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Cant find GFCI- Not sure what to do.


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Hello all,

I recently did a home and upon testing the exterior outlet for GFCI protection, the outlet tripped a GFCI located elsewhere in the home. It appears that it took out the garage and bathroom outlets also, not tested prior to exterior test. After a very exhaustive search of the entire home, attic, crawlspace and panel I could not find a GFCI outlet anywhere.

(Limited visual access to to the home being occupied.)

The homeowners, agents and my clients are not to happy.

I wrote it up as it happened but woud like some input on how to handle this type of situation and the correct way to write it up.

Thanks for your input!!

B. Burns

MHHI

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Are you sure you found all the (sub)panels?

Originally posted by klondike97009

Hello all,

I recently did a home and upon testing the exterior outlet for GFCI protection, the outlet tripped a GFCI located elsewhere in the home. It appears that it took out the garage and bathroom outlets also, not tested prior to exterior test. After a very exhaustive search of the entire home, attic, crawlspace and panel I could not find a GFCI outlet anywhere.

(Limited visual access to to the home being occupied.)

The homeowners, agents and my clients are not to happy.

I wrote it up as it happened but woud like some input on how to handle this type of situation and the correct way to write it up.

Thanks for your input!!

B. Burns

MHHI

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Around here it would most likely be located in the garage behind a bunch of crap (typical in the 80's era homes--- 1900's that is ). It is almost always in the garage when the GFCI controls the exterior, bathroom, and garage outlets.

whoops... just saw where you posted from-- search the garage walls really well.

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Hi,

Did you check the other exterior receptacles? I occasionally find the GFCI for the garage at one of the other exterior receptacles. Also, look up at the ceiling receptacles in the garage.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by klondike97009

Hello all,

I recently did a home and upon testing the exterior outlet for GFCI protection, the outlet tripped a GFCI located elsewhere in the home. It appears that it took out the garage and bathroom outlets also, not tested prior to exterior test. After a very exhaustive search of the entire home, attic, crawlspace and panel I could not find a GFCI outlet anywhere.

(Limited visual access to to the home being occupied.)

The homeowners, agents and my clients are not to happy.

I wrote it up as it happened but woud like some input on how to handle this type of situation and the correct way to write it up.

Thanks for your input!!

B. Burns

MHHI

Hi Brian,

Where was the house?

I've been inspecting since 1992 and that only happened to me once -- the house was in Sandy (not far from Boring). In my case, the seller was not upset, but he was curious. With his help, we searched every square inch of every wall, floor and ceiling in the house. We never found it and I never learned what happened. (Sorry, I'm not making you feel better, am I?)

On one house in McMinnville, there's a house where the GFCI device is in the crawlspace, mounted on a joist facing down. I inspected that house twice; they never fixed it either time.

Another inspector once told me that he was unable to find a tripped GFCI outlet that, he later learned, had been sheetrocked over.

It's not a bad idea to carry an extension cord, by the way. If a fridge or freezer is plugged into a GFCI outlet that you can't restore power to, you can use the cord to power the fridge temporarily.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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"It appears that it took out the garage and bathroom outlets also..."

My first guess would also be the garage, buried behind shelving, cupboards or the freezer, but could be anywhere. While it's nice to have some idea where the GFCIs are in the house, it's just not always possible to find them all before testing a location that should be protected. We've all been there I'm sure, rooting around for the mystery GFCI. I don't think I've ever left the house without finding one, but they can be hiding in some odd places, like under the sink behind all the smelly toiletries in the bathroom. I've had to pry a fully loaded freezer away from the wall in the garage to get to one. Only yesterday, the garage had 2 GFCI's, but one was buried behind boxes. Finding the first, I had no reason to look for or suspect another until I got to the powder room late in the inspection. I tripped that with a tester and fully expected to reset either the master bathroom GFCI or the one in the garage. But...no! I probably wasted a good 15 minutes or more looking around the rest of the house before checking behind boxes in the garage as I was running out of options.

How to write it up? I'd report what happened and then suggest the client ask the homeowner where the damn thing is.

As for everyone being unhappy...well the homeowner should know (or learn) where it is and the agents should simply know better. I have no idea why your client would be unhappy. Stuff happens, and you didn't actually break anything.

