GFCIs trip when they encounter a ground fault. They cut the power, which makes the outlet useless. Fortunately, these receptacles have a RESET button that restores the power. The question is, why would your GFCI refuse to reset? The following factors may explain your predicament:
GFCI Reset Button Not Working – Why?
1). You Did Not Press The Button
Do you know how to reset the GFCI? This sounds like a silly question with an obvious answer, but some people have never owned a GFCI. Therefore, they don’t know how to operate these devices.
Many experts will tell you to press the RESET button, but that is only partially true.
You have to press the RESET button until you hear a click.
In other words, maybe you pressed the reset button, but it did not go all the way in. Confirm this theory by pressing the RESET button firmly.
2). The RESET Button Broke
Buttons are susceptible to wear and tear. People don’t expect RESET buttons to fail because they rarely press them. If you press your RESET button every day, call an electrician. You need to find out why ground faults occur so frequently in your home.
But even if you go months without pressing the RESET button, it can fail because of a factory defect, the presence of debris, physical abuse, and more. For all you know, your child strikes the outlet with a stick whenever you leave home.
Regardless of the reason, the RESET button can fail. Either it won’t budge, or nothing happens when you press it.
3). The Circuit Breaker Tripped
You lose power when a GFCI receptacle trips. However, this power outage only occurs in the sockets. Have you checked the lights? What about the sockets not connected to the GFCI receptacle?
If your whole house is in the dark, the GFCI is fine. You have a tripped breaker. Go to the electrical panel and check the branch breakers. Are all the switches in the ON position? Flip them all on and off just to be safe.
A GFCI needs power from the circuit to work. Resetting it won’t help if you have a tripped circuit breaker. When a GFCI receptacle trips, the RESET button pops out.
4). You Have A Tripped GFCI Upstream
Experts warn against the use of multiple GFCIs on the same circuit. You will lose power in all the sockets if a GFCI upstream trips. And if you have multiple GFCIs, it may take a while to identify the responsible GFCI.
A tripped GFCI upstream will kill the power in the GFCIs downstream. The GFCI downstream won’t reset because it did not trip to begin with.
5). The GFCI Has Moisture
Moisture is rarely an issue among indoor GFCIs. You can’t rule it out, especially if you have children. One of them is bound to splash the receptacle with water. But your biggest concern is the exterior GFCIs.
Outdoor GFCIs have waterproof boxes and covers. However, heavy storms can overwhelm those protective mechanisms. Not only will moisture trip the GFCI, but it will prevent a reset if it lingers.
It is worth noting that heavy storms typically cause blackouts. Make sure your house has power before you take the defective GFCI apart.
6). Look For Bad Connections
It only takes one bad connection to interfere with an outlet’s work. You’re more likely to encounter this issue in DIY projects. If you installed the GFCI yourself, no one would blame you for leaving a loose terminal screw or forgetting to connect a wire.
You can inspect the outlet in search of these loose connections, but what if you make the same mistake again? It makes more sense to hire an electrician. Bad connections are not a mere inconvenience.
They can cause arcing. Therefore, you should identify and repair them quickly. Otherwise, they may start fires.
7). A Surge Broke The GFCI
This is the worst-case scenario. A surge or lightning strike that kills the GFCI is appealing because you know the device is dead. Because it won’t reset, you have no choice but to repair it.
The surge turns the GFCI into an ordinary outlet. In other words, you can reset the GFCI using the button, but it can’t defend against ground faults. This is why some GFCIs refuse to reset when they break, regardless of the cause. The manufacturer doesn’t want you to unknowingly rely on a GFCI that can’t protect you from electrocution.
8). The GFCI Keeps Tripping
Are you sure the GFCI has refused to reset? Maybe the device is actually tripping shortly after resetting. Disconnect all the appliances and reset the GFCI once again. If it stays on, one of your appliances is at fault.
It is either tripping the GFCI or overloading the circuit. If you have GFCIs upstream, check their appliances before you panic. A defective appliance that trips GFCIs and overloads circuits is a fire and electrocution hazard.
9). The Outlet Is Dead
Maybe the outlet is the problem. Many receptacles have factory defects. Perhaps yours was in a tripped state when you got it. Or it has a fault that won’t permit a reset. If you rarely use the outlet, you won’t notice this issue when installing it.
10). You Installed The Outlet Incorrectly
Loose connections are not the only source of trouble in a GFCI whose reset doesn’t work. You can also connect the wires to the wrong terminals. GFCIs have manuals that show you how to install them. But that doesn’t stop laypeople from making mistakes.
What To Do If GFCI Will Not Reset?
If your GFCI doesn’t reset, you can apply one or more of the following solutions, depending on the results of your diagnosis:
- Replace Bad Outlets
GFCIs last seven to ten years. You should replace any GFCI that exceeds that threshold. According to Leviton, their outlets won’t reset once they reach the end of their lifespan or incur damage.
In other words, in some cases, you have no choice but to replace an outlet that doesn’t reset. However, even if your electrician offers to repair the device, you should replace it all the same. Otherwise, you can’t trust it to protect you.
- Fix Loose Connections
GFCIs with loose connections are not defective. You don’t have to replace them. It is enough to find and tighten the connections. Sometimes, that means stripping a few more inches of insulation off the wires.
Don’t ignore frayed lines. Replace them before they start a fire via arcing. If you’re hesitant to open the receptacle to perform these tasks, call a professional. If you have the skill to resolve loose connections, don’t forget to de-energize the circuit beforehand.
- Reset The Breaker
Reset any tripped breakers in the electrical panel. You should also replace defective breakers. Learn to identify the signs experts associate with bad breakers, including flickering lights, overheating, burning scents, etc. Additionally, you should replace any fuse that blows.
- Dry Wet Outlets
De-energize the circuit, remove the GFCI, and look for moisture. Some people use blow dryers to resolve this issue. Others will leave the receptacle to dry naturally overnight. If you prefer the blow dryer, use the lowest setting.
Once you reinstall a dry external GFCI, check the weatherproof boxes and covers for leaks.
- Reset GFCIs Upstream
If you have multiple GFCIs on the circuit, find the tripped GFCI upstream and replace it. If the GFCI has no RESET button, it is probably connected to a GFCI breaker. Diagnose and fix the whole house breaker to restore power.
- Fix Defective Appliances & Get Help
Fix or replace appliances that cause incessant tripping.
If you’ve tried everything, but the GFCI has refused to reset, call the expert. They can diagnose the issue and identify the problem.