How to Troubleshoot GFCI Breakers

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GFCI wall sockets are frequently located near sources of water.
GFCI wall sockets are frequently located near sources of water. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, also known as GFCI outlets, help prevent electrical fires and shocks in rooms where electrical outlets are placed near sources of water. For homes, these breaker plugs are located in kitchens and bathrooms as well as in the garage. In commercial spaces, the breakers tend to be installed in locations with significant appliance use, break rooms, and bathrooms. In every situation, the breaker plug has a safety switch in the outlet that cuts power to the outlet if the circuit is overloaded.

Press the "reset" button on the malfunctioning outlet. If that doesn't work, find the circuit breaker that controls the electricity to the room you're working in. See if the circuit breaker has been tripped (if it's in the "off" position). Turn the breaker back on if it was in the "off" or "tripped" position.

Unplug all the appliances and lights that share the same circuit as the malfunctioning outlet. Begin to plug appliances back into the wall sockets one by one. Continue the process until one of the appliances trips the breaker in the outlet or at the circuit breaker panel.

Relocate an appliance that is constantly tripping a circuit breaker to a different wall outlet that runs off a different circuit. You may need to add a circuit to your circuit breaker box. Hire an electrician to do this.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you're not sure the breaker is the problem and instead it just the plug, you can always use a plug tester to confirm if a given plug is working. The tester, when inserted, will light up if the plug works. Most testers can be bought at a hardware store for a few dollars.
  • Always turn the electricity off at the circuit breaker panel before removing and replacing a wall outlet, or working around electricity.

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