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

[it's not a bad idea to carry an extension cord, by the way. If a fridge or freezer is plugged into a GFCI outlet that you can't restore power to, you can use the cord to power the fridge temporarily.

Never occured to me. That's so simple, it's brilliant. [:-thumbu]

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After having to hunt for one a time or three I stopped tripping until I found the GFCI,trip it and then seen what it turn off.

Of course that will not stop the hide some time. I trip the GFCI in the bathroom and it would not reset. The home owners where mad. It turn out some one had installed an GFCI way out in the yard in the bushes and the way it was wired on the bathroom circuit it would trip when the test button was test on the bathroom outlet.

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Not that I carry it, but maybe I'll start. Anyway, in my communications/electronics toolbox, I keep a tone generator, a "banana" and a telephone handset. In a case like the one you mention, if you put a tone generator on the wires coming out of the outlet, you could easily trace it back to the GFI.

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Originally posted by davidlord

I have also had to hunt several down. When I'm in a house that has stuff stored along the garage walls I try to locate the GFCI prior to tripping any of them.

Things happen no big deal.

This is what I do too. I first locate the obvious GFI outlets. One at a time, I trip them at each of their locations and then go test other outlets to see which ones are controlled by which GFI outlet.

If I find a location that should be protected but does not die when any of the GFI's are tripped, I assume I have an unprotected outlet and write it up as such.

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In a previous home that I owned, the GFCI for the outside receptacles and the bathrooms was in a water heater closet. The water heater closet was in the garage. The GFCI was mounted high but above the water heater which to me which somewhat inaccessible. When we first bought the house and the GFCI tripped I couldn't find it. When I found the door to the water heater closet, it jumped out in front of me.

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Not that I carry it, but maybe I'll start. Anyway, in my communications/electronics toolbox, I keep a tone generator, a "banana" and a telephone handset. In a case like the one you mention, if you put a tone generator on the wires coming out of the outlet, you could easily trace it back to the GFI.

Not a bad idea and gives me an excuse to obtain another gadget.[:D]

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Originally posted by AHI

This is what I do too. I first locate the obvious GFI outlets. One at a time, I trip them at each of their locations and then go test other outlets to see which ones are controlled by which GFI outlet.

If I find a location that should be protected but does not die when any of the GFI's are tripped, I assume I have an unprotected outlet and write it up as such.

John, I have a bit of a issue with the last part of that method. You may be erroniously reporting the outlet as unprotected. In that case you still have a GFCI hidden somewhere in the house. Going by your report, the client installs a GFCI at the supposedly unprotected location. It tests fine with the button, but the first time an actual ground fault occurs it's possible that a: the newly installed GFCI, b: the hidden upstream GFCI, or c: both will trip. In the latter two instances, the client is "mysterily" left with no power to that location. It's safe, but could be a real nuisance. Or...the client pays an electrician the $200 or so to get them out of bed and install a GFCI and he quickly finds the existing GFCI.

As it better fits my routine of moving around a house, I would rather just test all locations as I come to them, take my chances and report an unfindable GFCI if I have to, than make and report that assumption. Especially as, thanks to Jim K, I am now carrying an extension cord for that freezer full of food.

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My GFCI experience goes back to a 1 year warranty inspection when I tripped a bathroom GFCI. I heard it "Click" but could never find it. It shut down the hydro-massage tub and two other bathroom outlets. I left a note for the owner. About a week later the owner sent me an email saying they contacted their builder and it was sealed under the tile surround of the tub!

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Originally posted by AHI

Point well taken Richard, If I do find one that does not die I'll use the tester button to test it before reporting it unprotected. Does that sound better?

Yep. Of course, if it does die with your tester, then you are back to hunting the elusive guilty GFCI like everyone else, but I just don't see any good way around that.

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I know it's pretty obvious and I'm sure you probably checked it, but occassionally, I'll find that a GFCI Breaker has been installed in the panel and that's the elusive GFCI that tripped and couldn't be found in an outlet.

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Then there are the "multiple GFCI reset receptacles" that a homeowner must figure that "more is better".

When you trip one and it won't reset as there are about 2, 3, 4 or more upstream/downstream and the prime one must be reset before any of the others will reset.

It like an scavenger hunt.

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