Residential Lighting And Electrical

GFCI outlet not working? Here’s what to do

September 14, 2021
4 min
Matt Bires

There are few things more frustrating than a GFCI outlet not working properly. But how do you identify the problem and fix the issue? Read on to learn how to fix the issue if a GFCI outlet won't reset.

First we’ll explain the most common ways to troubleshoot the outlet, then we’ll explain how they work in plenty of detail if you need more information.

So how do you troubleshoot a GFCI Receptacle?

Upon the failure of electrical power at the receptacle, attempt cycling power with the use of the TEST/RESET buttons:

1. Fully depress the ‘TEST’ button

a. Once the ‘TEST’ fully is depressed, the ‘RESET’ button will pop out (if it hasn’t already)

2. Fully depress the ‘RESET’ button

This should correct the problem, as this is the most common solution, but let’s look at some possible issues you might run into:

  • PROBLEM #1: ‘RESET’ button cannot be depressed / ‘RESET’ button never popped out, even after pressing the ‘TEST’ button Assure you are fully pushing the ‘TEST’ button in, it can be difficult on some receptacles. Hint: It may be a bit difficult to fully depress as the buttons many times are flush with the outlet, but make sure it is fully depressed for the circuit to reset.

If the problem persists, the outlet is either not getting power OR is dead and must be replaced, we recommend calling a certified electrician.

  • PROBLEM #2: ‘RESET’ button continues popping out/tripping This may be a far more dangerous current leak along the circuit, we recommend calling a certified electrician.

If the problem persists after following this guide, it is important to contact a certified electrician sooner, rather than later in case the issue is on serious side. Lightning Mobile Electric provides punctual, quality, and professional electrical contracting to the Colorado market, and we are just a phone call away in any case. Please do not hesitate to reach out for any project, no matter how small or big.

What is an GFCI outlet?

GFCI Outlets, also known as a ‘Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter' Receptacles, are an essential part of every residential, commercial, and industrial structure. These electrical outlets are designed to automatically move from a closed circuit to an open circuit, as soon as it notices an electrical ground fault. This makes GFCI receptacles a perfect solution for kitchens, bathrooms, garages, basements, or any outdoor space, as they greatly reduce risk of shock or electrocution. They also satisfy the National Electrical Code requirements for damp areas.

Why are GFCI outlets important?

GFCI outlets help protect against ground faults that can result in dangerous electrical situations. Think of a ground fault like a leak in your plumbing. Your pipes carry a current of hundreds of gallons of water through your property every day. If a leak occurs, your faucet may still work but you could be at risk of flooding without shutting off your water.

This is very similar to how a circuit in your home, business or warehouse works. Electricity is constantly running to the receptacles that power your everyday and occasionally a “leak” occurs. This “leak” is a ground fault. A ground fault will not cause any type of water damage like a plumbing leak would, but it does create very dangerous conditions that could lead to an electrical shock, injury, or death.

This ground fault is common in damp areas and precautions are required by National Electrical Code because water, just like copper wire, is very conductive. Should water end up meeting the leads in an electrical receptacle, the circuit will begin “leaking” into the water and this creates a hazard to anyone near both the water and outlet. GFCI outlets are the solution to this extremely common and unsafe situation.

How do GFCI outlets work?

Illustration by Matt Bires

As you can see, the receptacle has a “hot” (black), neutral (white) and ground wire. The “hot” wire is what feeds the outlet power. The neutral wire is where the electricity is sent to the load (what you have plugged in/what you are powering). The ground wire is another safety standard on all outlets to protect against a short, safely depositing excess electrical charges to natural earth ground. What makes a GFCI outlet special is it is constantly checking the current being sent through the hot and neutral end and if it finds that one has a larger or smaller current than the other, it will immediately open.

Another unique aspect of the outlet are the ‘RESET’ and ‘TEST’ buttons. While the button design can vary between models, the features remain the same. Upon the detection of a fault, the outlet, and any other loads subsequently in line with a GFCI outlet will immediately open. Just like a circuit breaker, you can reset the receptacle using the reset button.

The test button is used to simulate a fault occurring, and upon fully depressing this button, again, the circuit will open and the ‘RESET’ button must be utilized to reactivate the circuit.

If you’re having trouble with a GFCI outlet in your building, don’t hesitate to give our skilled team a call.

Do you have other electrical needs? Check out our full list of electrical services we offer at Lightning Mobile Electric.

Get In Touch 303-595-9559