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What To Do If A GFCI Outlet Trips & Won’t Reset

gfci won't reset

A GFCI outlet, or ground fault circuit interrupter, is commonly used in areas where electrocution may occur, such as areas near water or exposed wires. It helps prevent electrocution by monitoring the current flow and immediately turning off or “tripping” if it detects an imbalance, preventing shock and injury. 

GFCI outlets feature a ‘reset’ button on the front that allows users to turn the outlet back on after it has tripped. However, a GFCI that won’t reset may be broken or require replacement. Keep reading to learn the common causes of frequent GFCI tripping and what to do if it doesn’t turn back on. 

Why GFCI Outlets Trip (and Sometimes Refuse to Reset)

A GFCI outlet will trip when an electrical shock or fire hazard is imminent. However, sometimes, an outlet will trip unexpectedly for what feels like no reason. If your GFCI outlet is consistently tripping, it may be due to the following:  

  • Moisture or water splashes
  • Conductive dust or debris
  • Ground faults
  • Wire deterioration
  • Aging or faulty outlets

If the trip is a one-off occurrence, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if your outlet is constantly tripping even after being reset, there’s a bigger issue at play.

Before You Call an Electrician: DIY Troubleshooting

If your GFCI outlet won’t reset, you can take a few DIY troubleshooting steps before calling an electrician. First, ensure you’re using the proper method to reset a GFCI outlet. Begin by unplugging all appliances from the outlet. If too many things are overloading the outlet, it can trip. Next, press the ‘reset’ button on the front of the outlet and listen for a clicking sound. Wait a few seconds and test an appliance to see if it works. If the appliance turns back on, you’re good to go. 

However, if the GFCI still won’t reset, ensure you’ve unplugged all appliances and devices from every outlet on the circuit and try the following:

  • Look for other outlets: Locate and reset all other nearby GFCI outlets. Some outlets are linked. If one overloads, it can trip all the outlets on the same circuit.
  • Use a hairdryer: A GFCI outlet will trip if it detects moisture inside the receptacle or outlet. You can use a hairdryer to dry out the outlet and remove moisture. Before using the dryer, ensure the power to the outlet is off and you’ve removed the outlet cover.
  • Check the wiring: With your circuit breaker turned off, unscrew the outlet cover and remove it from the wall. Check the attached wires and give them a slight tug. If any cables are loose or disconnected, secure them by pushing them back into the socket. Then, screw the outlet back into place and put the cover back on. 

When It's Time for a Pro

If you’re not sure how to fix the GFCI outlet, and it still won’t turn back on after taking the above steps, it’s time to call an electrician. An electrical issue with the outlet or circuit breaker likely requires repair or replacement. Due to the electrical hazards of the job, it’s best to contact a professional. They have the training and experience to do the job safely and correctly. 

While you may feel tempted to take on the job yourself, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Tampering with electricity without the proper training can result in shock, injury, electrical fires, or worse. 

The Importance of GFCI Outlet Maintenance

GFCI outlets require regular testing and maintenance to ensure they’re working correctly. Once per month, test your outlets using the ‘test’ button on the front. Simply push this button until the outlet turns off, then press the ‘reset’ button to turn it back on. If this process doesn’t work and the outlet does not turn off or back on, have it looked at as soon as possible. Properly functioning GFCI outlets are very important in protecting against electric shock and fires. 

Along with monthly testing, inspect your GFCI outlets for signs of damage, scorching, and debris. If you notice anything wrong with the outlet, have it replaced immediately. 

Call Apex For GFCI Outlet Replacements

While you can fix a tripping GFCI outlet with some simple troubleshooting steps, sometimes the issue runs deeper. Contact Apex Plumbing, Heating, and Air Pros for GFCI outlet needs in Columbus and surrounding areas. With over 13,000 five-star reviews, you can trust that you’re hiring the best. Our team of certified electricians will determine the cause of the issue, install a new outlet, and ensure everything is working correctly. Call us or use our online scheduling system to book your appointment today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to use a GFCI outlet in outdoor spaces?

Yes, due to the high potential for moisture to enter outlets in outdoor spaces, it’s important to use a GFCI. Specially made GFCI outlets designed for the outdoors have weather-resistant properties that can withstand harsh environments. Look for GFCI outlets labeled ‘WR’ when shopping for outdoor spaces.

Why is my GFCI outlet blinking?

A blinking or flashing red light on a GFCI outlet indicates that it is defective or has reached the end of its life and needs replacement. Most GFCI outlets have a lifespan of between 15 and 25 years. If your outlet is older than this or displays a flashing light, give us a call to schedule a replacement.

What do I do if the GFCI reset button is stuck?

If the reset button on your GFCI outlet is stuck, it’s best to replace it. Don’t try to stick anything in the button or tamper with the outlet, as this can result in electric shock. Replace it with a new outlet that has working buttons and will continue to protect you from electrocution.

Where should I install GCFI outlets in my home?

Install GFCI outlets anywhere in your home that may be splashed with water. The most common locations include kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages, and outdoor spaces.