Most of our houses are built with an electrical grounding system; these systems help to prevent electrical faults and shocks. They are called the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), but the groundings can develop some flaws after some years.
Ground faults are likely to occur in wet areas of your house, like your kitchen or bathrooms, where electrical insulators might have been degraded.
Ground faults are caused when your damaged wires or faulty appliances create contact between electrical conductors and the ground. So when your GFCI trips consistently, you have to see it as a warning you shouldn’t ignore so that you can maintain the safety of your home.
Now to detect the ground fault, you would need to use a multimeter, so the question comes down to, “How do you find ground faults with a multimeter?”
It is always better to prevent, so we will guide you on how to troubleshoot these faults with the multimeter before it damages the safety and efficiency of your home.
How To Find A Ground Fault With A Multimeter?
Check the GFCI
- The first thing to do is to check your ground fault circuit interrupter to ensure no faults from it. To do that, you should check for the reset and trip buttons. Then push the reset button, because, in some cases, the failures could be with the switch, so check to see if it clicks and stays in place.
- You should also test it with a multimeter (for example, Fluke 115) to confirm that it is receiving a voltage by turning off your power supply, disconnecting all your connected appliances, then turning the power back on.
- Set the AC voltage to the largest scale on the multimeter. For a single pole breaker, your multimeter should read 110 volts after you place the probes in order of the black lead to the silver screw and the red lead to the brass screw.
- For two-pole breakers, place the probes to the screws in the same order as above, but for this, the multimeter should read 220 volts. If it doesn’t, then your GFCI might need a replacement.
- Even if the GFCI detects the voltage and the button wouldn’t pop out after clicking it, you should consider replacing the outlet.
!!! Before attempting any electrical test, for your safety, you should be sure you feel confident to do so if you have any doubt hire a professional to carry out these tests !!!
Check the Wiring
After you have attempted all this, we now get to the part where you may have to dismantle the outlet, but before you do so, you must turn off all the power supply of your house.
- The next thing you do is to unscrew the GFCI outlet and detach it from the wall, then check the wiring to see that they are connected correctly. Then you can power back the electricity of your house and note that by this action, you have put live energy in the circuits, so carefully check the voltage of the GFCI by using a multimeter.
- Grounding fault is caused when the neutral wires connected to the earth come in contact with a conducting wire. A digital multimeter can detect the unwanted voltage between two points. You can initiate the test by setting your multimeter to measure DC voltage, then connect the multimeter probes to the wires by placing one lead on the positive and the other point on the negative. Your multimeter should read an open circuit voltage.
After that, connect the multimeter negative to the ground. It should read zero volts, connect the positive to the ground, and read zero volts. If you have any reading aside from this, you have a ground fault.
If you need to replace a GFCI outlet, here’s how to do that:
Check the other Outlets
If your readings from the wiring check are accurate, you might need to perform other checks. Your GFCI might not receive any voltage from outlets, so you should test your outlets with the multimeter.
It could be that the outlets are not feeding the GFCI properly.
For situations where there is more than one GFCI connected to the same circuit, you would also need to reset all the GFCIs, to ensure that the power loss from the outlets is not the fault of a trip.
Check the Circuit Breakers
If the fault is not with the outlet, it may be that the GFCI is not receiving power from the breakers. Confirm that they are not flipped to know the circuit that needs attention.
In cases of a ground fault, they could have been tripped or accidentally switched off, so check your electrical panel to see that they are intact. If they are not, you can flip the switch.
Now, in some cases, when you flip the breakers, they won’t stay, and this is no longer a problem we suggest you handle yourself. You should hire a professional to attend to it.
It might start with a slight tingling shock, here and there, until your electricity develops some faults. When grounding faults occur, the GFCI circuit breakers trip and may require some attention, the GFCI breakers might trip for several reasons, but grounding fault is one of them.
- We would also like to warn that when performing any of the tests, ensure that you take proper safety precautions by wearing insulating gloves.
- Also, we advise that in situations of high currents or high voltages, we hire a professional with proper knowledge of the equipment and protective gear to be used. When working with a standard digital multimeter, ensure the voltage you are testing is not higher than 120/240 volts AC power 40 volt-ampere.
You should note that ground faults trip GFCI circuit breakers, so checking your GFCI is a good way to start the test, then next check the wiring, and the other outlets, then lastly, check the circuit breakers.