard that border line or lower voltage may keep the GFCI from resetting. We should not automatically assume that the GFCI is bad and call for replacement.

Will low voltage or line and load wires reversed keep the GFCI from resetting?

With the newer GFCIs - those that are about 12 or fewer years old -- the GFCI won't reset if the line & load are reversed. However, it's supposed to behave like that from the moment it's installed. In other words, it wouldn't have power from the get-go.

I don't know how they behave when supplied with low voltage.

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When we test a GFCI and it will not reset, I have heard in the past that it may not be a bad GFCI. It could be that the line and load wires have been reversed on the GFCI when it was installed. I have also heard that border line or lower voltage may keep the GFCI from resetting. We should not automatically assume that the GFCI is bad and call for replacement.

Will low voltage or line and load wires reversed keep the GFCI from resetting?

With the newer GFCIs - those that are about 12 or fewer years old -- the GFCI won't reset if the line & load are reversed. However, it's supposed to behave like that from the moment it's installed. In other words, it wouldn't have power from the get-go.

I don't know how they behave when supplied with low voltage.

I tested an older model Leviton GFCI and found:

It trips and resets down to 80 volts AC.

Below 80 vac, it will neither trip nor reset. The neon lights of the cheapo tester flicker and die at this ridiculously low voltage.

Click to Enlarge
tn_20121125201339_Img_0388.jpg

66.18?KB

Correction: I forgot that the variac is on an isolation transformer, that grey thing under the black thing. My polarity test was invalid.

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Just ran into a daisy chain today, but it was just the bathrooms.

I've seen it where EVERY outlet on a kitchen counter, about 8 of them, was a GFCI. Seller said electrician told him it had to be that way, but I think the seller did the work based on a misunderstanding of his conversation with an electrician who told him that each outlet had to be GFCI "protected", not an actual GFCI on each outlet.

We do see some crazy stuff.

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