A ground fault might sound like a tennis term, but it’s actually an extremely common electrical problem. Instead of flowing back to its source as it should, some amount of stray electrical charge is flowing to “ground.”
Ground can be a metal outlet box, a screw, or a puddle of water. A person can also be the receiving end of a ground fault—meaning someone could get shocked.
What Is Ground Fault Protection?
Your GFCI receptacles are ground fault circuit interrupters. You know the ones—the outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoors with test and reset buttons. They shut off when they detect a ground fault, and you press reset to use your appliance again.
Inside a GFCI device, a current transformer checks the electrical load passing through in milliamps. Remember, your electricity flows in a loop when it’s not being used. If less power gets returned than came in, the device knows there’s a default and shuts off power.
Ground fault interrupters trip easily for your protection. It might seem vaguely annoying, but the sensitivity is important because even a tiny charge could hurt badly or affect your heart rhythm.
Troubleshoot a Ground Fault or Tripped GFCI
An occasional tripped GFCI means it’s working correctly. But what do you if a GFCI trips repeatedly? Resetting it and using appliances could be dangerous if you don’t figure out the cause.
Be careful about inspecting electrical problems, especially when you know there’s a problem like a ground fault. Turn off the circuit breaker to the affected area before poking around. Better yet, call the electrician Santa Rosa trusts for prompt and professional service—we’ll sort things out quickly and safely.
Ground fault causes can include:
- Moisture: There could be a water leak in the wall, or simply standing water in the area after the sink or shower is used. Resolve any possible moisture issues and let the area dry before using appliances.
- Missing wire insulation: We’ll need to unscrew the outlet and look at the wires to see if the jacket was stripped back too far, exposing bare metal wires. It’s also possible that bugs or rodents chewed the insulation.
- Damaged wires: If any of the wiring looks frayed or disintegrating, an electrician should patch it up.
- Dust or stray objects: Any debris in the receptacle box and its vicinity should be removed. Even dust can be conductive enough to cause a ground fault.
Add Ground Fault Protection to Your Home or Office
Electrical code requires GFCI protection anywhere water might be present. Ground faults can occur elsewhere, but water increases the odds of a human injury.
Recent code updates have increased the number of rooms that need GFCI, so you should bring in an electrician to replace regular outlets or add ground fault circuit breakers. Also, be aware that GFCIs don’t work forever—their ability to detect a fault may erode or fail after a number of years, and you’ll need to replace.
For help with troubleshooting a ground fault or fixing a GFCI that trips constantly, please contact us for an estimate from a licensed electrician in Santa Rosa.