Outlet Tester Trips GFCI Breaker


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Old 10-03-16, 08:12 AM
J
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Outlet Tester Trips GFCI Breaker

I had a breaker that kept tripping. It would reset but then after about 20 seconds it would trip again. I assumed it was the breaker so I replaced that and bought an outlet tester (it was a 15A GFCI breaker and it was replaced with a 15A GFCI). The new breaker will run for a few hours but then still trips. Also if I plug in the outlet tester it will immediately trip on any plug in the circuit just by plugging it in. I went ahead and replaced every outlet in the circuit and there was no change (yes they are wired correctly).

From what I have read this is typically a faulty ground. I tried to figure out where the ground fault might be in the wire by starting at the last outlet in the series and then disconnecting the ground to the previous outlet and seeing if it still acted the same way. With the first outlet in the series connected to the box and nothing else on the ground circuit it still trips and subsequently with every other outlet further down in the series it does the same. I checked the continuity between the ground wire in the breaker box and the outlet and it did not have continuity.

So I disconnected the ground from the breaker box to the first outlet in the series and then ran a wire straight to my house ground rod with the rest of the outlets back on the series ground. Same conclusion. With the ground not run to the breaker box at all at the outlet tester just displays ground fault, but the breaker does not trip unless I test the circuit. I can't leave it wired like that though.

Oddly the last outlet in the series actually tests good and does not trip the breaker with the tester. It is an outside outlet.

I'm guessing I have multiple ground faults? Is there a good way to test for this or should I just check continuity of the ground between all the outlets to figure out where there is a break?
 
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Old 10-03-16, 08:20 AM
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if I plug in the outlet tester it will immediately trip on any plug in the circuit just by plugging it in
This usually means that the ground and neutral are inappropriately connected somewhere in the circuit.

BTW, the "ground fault" in GFCI does not actually mean there is a problem with the equipment ground wire. It means that either the hot or neutral has faulted (connected) to a conductive path outside of the circuit and current is leaking out of the circuit. GFCI devices work just fine with out without an equipment ground wire.
 
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Old 10-03-16, 08:33 AM
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Thank you. Is there a good way to diagnose where the ground and neutral might be connected? It is not in any of the outlet boxes, so I'm assuming it is behind a wall somewhere.

Would it be safe to run the circuit with the ground wire not connected to the outlets? Assuming that the ground and neutral are making contact somewhere?
 
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Old 10-03-16, 11:41 AM
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Reading up a little more on my issue I came across this.

"The neutral wire in the US is normally grounded. Often some of the neutral current flows through the ground conductor. the only time this may case a problem is if there is a GFI (ground fault interrupting) breaker protecting the circuit. A GFI will trip under these conditions. Otherwise, there may be s small spark as contact is made then the neutral wire and ground wire will ‘split’ the current based on impedance."

The breaker seems to act the same way when connected to only the first outlet in the series. Could it be that for some reason too much is flowing through to the ground circuit from neutral at the box and that is causing it to trip?

The only other thing that seems to make sense is the earth ground and neutral are touching after the breaker box, before they hit the first outlet and also further down stream in the series.
 
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Old 10-03-16, 12:17 PM
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Most receptacle testers will trip a GFI breaker. They make testers that have a GFI test button on them. This style will not trip the circuit until the test button on the receptacle tester is pressed.

Yes... neutral and ground are connected together BUT only at the main panel and only before a GFI breaker or receptacle.

The only way to reliably find a problem with a tripping GFI circuit is with a meter.
The black and white wires are removed from the breaker. An ohmmeter set to a high resistance scale is connected from the black wire to ground and then from the white wire to ground. ANY resistance measured is cause for a problem.

You don't have a solid neutral to ground connection because the breaker doesn't trip instantly.

Without a meter.... you can only guess at the problem.
 
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Old 10-03-16, 12:50 PM
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Thank you Pj

The tester I have is the one with a GFI test button. I am not pressing the button and plugging it into the outlets and it will immediately trip the breaker. I have tested the tester out on other circuits and it is acting correctly. The breaker will trip on its own with outlets in use but it takes a few hours, it is only immediately when plugging in the tester.

I will test the black and white wires to ground at the breaker box tonight with an ohm meter. If I do have resistance to the ground on either wire what is the easiest way to track down where it is at? Remove wires at each outlet and test those the same way?
 
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Old 10-03-16, 01:14 PM
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Yes.... you'd have to work your way thru the circuit. It would require splices to be opened at device boxes.
 
 

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