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How to get around tripped "hidden" GFCI?


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Hi all:

A couple of weeks ago I powerwashed my patio and accidentally sprayed some water to the outlet where my powerwasher is plugged in, and it stopped immediately. It must be tripped a GFCI, but I can't find it. As a result, 5 outlets are dead (all used to be working), one in backyard, one in front porch, one in restroom of the first floor, one in hallway to garage (where washer/dryer are), and one in garage. I have been crazily looking for this hidden GFCI, but no luck so far.

I read many internet posts related to this problem. Logically, the "hidden" GFCI should either be in first floor restroom or in garage. I moved everything in garage, and also looked at the heater room. I also mapped all the breakers to the lights and outlets in the house. Unfortunately, I couldn't identify three breakers. One of them must be my dead line.

This house was built in 1988, and I moved in 10 years ago. This is the first time I got a GFCI tripped. There are three GFCI outlets in house, one in kitchen, one in kids rest room, and one for master rest room. All breakers are simple breakers (no GFCI buttons), and work fine based on multi meter. This old house has weird wiring, e.g. the outlet in the balcony of the master bedroom is connected to the GFCI outlet in kids restroom, instead of master restroom right next to it.

Which kind of tool is there to locate a hidden GFCI?

If I can't really find the hidden GFCI, is there a way to work around it? Is it possible to rewire one of the outlet and then make all 5 outlets in this circuit work again?

Update on Jun. 27, 2016:

Thank you all very much for your responses.

This is a two-story house. I have a small kitchen (no island) and I only find one GFCI there (must be two?).

The outlet that got water-sprayed on is the far-most one from the breaker panel. The closest outlet (that stops working) is in the garage about 40 ft away from the breaker (on opposite site walls of the three car garage). As I found out, everything (except this outlet) around the garage (garage door controller, lights inside and outside of garage and even in attic, even the sprinkle system) are connected by the same breaker. This is the only outlet in garage wall I can find (strange because I really need more). There are a couple outlets on garage roof which provide power for two garage door openers (and I have to get extension from there).

There are two breaker boxes. I was puzzled by the inaccurate or wrong labels because I did see "GFI" on panel 2 diagram, but don't know what it means. I'm loading up some photos of it. Anybody can decipher it? I'm also uploading the new map of the breakers based on my effort. Note that there are three breakers I couldn't identify.

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Some stud sensors also locate live wires. You could turn off all power except the one circuit and then try to trace the wire to where the GFCI would be located.

I assume it is a two-story house. If not, wires may run through the attic and could be checked there with a non-contact voltage tester.

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Kitchen should have at least two GFCI's. Look for another one there. Sometimes it's hidden in a sink cabinet or island cabinet.

I've seen quite a few instances where two GFCI devices are wired in series. That sometimes makes it a head wringer trying to figure out which one is first. Second one won't reset until after the first one is reset.

If the master bath has a jacuzzi, look for a GFCI in the adjoining toilet room or closet. I've seen them hidden in the shelving there sometimes.

Last resort is to replace the GFCI that got hit with water with a regular duplex. If it works, you need a new GFCI.

Marc

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I tested an outdoor outlet one time and the GFCI tripped somewhere in the house. Two outdoor outlets and a water feature were dead. I eventually found the tripped GFCI outlet in the master bedroom behind a bedside cabinet. [:-magnify One of the dead outdoor outlets was directly outside that bedroom wall.

A buddy gave me his old power washer, bought a bigger one he said. I took it up on the balcony and it blew the breaker. That circuit also happened to power my desktop PC which was on at the time.

After that little incident, PC would not reboot, junk, and the pressure washer went to the dump, more junk.

That was the only time a circuit breaker ever tripped in that house.

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Update on Jun. 27, 2016:

Thank you all very much for your responses.

This is a two-story house. I have a small kitchen (no island) and I only find one GFCI there (must be two?).

Kitchen countertops should be served by at least two separate circuits. Each should be GFCI protected.

The outlet that got water-sprayed on is the far-most one from the breaker panel. The closest outlet (that stops working) is in the garage about 40 ft away from the breaker (on opposite site walls of the three car garage). As I found out, everything (except this outlet) around the garage (garage door controller, lights inside and outside of garage and even in attic, even the sprinkle system) are connected by the same breaker.

You should try to cycle that breaker off and on and see if that restores power to the receptacles on that breaker.

This is the only outlet in garage wall I can find (strange because I really need more). There are a couple outlets on garage roof which provide power for two garage door openers (and I have to get extension from there).

There are two breaker boxes. I was puzzled by the inaccurate or wrong labels because I did see "GFI" on panel 2 diagram, but don't know what it means. I'm loading up some photos of it. Anybody can decipher it? I'm also uploading the new map of the breakers based on my effort. Note that there are three breakers I couldn't identify.

