How to Fix a GFCI Outlet that Keeps Tripping

You likely have multiple GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets to keep your Denver house safe and up to code. While most will be in potentially wet rooms, such as the kitchen or bathroom, you may also have opted to increase safety by adding them to other rooms. If these safety outlets keep tripping even when there appears to be no danger, there may be a danger you don’t see.

Here are some possible triggers that could be tripping your GFCI outlets and which situations you can solve without professional assistance.

Why Does My GFCI Outlet Keep Tripping?

While several things can trip a GFCI outlet, their core purpose is to prevent ground faults in the circuit. A ground fault occurs when a leak of energy flows outside the intended path. The GFCI will cut power to the electric flow to prevent electric shock or fire. These are a few possible reasons your GFCI outlet keeps tripping after a reset:

  • Moisture inside the outlet. An outlet exposed to weather or in a room where it could have contact with water—such as the bathroom or laundry room—may trip if moisture gets inside. If this happens, allow the outlet to dry completely before attempting to reset.
  • Dust or debris. If the GFCI gets clogged with dust or debris, it will disrupt the electricity. This disruption prevents fire hazards where the detritus overheats, catches flame, and prevents damage to your appliances. Before resetting the outlet, use a soft-bristled brush to dislodge the dust.
  • Worn or damaged wires. Whether from a rodent chewing in the walls or from regular wear, the rubber insulation on your home’s wires can become damaged. The unprotected wire may overheat and spark a fire behind the wall or allow a flood of energy to potentially fry the appliance on the other end if not stopped by your GFCI outlet. You can identify damaged wires by the smell of burning plastic or an outlet cover that feels warm to the touch. If you suspect this is the reason your GFCI keeps tripping, call a trusted electrician to repair the wiring.
  • Old or faulty outlet. GFCI outlets commonly last for 15-25 years. However, a defective outlet can give out after only a few years. If the GFCI malfunctions and regularly trips itself, consider replacing the receptacle.
  • Ground fault in the circuit. GFCI outlets prevent ground fault circuits by design, cutting power to potentially dangerous circuits that could cause an electric shock. Then, it’s left to you (or a professional) to identify the ground fault's source. In most cases, a ground fault occurs when an appliance is damaged or wet where it’s not supposed to be.

How to Reset and Test a Tripped GFCI: Step by Step

Once you know the outlet is free of dust and moisture, you can run the GFCI through this test to determine if your outlet is faulty or has a ground fault in the circuit.

  1. Unplug all appliances from the circuit.
  2. Press the GFCI reset button on the center of the receptacle.
  3. One by one, plug in and turn on each device. When the GFCI trips, there are two possibilities: either the last appliance you plugged in is leaking electricity and causing a ground fault, or the number of devices is overloading the circuit.
  4. Unplug all of the devices and reset the outlet.
  5. Plug only the last device back in. If the circuit trips with only one machine, it has a ground fault and should be repaired or replaced. Certain appliances and electronics are eligible for recycling in Denver.

Find Certified Electricians in Denver

You may need more specialized assistance if your GFCI outlets continue to trip after troubleshooting the issue. At Mister Sparky of Denver, our electricians are skilled at troubleshooting and repairing electrical outlets. For quick and precise service, please request an appointment online or call us at (303) 747-4279.