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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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about AFCI and GFCI RECEPTACLES AND CIRCUIT BREAKERS:

Does a septic pump or sump pump require a GFCI-receptacle?

What is the difference between what trips a GFCI (ground fault) receptacle and a circuit breaker?

 What is the code requirement for GFCI protection for receptacles near a wet bar sink?

When was GFCI-protection for kitchen dishwasher receptacle outlet first required? 

When did arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) breakers first become required?

Does a washing machine receptacle outlet require GFCI protection?

My spa tub stopped working. What's wrong?  

How do I identify a combination AFCI (CAFCI) circuit breaker? 

What does "listed and labeled" mean for an electrical component?  

What is the difference between GFCI and AFCI circuit breakers? 

Where are GFCI receptacle outlets required?

When were GFCI receptacle outlets first required?

What happens when you press the "TEST" button on a circuit breaker in an electric panel?

What is the difference between the electric service to a mobile home and a site built home? 

Why is there a wall switch next to the furnace or indoor unit of the air conditioner in the garage?

What is a Dual Function Circuit Interrupter (DFCI)? 

How I can tell if a receptacle outlet is tamper resistant?

What is the difference between a Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (CAFCI) and an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker?  

What is the difference between "grounded" and "grounding" electrical conductors? 

What does it mean when a wire is "overstripped" at a circuit breaker?

Why is there a GFCI breaker in the electric panel for the bathroom shower light and exhaust fan?

What is the switch on the wall with two pushbuttons? 

How far apart should kitchen counter receptacles be spaced?  

How far above a kitchen countertop do electrical outlets have to be? 

How is it possible to provide both GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and CAFCI (Combination Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) protection for kitchen and laundry circuits?

My bathroom electric receptacle/outlet is dead and there are no tripped breakers in the electric panel. What's wrong?  

Why do some breakers in my electric panel have a "TEST" button on them?

    Visit our AFCI AND GFCI page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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