Click to Enlarge
tn_2016627161340_Panel%201%20Diagram.jpg

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tn_201662716146_Panel%201%20Breakers.jpg

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tn_2016627161422_Panel%202%20Diagram.jpg

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tn_2016627161433_Panel%202%20Breakers.jpg

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2016627161442_breaker%20map.png

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None of the breakers on either panel is a GFCI type breaker.

What I tend to do with a problem like this is try to get into the head of the electrician that wired the house and find out at what point in the circuit is it open. It's almost always at a receptacle box or switch box. The string of dead receptacles provide the 'dots' of the circuit. Connect the dots to get an idea how this electrician wired the circuit. The circuit might sometimes runs through a switch box.

Make sure the circuit has voltage at its beginning (the breaker) before beginning this search.

If you're not comfortable doing this, you should ask your electrician to do it. Watch him as he works and learn from him.

Marc

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Update on Jun. 27, 2016:

Thank you all very much for your responses.

This is a two-story house. I have a small kitchen (no island) and I only find one GFCI there (must be two?).

Kitchen countertops should be served by at least two separate circuits. Each should be GFCI protected.

Marc

1988 house typically only required GFCI protection in the kitchen within 6' of the sink. Also, all those other receptacles should not be on the kitchen circuit.

Before the code required a separate circuit for bathroom receptacles most builders in my area put the garage, exterior, basement, and bathroom receptacles on the same circuit and used one GFCI receptacle to protect everything downstream.

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Thanks, Marc, for detailed instruction. I looked everything around the kitchen, but couldn't find the second GFCI outlet. I did find something very puzzling to me. On counter top there are three outlets including one actual GFCI. One other outlet is connected to this GFCI, while the third one is by itself, but all three are connected to the same breaker.

You ask me "to cycle that breaker off and on and see if that restores power to the receptacles on that breaker", but I turned all breakers on/off several times in past few days, and just tried again, but still no power.

How do I find "head of the electrician that wired the house"?

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1988 house typically only required GFCI protection in the kitchen within 6' of the sink. Also, all those other receptacles should not be on the kitchen circuit.

Before the code required a separate circuit for bathroom receptacles most builders in my area put the garage, exterior, basement, and bathroom receptacles on the same circuit and used one GFCI receptacle to protect everything downstream.

It looks it's the case as you described. The two outlets on GFCI are within 6' of sink, the third one that is not on GFCI is about 7' away. Those three are all above counter top. Actually, there is another one outside the kitchen area on its wall (next to breakfast area) also on this same breaker circuit, but not connected to GFCI.

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i'm sure you've checked or not

often there is a receptacle located on underside of the soffit or at frieze board

may or may not require gfci protected circuit depending on what it's wired for

sparkys don't always put things where they belong & sometimes receptacles are drywalled over during construction

there are numerous circuit location or wire tracing devices https://www.google.com/search?q=circuit ... 8&oe=utf-8

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Hi all, I'm happy to report that, within a few minutes, I finally found the hidden GFCI outlet using "Extech TG20 Wire Tracer/Tone Generator" I just bought from amazon. It is indeed in the garage. In fact just on the other side of the door where one of the not-working outlet is, behind the shoe rack covered by one of the shoes. I looked at that place many times but didn't see it. This Extech TG20 is a great tool. Very easy to use. Here is what I did. Connect the red alligator clip to the power wire of this not-working outlet and the other alligator clip to its case (ground), tune it on to Tone. Then turn on the receiver and move around. You will hear the tone when the wire is within a foot (maybe two) range, and it become louder when it gets closer to the wire. It's only $25 on amazon. Highly recommend this product.

Another surprising thing I found is that those outlets are sharing the same breaker with the washer.

Now, I am hoping I can using this Extech GT20 to figure out what the three unidentified breakers for.

Thank you all very much for help!

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  • 3 years later...
On 7/1/2016 at 9:05 AM, newman99 said:

Hi all, I'm happy to report that, within a few minutes, I finally found the hidden GFCI outlet using "Extech TG20 Wire Tracer/Tone Generator" I just bought from amazon. It is indeed in the garage. In fact just on the other side of the door where one of the not-working outlet is, behind the shoe rack covered by one of the shoes. I looked at that place many times but didn't see it. This Extech TG20 is a great tool. Very easy to use. Here is what I did. Connect the red alligator clip to the power wire of this not-working outlet and the other alligator clip to its case (ground), tune it on to Tone. Then turn on the receiver and move around. You will hear the tone when the wire is within a foot (maybe two) range, and it become louder when it gets closer to the wire. It's only $25 on amazon. Highly recommend this product.

 

Another surprising thing I found is that those outlets are sharing the same breaker with the washer.

 

Now, I am hoping I can using this Extech GT20 to figure out what the three unidentified breakers for.

 

Thank you all very much for help!

 

13 minutes ago, coupe1942 said:

I know this is an old thread, but what was the final outcome once the tone finder was used? Did the guy every locate that hidden gfci outlet by using it? How did he set it up to do so?

Thanks, I too am looking for a hidden gfci outlet at present.

he resolved as seen in post above yours

hth

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