Get It Done THE St Louis Handyman “GFCI”

I have an outlet outside, and every time it rains, it trips a circuit, and then some of my inside outlets don’t work.  Do I need new wiring or an electrician?

I don’t think you’ll need an electrician.  It sounds like the rain is getting into the receptacle probably through the slats where the prongs of the plug go.  If these outlets get wet, they should throw your circuit breaker as a safety measure, so that no harm is done to your electrical system.

Since you said that it causes some of your interior receptacles not to work, it sounds like your outlet is connected to a GFCI, or “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter”.  This is the type of outlet which has two small push-in buttons between where you would plug something in.  One of the buttons is marked “test” and the other is marked “reset”.

Normally, if something like the rain hitting your outdoor outlet causes interruption in power to that outlet and some interior outlets, it is an easy fix by going to the particular GFCI and pushing the reset button.  If you have more than one GFCI in your home, you may have to go to each of them and push the reset button, in order to find which one covers the outlet that isn’t working.

GFCI outlets are mandatory for new homes, where an outlet is located close to water, such as a sink.  They’re also required in the basement and garage, as well as exterior outlets.

However, sometimes the outlet doesn’t have the reset and test button if it is in the same circuit and covered by a GFCI somewhere else.  If, for example, the wiring is run from the kitchen to the outside outlet, as long as it is wired properly, the outside outlet will be GFCI protected, because it is wired after a GFCI.

If after resetting all the GFCI outlets in your home you’re still having a problem, you might have to replace the GFCI, as these can go bad.  If you know which GFCI has tripped, but it won’t reset, either the GFCI is bad, or there is a short somewhere (or water still getting in that outside outlet you mentioned).  Replacing a GFCI is best left to a professional, unless you are familiar with wiring.

There is an easy way to prevent this exterior outlet from tripping the GFCI.  A “perpetual” cover can be installed over this outlet, which allows you to leave something plugged in (a timer for your lights, a pond pump, etc), but still have everything covered, to keep water out.  This cover is about $15, and only requires taking off the old cover and screwing in the new perpetual cover.  It only takes a few minutes and is easy to do.

After having done this, you can spend your time relaxing, rather than having to walk around the house pushing buttons or unplugging all of your outdoor plugs.

Get It Done

THE St Louis Handyman

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