A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is a device that detects when there’s an electricity imbalance in your power outlet and shuts down the system as a result. A green light on your GFCI is usually a sign that everything in the system is working fine. But sometimes you might find that your outlet isn’t receiving power even with the green light on.
If your GFCI is showing a green light but isn’t receiving power the most likely cause is the outlet needs resetting or it’s been installed incorrectly. New GFCI outlets are shipped in need of resetting, and homeowners commonly mistake the “line” and “load” wires which would cause a green light but no current.
Fixing a GFCI can be a bit tricky, but it should be doable if you follow the right steps. I’ve given step-by-step instructions starting with the most common issue.
GFCI Light Green but No Power: 4 steps to fix
A GFCI is a safety device designed to protect against electric shock by quickly cutting off the flow of electricity if an imbalance in the current is detected. When properly installed and functioning, a GFCI should be able to prevent electrical accidents and electrocution but should also be providing power.
If the GFCI light is green, it normally means that the device is receiving power and hasn’t been tripped. However, if you’re not getting any power from your outlets, there could be a number of reasons why — and the GFCI may not be the only factor.
Here are a few possible reasons why you’re not getting power, despite the fact that the GFCI light is green:
1. The GFCI is new or needs resetting
Although the GFCI light is green, it’s possible that the device isn’t working properly.
Note: Some GFCIs use different color lights to indicate different statuses. On some, the green light is on when working and off when tripped, whereas others have the light on to show it’s tripped.
Many new GFCIs (as a safety feature) are shipped in the tripped position. This means that they may need to be cycled to turn on the load, even if the light is green and it’s properly installed. Or alternatively, your GFCI may have tripped due to moisture, dust, debris, or worn insulation on the plug.
As a first option, you should reset your GFCI. First, unplug any appliances plugged into the same circuit. Then look for a RESET button. Normally the RESET button is red whereas the TEST button is black.
You should hear a click when you press the reset button. New GFCIs can be tough to reset (especially if you have weaker fingers) so it may be useful to use a tool.
Note: If your line and load wires are incorrectly reversed, it may not allow the reset button to be pressed.
Test to see if power is restored. Hopefully, this solves the issue but if not, move into step 2.
2. The GFCI Isn’t properly wired
If resetting the GFCI didn’t work, the second most common reason causing a GFCI to show a green light yet not deliver power would be due to incorrect wiring. Some brands such as Leviton GFCIs will still show a green light despite being installed incorrectly.
Many GFCIs are bad straight out of the box and so firstly you should be 100% sure that your GFCI is receiving power correctly. Check the breaker box and make sure that it’s not been tripped. Then use a tic-tracer like this one (on Amazon) to test for power.
Note: In my humble opinion, every homeowner should own a tic-tracer. They are cheap, handy as heck, and could one day save your life.
Once you’ve confirmed power to the unit, use a plug tester like this one (on Amazon) to test for current. Push the test button, then the reset button. If you’re still not getting power, it’s probably either down to a faulty GFCI or incorrect wiring/installation.
If your GFCI has recently been installed, the wires may have been installed incorrectly. One common mistake I’ve noticed is that homeowners will incorrectly install the ‘neutral’ line by either not installing it at all, or wiring it into the incorrect place. Another mistake is wiring the “line” and “load” wires backward.
If the live or ‘hot’ line is correct, your GFCI would show “power” on the GFCI yet the outlet would not work.
Where you suspect this to be the case, you’ll need to turn the power off to the GFCI outlet, remove it and ensure the wires are correct. Check the manufacturer’s instructions – here’s a link to the Leviton wiring instructions but not all GFCIs will be the same.
I found this useful video on how to correctly install a GFCI output.
Note: always practice safe isolation and always double, and triple check there is no power before working on outlets. GFCIs are large compared to standard outlets and so this might be a job for an electrician, especially if you feel uncomfortable or aren’t knowledgeable enough to be safe.
3. The gFCI outlet has gone bad
Outlets fail all the time and the average lifespan of a GFCI outlet is less than ten years. If the outlet has gone bad, you should follow the below instructions to fix a blown GFCI outlet:
- First, make sure that the power is turned off to the GFCI outlet before attempting any repairs. This can be done by turning off the circuit breaker or removing the fuse that controls power to the outlet.
- Once you’ve confirmed that the power’s off, remove the cover plate of the GFCI outlet and inspect the wiring inside. Look for any signs of damage or loose connections that could be causing the problem. If the wiring is in poor condition, you may need to call an electrician.
- If the wiring appears to be in good condition, turn the power back on and then press the reset button on the outlet. If it clicks and stays in place, the problem may have been a momentary surge or another temporary issue that has now been resolved.
- If pressing the reset button does not resolve the issue, try replacing the GFCI outlet with a new one. Make sure to use the same wiring configuration as the original outlet, and test the new outlet to make sure it’s working properly before restoring power to the circuit.
- If replacing the outlet doesn’t resolve the issue, it may be necessary to call a qualified electrician to inspect the wiring and diagnose any underlying problems that may be causing the GFCI to trip.
It’s important to remember that GFCI outlets are designed to protect you from electrical shocks and other hazards, so if you suspect that an outlet has blown, don’t delay in taking action to resolve the problem. By following these steps, you can ensure that your electrical system is functioning safely and efficiently.
4. There’s a Problem With the Electrical Wiring
If none of the above issues is the problem, there could be a wiring issue in your electrical system that’s preventing power from flowing to your outlets. Electrical systems in homes are complex and the fault could actually be anywhere before the GFCI, for example at a light switch.
Here are some other signs that might indicate faulty electrical wiring in your home:
- Frequent minor circuit breaker trips
- Flickering, buzzing, or dimming lights
- A fish smell coming from a light switch or outlet
- Buzzing sounds originating at outlets
- Hot or sparking outlets
- Odd smells coming from the outlet