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My GFCI reset button is hard to push and won't reset. What's wrong?
Monday, October 1, 2018
The most likely reason is that the receptacle is incorrectly wired. During the 1980s thru the mid-1990s GFCI-receptacles were more expensive than they are today, and home builders relied on the principle that a GFCI-receptacle placed as the first one in a string of receptacles around a home would protect all the receptacles downstream. A ground-fault created anywhere in the circuit would trip the one GFCI-receptacle, which was typically located in the garage or hall bathroom. That single GFCI would protect the exterior receptacles, along with other garage and bathroom receptacles around the home.
Fast-forward to the HGTV, do-it-yourself, designed-to-sell recent boom years. When homeowners remodeled their bathrooms with new tile and glamour fixtures they also did their own plumbing and electrical wiring. Knowing that GFCIs are now standard for bathrooms, many homeowners installed GFCI-receptacles as part of their remodeling, not realizing that a remote GFCI-device was already protecting the receptacle. The new GFCIs looked good, but were redundant.
When a ground fault or other circuit problem occurs, the circuit goes dead but the new GFCI actually has not tripped. The original GFCI-receptacle at another location in the home has tripped and, as a result, the new GFCI will not reset the circuit. The push button at the new GFCI-receptacle is hard to push—because it hasn’t popped out. So we recommend checking around the house for other GFCI-receptacles that may be tripped and resetting them to see if they reactivate the problem receptacle.
Another defect that could cause a GFCI to not reset is simpler: it has gone bad and needs to be replaced. But first check around the house for other GFCIs that need to be reset before calling an electrician or heading to the hardware store for a new GFCI-receptacle.
Also, see our blog posts Are Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) really necessary and worth the trouble? and What electrical hazards does a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) NOT protect against?
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