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GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement

After the recent rains on the east coast our basement, which is normally dry, took some water. Not a ton of water, but three or four large towels worth. There was no damage to speak of.

My wife then noticed that the washer and dryer wouldn't come on and that the GFCI outlet was lit, in the tripped position. We tried to reset it and it immediately popped back out.

I hit the internet and found a lot of information. We already had our dehumidifier running. I set a heater/fan near the GFCI outlet in an attempt to dry it out. I also tried using a hair dryer to dry it out as well. After 5 or 6 hours of these techniques when you hit the reset on the GFCI it says on for 1 to 2 minutes, then pops again.

The GFCI outlet is set up near the washer and dryer but also connects to another outlet with our sump pump and water heater. The water heater is gas, but has an electric component for efficiency. The house is newer (3-4) years old and up until now we've never had any issue with the GFCI. We had a major plumbing issue, where we got a ton of water once before and this didn't happen then. There has been a crazy amount of rain on the east coast in the past month - but I don't know if this is related.

My question is this? Will the GFCI "dry out"? Should I just replace it? Is it possible that this isn't set up right, and never was?

Any info and ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement

Did you unplug the sump pump and water heater and then try to reset it?

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement

I had this same problem once with a GFCI circuit in my barn when I connected an engine block heater to it. I apologize if my terminology is not 100% correct, but with the block heater immersed in antifreeze there was enough current leakage to cause the GFCI to always trip when it was plugged in. This is almost certainly what is happening with yours, even if the pump, etc. are functioning normally (and safely).

I think you either have to use another circuit for those items or replace the GFCI with a non-GFCI outlet.

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement

Have you tried drying out the other outlets on that circuit? It could be that an outlet or wiring downstream of the GFI is still wet, or that something plugged into one of those other outlets is still wet.

Try unplugging everything on that circuit and resetting the GFI. If it stays reset, plug things in one by one until it pops. Then you know the culprit.

It's also possible that the GFI may be water damaged and needs to be replaced.

The electrical code requires the washing machine to be on a dedicated circuit. It's a good idea for the sump pump to be on a dedicated circuit, too, since it's something you don't want losing power unnecessarily.

The code may allow for some of these appliances to be on non-GFI receptacles (even in a location where GFI is required, IF they are on a dedicated circuit with a single -- not duples -- receptacle), but someone more knowledgeable than I will have to respond.

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement

I did try unplugging everything and it still popped.

I'm going to try drying the outlet closest to the sump pump and water heater now. That does make more sense because that area is more damp than where the washer and dryer are.

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement

All good suggestions. Also, if the wiring or insulation in any appliances got wet there may be enough combined leakage to trip a single GFCI.

You might try installing one of the new (outside style) weather resistant (WR) GFCI receptacles in place of the one you now have. If it still won't hold reconnect the downstream receptacles to the line side (where power comes to the GFCI recptacle) and install WR GFCI receptacles at each of the existing receptacle locations. This way high leakage appliances will only trip their own GFCI and branch circuit wire leakage will no longer be a factor.

We once were feeding temporary power from a GFCI receptacle at a nerby house via a 200 ft. extension cord. It kept tripping the GFCI next door (due to excessive leakage)so we plugged into a non-GFCI receptacle next door and installed a GFCI receptacle where we were working. The extension cord was now unprotected, we watched it like a hawk, but had no further problems.

Having said all that, I wonder why your dryer tripped, unless it's a washer/dryer combination on a GFCI.

Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
Maurice Turgeon, http://thesemi-retiredelectrician.com

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement


So, I tried drying the receptacle near the sump pump for several hours with a heater/fan. This "seemed" to help - getting the GFCI to say on for over 2 minutes at one point.

We then realized that there was another GFCI outside. This one was not getting power also. So I took the cover off that and it looked dry. I tried drying it anyway with a hair dryer.

Now, the original GFCI is popping off immediately - no minute plus on time like before.

It's getting worse, not better, right? :(

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement

My experience with GFCI is that many of them malfunction and need replacement.

Replace them and see if your problem persists.

Re: GFCI Won't Reset After Minor Water in Basement


So, I went to the old Home Depot and bought three new outlets: a basic $1 type, a $5 heavy duty one, and a new GFCI for $12.50.

I installed the $5 one, since it matched the panel cover and it worked like a charm. The outside receptacle still has a GFCI so that is covered and everything else is running smooth.

I'll be keeping an eye on the circuit breaker to see if anything goes wrong, but for now all seems well.

Thanks everyone for your guidance and advice.


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