Downstream Protection with GFCI

Does One GFCI Outlet Protect the Entire Circuit?

One of the best features of GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) is their downstream protection.   That means the same safety feature you get from a GFCI outlet is automatically applied to all other outlets wired further down on the same circuit, as long as the outlets are wired properly.  There is no need to buy additional GFCI outlets because one per circuit provides the same protection.  One in the kitchen and one in each bathroom can provide the same level of safety as multiple GFCI outlets in a  room.

Why Have My Outlets Stopped Working?

As great as this feature is, it can potentially lead to confusion when outlets stop working.  Here is a recent comment from a client:

The outlets in both of my bathrooms have stopped working and they do not have a re-set button. The bathrooms are on either side of my home and all other outlets work fine.  I turned off the air conditioner and computer and switched my main circuit switch off, waited a couple of minutes, and turned it back on….hoping to re-set but it did nothing.  Could you give me an idea of what might have caused this situation?

This could be caused by a GFCI outlet located outside of the bathrooms but upstream on the same circuit.   For example, some homes have a GFCI outlet in the kitchen that branches off to a bathroom(s).   If something caused the circuit to trip the kitchen outlet, the bathroom outlets downstream from the kitchen would be shut down until that outlet is reset.   The best bet is to find every GFCI outlet in the home and reset them one at a time, checking your bathrooms after each reset.  Look closely at your outlets, as not all GFCI outlets have the red and black buttons — some are white so you might not notice them.  Don’t forget to look in the garage and around the outside of your home and deck.

Wiring for Downstream Protection 

In order for the downstream protection to work, the outlet must be wired properly.  The incoming wires must be connected to the LINE terminals, and the downstream wires must be connected to the LOAD terminals.  If they are not connected that way, the downstream outlets will not be protected.

If you have any questions or concerns about your home wiring or outlets that don’t work, please give us a call.   Frye Electric, Inc. has been a reputable business in the Indianapolis area for over 50 years and we’d be glad to help you with any electrical issues.

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