Some people panic when they see a GFCI with a light on, but it has no power. They associate lights with a working GFCI. However, that is a mistake.
You say your GFCI has a light, but what kind of light do you see? You have three options to consider:
- Green – Green light appears when the device is working. The GFCI will illuminate the green LED whenever it passes the self-test. You know you have power when you see this color.
- Red – Red indicator is a problem. You may see it when the GFCI develops a fault. Usually, testing and resetting the GFCI will eliminate this color. The red color will persist if the GFCI fails a self-test.
- No LED – What if there’s no LED? What if you don’t see any lights? This happens when the GFCI trips because of a ground fault. If resetting the GFCI fails to produce results, the GFCI doesn’t have power.
Before you proceed, identify the light you can see. Depending on your observation, you can blame one or more of the following:
1). Outlet Is Poorly Wired
If the GFCI has a green light, but it refused to work from the start, you wired the outlet poorly. Take it apart and start again. Don’t be surprised if the GFCI refuses to reset.
Laypeople make wiring mistakes all the time. Ask an electrician to check your work. They may identify wiring issues you missed. You can also check my guide on Installing GFCI With 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 Wires.
2). Connected Device Is Defective
How do you know the GFCI doesn’t have power? If the green light is on, the receptacle should work. Did you come to that conclusion after connecting an appliance to the GFCI? Maybe the device is defective.
Connect another appliance to the GFCI. If the second appliance works, the GFCI is okay. The first appliance is the problem.
3). Check The Manual For Clarification
Common sense will tell you to expect power when the green light comes on. But that is not true for every GFCI on the market. What does the manual say? For all you know, the green light on your GFCI only comes on when a ground fault occurs.
In other words, resetting the GFCI will solve this problem. Find out what each light on your GFCI means before you take action. You don’t want to misdiagnose the receptacle. A misdiagnosis will encourage you to take the wrong action.
4). Are You Sure The Lights Are On?
No one is surprised when a GFCI without an illuminated LED refuses to work. The LEDs won’t come on if you haven’t connected the GFCI to a power source. Some assume the green light is on when that isn’t true.
They are simply looking at a green rectangle. The right environment may trick you into believing that the green LED is illuminated, especially if the GFCI is new and you don’t know what the LED looks like when it lights up.
Close all the curtains (or wait till nighttime) and study the GFCI again. A dim environment will tell you once and for all whether or not the green LED is lit. If the green light is actually off, you don’t have power.
This can happen because the receptacle is on a de-energized circuit. You can also encounter similar results if you have a tripped GFCI upstream. If you daisy-chain this technology, a GFCI upstream will kill the power in all the outlets downstream.
5). End Of Lifespan
A GFCI can last ten or more years. However, it will misbehave once it reaches the end of its lifespan. That includes refusing to reset and failing to run your appliances even though the green light is on.
6). Factory Defect
The GFCI receptacle has malfunctioned. It came with a factory defect. If the outlet worked for a little while before failing, it probably succumbed to an electrical spike or surge.
How To Fix GFCI Outlet When Light Is ON But No Power?
You need to eliminate all the possible culprits until you identify the problem. Once you know the reasons interfering with the GFCI’s operations, use these steps to fix the outlet:
- Start with the circuit breaker. For all you know, the breaker tripped, which is why the GFCI doesn’t have power. Reset the breaker to restore power to all the outlets. You should make the breaker your first consideration if all the outlets are dead.
- Did you reset the GFCI? This sounds obvious, but some people forget. Press the ‘Reset’ button. It will pop out when the GFCI trips. If you press the button, but it pops out again, I want you to apply some pressure. Press the button until you hear a click.
- Look for other GFCIs upstream and reset them. This step will only help you if the GFCI upstream has tripped. Otherwise, look elsewhere for the problem. You can remove the GFCI upstream altogether if you’ve failed to fix it.
- Don’t hesitate to call a technician, especially if you suspect loose connections. Loose connections can create malfunctions. This is also true for poor wiring. Unless you have some electrical experience, you are better off hiring an expert. A professional will open the GFCI to fix any loose connections and terminal screws they encounter.
- You can also hire an electrician to replace torn or worn-out wiring. Damaged wires are dangerous because they cause arcing, which, in turn, starts fires. You can apply electrical tape during an emergency. But the best option is to replace the wires.
- If you’ve had the GFCI for several years, replace it, especially if you notice a burning odor and burn marks on the receptacle. Some receptacles are beyond repair.
- Remove moisture and debris. Again, you need an expert to open the GFCI receptacle. Otherwise, you could make things worse.