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Replacing a GFCI Breaker with GFCI Outlet(s) - what do I need?

5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

Short version: Considering replacing a GFCI breaker with a regular breaker and GFCI outlets. Due to the layout I don't know whether the outlets are inline or not, or which one might be first in the series if they are. If I just replace them all with GFCI outlets, is it OK to have one GFCI outlet downstream of another?

Long version:

One story slab on grade stucco house with the breaker panel on the outside at one end of the house, and a single circuit serving 4 outlets: outdoor outlets (one each) on the front and back of the house, plus two bathroom outlets way down at the other end. We recently replaced the GFCI breaker because it kept tripping with no apparent cause. It was a rather expensive breaker - house was built in '78 and an electrician once told us he has only seen that style of panel and breakers on mobile homes. I found a replacement at a supply store and it was $58. Anyhow it is still tripping with no apparent cause. Last time it was my sister using a leaf blower - I have heard that inductive loads like motors can trip them, perhaps that is the cause? I did some checking for bad outlets - shut it off and took the covers off both outdoor outlets and one of the bathroom outlets (OK I got lazy and didn't check the other but it is hardly ever used). Found nothing but some dust and a spider web or two. Connections feel solid although they used the stab holes on the back of the outets instead of the screw terminals.

I know you can put a single GFCI on the first outlet in a series and protect all of the outlets downstream. It is impossible to guess how they ran this circuit - did they go right to the rear outside outlet, then through the house to the front, then to the one bath, then the other, or did they go left first to the front of the house? Or did they run multiple wires from the breaker so the outlets are not in line but more of a hub and spokes? I guess I can take off the panel cover and check for multiple wires at the breaker.

Can I replace all of them with GFCI outlets just to be safe or can I do that only if they are not in series? And how to I determine which is the first in the series?

I am proficient with a multimeter and comfortable checking for voltage on live wires, and I can replace outlets and breakers.

Thanks for your advice.

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