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How To Reset A GFCI Circuit Breaker

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If the power keeps tripping in your bathroom or kitchen, it is likely a faulty GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). GFCI breakers are required by the National Electric Code in moist areas to prevent electrical shock from ground faults in the outlet, but they are known to trip. It is simple to reset the GFCI breaker. Here are some tips to reset a GFCI breaker.

Prepare to Work

For this project, you need:

  • GFCI tester
  • non-contact voltage tester
  • screwdriver
  • new GFCI circuit breaker (optional)

A GFCI outlet commonly has three slots on top and three slots on the bottom in reverse. It will also have a "Test" button and "Reset" button.

Use the GFCI tester to locate outlets in the kitchen, basement, bathroom, or any room with water service. Pinpoint appliances or devices that lost electricity, and unplug the appliance or device. Note that some GFCI outlets may be hidden from view on garage walls.

Check outdoor outlets, which may have gotten wet. Outdoor string lights are a common cause of tripped GFCI breakers since they are long and prone to moisture. Examine the crawl space, if there is one. Some crawl spaces have a GFCi installed for the whole house.

Reset the Breaker

Open the service panel to the breaker box. A GFCI breaker will have a "Reset" button. The "Reset" button will protrude slightly if the breaker has tripped.

Press the reset button several times, then plug in several devices in the outlet controlled by the breaker. Press "Reset" on the outlet. If the breaker and outlet stay reset when you plug in a device, the problem is likely a faulty device.

Inspect the Circuitry and Reduce Overload

Turn the main circuit breaker off, and run a non-contact voltage meter over the breakers to test for a current. Remove the breaker from the box. Most breakers have screws you can remove with a screwdriver and another breaker slide on the bus (which is a silver strip with several screws).

Examine the breaker for loose or broken wires, and repair or replace them. Reinstall the breaker, and push the reset button again.

Some GFCI circuit breakers are more sensitive than others. Try another brand of GFCI. 

Also, reduce the circuit load by turning off devices connected to the circuit. Test for circuit overload by turning off the power, and touching the breaker with your fingers. An overloaded circuit will feel hot.

These tips should help you reset your GFCI circuit breaker. If the breaker still doesn't reset, or you don't trust your skill, contact an electrician like those at JF Electrical Contractors, Inc.


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