GFCIs are very useful in kitchens, bathrooms and other wet areas where there’s a concern about potential shorts in an outlet. If anything goes wrong in a protected outlet or circuit, the unit trips and is shut off until the reset button is pushed. Most of the time, this is exactly the sort of protection that you want. If a GFCI unit keeps tripping, though, and it’s not water that’s the culprit, here are a few other options you might consider:
GFCIs don’t do well in long circuits, especially if you’re only using the standalone receptacle versions. To prevent issues with repeated tripping you should avoid installing a GFCI receptacle in any circuit longer than 100 ft. Sometimes mistakes are made, and if you weren’t the original installer then you might not even be aware that the circuit is longer than it should be. This can be annoying as it may require some rewiring, but if you don’t reduce the length of the circuit then even replacement GFCIs may continue to yield nuisance trips.
Having one or even a few splices in a circuit is usually fine for GFCIs. The more splices there are, though, the more it strains the GFCI unit and the more likely it is to break the circuit. If the circuit has multiple splices in it, then replacing the wiring with a single length of wire may prevent the GFCI from tripping in the future.
Heavy Circuit Loads
Take a moment and look at what else is installed on the circuit with the GFCI. If there are heavy-load items such as fluorescent lighting, fans or other items with electric motors then they might be the cause of the problem. These items require a lot of electricity to operate, especially when starting up; the draw they create through the circuit may overwhelm the GFCI and cause it to trip.
Loose wires or other faults within the equipment that’s plugged into the outlet can cause grounding issues that will trip the GFCI. It may not be evident if the equipment gets unplugged often or if you unplug it before attempting a reset, and it may not trip the GFCI consistently.
This is much more common with power cords that have a GFCI component built into them, though it’s possible that you might find some other GFCI equipment with this feature built-in. Though it may seem annoying to have the GFCI trip frequently, these cords may trip by design every time the cord is unplugged. This ensures that connected equipment such as saws that you might see at a work site can’t automatically turn back on after a power outage. If the unit trips every time the power is turned off, that’s probably what’s going on.
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