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Why Does My Outdoor GFCI Outlet Keep Tripping?

Troubleshooting from George Brazil

Most likely, your outdoor GFCI outlet is tripping due to one of these 3 problems:

  • There’s a ground fault somewhere in the circuit.
  • Moisture invaded the receptacle box.
  • The GFCI outlet is faulty.

So, how do you know which one is your problem? Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to determine what’s tripping your outdoor GFCI outlet and what you can do to fix it.

Live in the Phoenix area and need help from an electrician right away? Just reach out to us now. We always respond quickly.

If the outlet resets but trips again after appliances are plugged in…

…then you most likely have a ground fault somewhere along the circuit or you have overloaded the circuit. A ground fault means that some amount of electricity flowing through the outlet circuit has found an alternate route and is “leaking” or escaping its proper path.

And a GFCI is designed to trip in less than 1/10 of a second when it detects even tiny amounts of leaking current.

What to do:
To determine where current is leaking, follow these steps:

1. Unplug all appliances on that outlet’s circuit.

2. Push the reset button.

3. Plug in one appliance at a time until the GFCI trips. Make sure to turn on each appliance as you plug it in. The last appliance you plug in/turn on likely has a ground fault (that is, it’s leaking electricity) or all your appliances in combination are overloading the circuit.

4. Unplug appliances that were on before the GFCI tripped and see if the last appliance that you plugged in still trips the GFCI. If so, that appliance likely has a ground fault.

5. Replace or repair the appliance that tripped the outlet.

If it rained recently or there was water present when the GFCI tripped…

…then moisture has probably gotten into the receptacle box. And if this is the issue, the outlet will likely trip regardless of whether there are appliances plugged in or not.

Even if moisture is not visible, it can get trapped inside the receptacle and will continue to trip the outlet until it dries up.

What to do:

1. Reset the GFCI outlet. You may need to wait several hours for the moisture inside the receptacle to dry. Tip: Using a hair dryer on low can help get rid of moisture faster. You can even remove the cover of the outlet using a screwdriver and blow warm air inside the receptacle. If the outlet won’t reset, even after it’s dry, skip to the next section (“If the outlet won’t reset…”)

2. Once you’ve reset the GFCI outlet, make sure you have a protective receptacle covering as required by new updates in the National Electric Code. When choosing a protective covering, make sure it is labelled:

  • Weatherproof
  • While-in-use
  • Extra duty

3. Always make sure your weatherproof covering is closed, whether there are appliances plugged in or not.

If your receptacle covering isn’t up to code, use this video for step-by-step instructions on installing a new GFCI covering or have a professional do it in less than 10 minutes.

If the GFCI outlet won’t reset, even when nothing’s plugged in…

…then you likely have one of two problems:

  1. There is an electrical issue on another outlet that’s on the same circuit. Because several outlets can exist on one circuit, there may be an appliance “downstream” that’s tripping the outdoor GFCI.
  2. The GFCI outlet is bad and needs to be repaired or replaced. GFCI outlets depend on sensitive internal circuitry to detect even very small electrical flaws. But, over time, that circuitry wears out. When that happens, you’ll need to replace the GFCI outlet.

What to do: Unfortunately, you’ll need a professional for both of these issues. A professional electrician will be able to check the GFCI outlet to determine whether it’s at fault or whether there’s another outlet elsewhere in the house that’s at fault.

Still have GFCI outlet questions? Ask an AZ electrician

If you’re still having trouble with an outdoor (or indoor) GFCI outlet, we’re here to help.

Just contact us with your issue and we’ll respond right away!

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