Bill Anderson

Help! My GCFI outlet won’t reset.

Electricity is a powerful and useful force. In our homes and at work, we expect to use electricity without thinking about it, and that’s as it should be. Sometimes, though, there’s a glitch—a light won’t turn on, or you can see that your computer is plugged in, but it’s not charging. In that case, you may find a GFCI outlet that’s not working.

A GFCI is a type of electrical outlet that has a built-in breaker that trips (shuts off) when it detects something wrong, such as short or ground fault. These outlets are required in kitchens and bathrooms, rooms where water is usually present. GFCIs are pretty simple and reliable, but sometimes we do see them fail. GFCIs have a “test” button and a “reset” button on the outlet. Anytime you want to test the outlet, push the “test” button; if power to the device shuts off, it’s working properly.

Figuring Out the Problem

The challenge is determining if only the outlet is faulty and must be replaced, or if it’s working properly and there is another problem that must be resolved. First, determine the extent of the problem. Is just one outlet tripped, or more? Check the room. Are any lights not working? Unplug devices from each GFCI outlet and check to see if the “reset” button has popped out. Also check the breaker panel for tripped breakers. Older homes may have fuses if the main electrical panel has not been updated. If you find a tripped breaker, reset it. If you find a blown fuse, replace it. Then plug the devices back in and turn them on.

It’s useful to understand how a room is wired so you know which outlets and switches are using the same circuit. Let’s say you work at the kitchen table. The outlets at the kitchen counter are GFCIs, and those at the table where you plug your computer in are not. If all the outlets are on the same circuit, and the non-GFCI outlets are downstream of the GFCI, they’ll be “dead” or have no power if the GFCI at the counter trips, or if the breaker trips. The non-GFCI outlet at the table may be fine, but the upstream GFCI has tripped and shut off power. That’s why it’s good to know what outlets and switches are on a circuit. A short at a non-GFCI outlet can cause the GFCI to trip. You must check that outlet with an electrical tester.

If you find only one GFCI has tripped but everything else seems okay, push the “reset” button in until it clicks into place. You may need to use a tool if your finger won’t fit. When it clicks into place, plug the device(s) back in. Does it seem ok, or did it trip again? If the GFCI seems to be working again, check the room again.

When is it Time to Call an Electrician?

If you’ve tried all these steps and you still have a problem, it’s time to call for help. Electrical work is not a project for most DIY folks, as the risk of harm is just too great. Personal injury and property damage do occur when people don’t know what they’re doing. Fortunately, help is available. Call ARK Electric Heating and Cooling at 303-656-3689 or click to schedule an appointment. We’ll send over a licensed electrician who can solve your problems safely and economically.

While ARK is out helping with your GFCI issue, it might also be a good time to update your home’s electrical system. For example, consider adding USB outlets, upgrading from a fuse panel to a breaker panel, or adding a whole-house surge protector to protect all your electrical devices. If you are interested in learning more about upgrading your system, we would be more than happy to conduct a complimentary estimate.

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