How to Prevent False GFCI Tripping

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) is designed to switch off automatically if there is a fault or dip/increase in the flow of electricity in the circuit it serves or any of the outlets connected to that circuit. These receptacles will shut off if there is a fluctuation as little as 0.005 amperes in the circuit.

GFCIs may trip if the terminals are dusty.

However, GFCIs can trip for false reasons that in and of themselves may not be harmful to the consumer. However, most of these reasons can be simply alleviated.

  1. Check the weather in your area if you have been away to see if there have been any local electrical storms. The buildup of electricity in the atmosphere can be cause enough for one or more of the GFCIs in your home to trip. Open the home's breaker box cover and look at all the breakers to make sure they are turned to their "On" setting. Close the box cover.

  2. Look for all GFCIs in the home that have tripped (if there have been no electrical storms in your area), and turn off the corresponding circuit breaker that serves the tripped GFCI circuit. Remove the GFCI's faceplate with a screwdriver, then remove the two screws holding the GFCI to the wall box. Pull out the GFCI. First look for any loose wires attached to the terminal screws. If any are found, tighten the terminal screw heads to the wires with the screwdriver.

  3. Look for any drywall dust that may have fallen through the cable access holes in the back of the box and onto the back of the GFCI (especially around the terminal screw areas). If any is found, use a small brush or rag to thoroughly wipe away all dust.

  4. Look for any buildup of moisture in the box area, again especially on or near the terminal connections. If found, wipe all moisture away with a dry rag. Push the GFCI back into the box, reattach the screws holding the breaker to the wall box and screw on the faceplate using the screwdriver.

  5. Check all other outlets in the same circuit as the GFCI for loose wires, dust or moisture by following the same procedure as in Step 4. Turn the power back on when all outlets that have been tested (GFCI or regular) and are reinstalled in their boxes with the faceplates attached.

  6. Tip

    If the GFCI continues to trip after carrying out these steps, the fault may not be false. Rather, small power fluctuations may be taking place, other outlets in the circuit mat be faulty, appliances attached to the outlets may be faulty or the GFCI unit itself may be faulty and need replacing.