My contractor not qualified regarding GFCI?

3 replies [Last post]
user-1149102's picture
Joined: 2017-02-14

Hi all,

I hope it's OK for me to post here. I'm having trouble with a professional electrician, and I want to make sure that my limited knowledge isn't wrong in challenging what he's telling me.

I had a GFCI in the kitchen that was tripping occasionally, especially with the use of a coffee grinder, but also on its own with no load on it. Under a home warranty plan, an electrician was brought in to fix the problem. After trying several replacement GFCI outlets, all of which exhibit the same tripping behavior, he looks at my service panel. He sees that the house has a 125A main breaker, and amongst the circuits is a 100A breaker that services the garage.

From this information, the electrician tells me that the GFCI is being "overloaded" (exact wording on work order is "GFI overload to capacity") and that this is being caused by the 100A circuit.

This seems totally ridiculous to me, for the following reasons:

* I understand that GFCIs do not respond to amperage, but to neutral to ground leaks, so the concept of "overload" doesn't even make sense.

* NOTHING was powered on the circuit where the GFCI was tripping.

* The 100A circuit has nothing at all to do with the circuit where the GFCI is tripping, and the tripping behavior does not change when the 100A breaker is turned off.

Reducing my trust in this contractor even further is the following:

* Contractor offered to put a non-GFCI outlet in place of the tripping GFCI outlet in order to get things working again, despite the fact the outlet is in the kitchen.

* Contractor completed the service call by wire-nutting together some cables and leaving the open outlet without so much as a cover plate. The entire circuit is now dead, including other outlets that had been working previously.

* Contractor suggested adding a new circuit to the house to solve the problem, and offered to do the work off the books.

Please advise, especially in regards to the possibility of what this contractor is telling be about my GFCI being true. The work was done as a service call from a home warranty, and I need to know if I'm within my rights to complain about this service.

Thanks in advance for any help.

T Dittmar's picture
Joined: 2016-05-06

You are well within your rights to complain. I would request a different contractor be sent to resolve the problem. It sounds like you could have a bad splice, nicked insulation on conductors, or undesirable contact between conductors somewhere on the load side of the GFCI. I have experienced GFCIs that were about to fail completely exhibit the same behavior and other situations where it was the result of staples driven too hard to secure the wires. Demand they send another contractor who has morals and not just grasping at straws trying to make a quick buck.

Greg S's picture
Joined: 2017-01-04

The GFCI receptacle monitors the difference between the current leaving and returning to the power supply, and if the difference returning through the current transformer of the GFCI exceeds 5mA, then the GFCI de-energizes the circuit. The receptacle must be wired correctly. It also matters where the Line and Load wires are connected.

sparky377's picture
Joined: 2013-10-07

I agree with Dittmar, have the Home Builder honor the warranty and send a different electrical contractor to fix the problem. Especially as the previous electrician created a couple of Code violations by removing a required outlet and not installing a cover on a live box. It may even become necessary to hire an electrician directly and contact a lawyer about back-charging the Home Builder for the cost of the repair. I know that sounds like the issue is getting out of hand, but that is what it might take to ensure your new home is safe.

It was not clear until later in your post, but I understand we are discussing a GFCI-type receptacle installed above the counter-top in the kitchen. If true and unless the 100A sub-panel is connected to the load-side terminals of the GFCI receptacle, the sub-panel has NOTHING to do with the GFCI tripping. I will not state the electrician is incompetent when reporting the GFCI "...overloaded..." without more information. But I would be real interested in having him define, "GFI overload to capacity". As an engineer, I suspect I would find the explanation to be either extremely humorous or extremely incredulous.

As both Dittmar and Greg have mentioned, the GFCI receptacle must be wired correctly AND any wiring downstream of the outlet must be installed correctly. If the wiring is not installed correctly, there will be a leakage current between the one of the conductors and ground resulting in a trip signal to the internal mechanism. Fixing bad wiring within the wall could become a major cost issue for the Contractor if the kitchen has tile back-splash above the counters. That could be a motivating factor in declaring the problem is an "overload".

Good luck my friend and let us know how it works out.

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