Just because you don’t see a physical GFI outlet in your bathroom, doesn’t mean you don’t have GFI protection. A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI or GFI for short), detects a ground fault and can stop the flow of electricity in a fraction of a second. They truly can be lifesaving devices. You need GFI protection in wet locations, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoors.
If you don’t have a physical GFI outlet in that particular bathroom, it may be located in a nearby location, which will still give the bathroom protection. As long as the GFI outlet is wired in the correct position, it will protect outlets downstream of it, although many electricians use 5-7 outlets as a general rule.
The outlets may also be protected by a GFCI circuit breaker. You can look in the main panel for the breaker as it will be marked as such and will have a reset on it.
To test if you have GFI protection in a particular outlet, you can plug in a tester, push the button, and see if power stops to the outlet. If an outlet is protected by GFI, it should have a small sticker on it that says “GFI protected”, but this certainly doesn’t always happen. The stickers also fall off.
I get calls all the time for getting the power turned back on in the bathroom. The first thing to check is the GFCI outlet, to see if it has tripped off. I tell people to first check in that particular bathroom for the GFCI outlet. This is the outlet with the test and reset buttons. You want to press the “reset” button and hopefully power will be restored.
The next comment is that they can’t find the outlet with the buttons on it. So, start looking around. Check all of the bathrooms, the kitchen, the garage, laundry room. Wherever there is water, there should be GFCI protection. Even though you don’t see a GFCI outlet, you may still have protection there if those outlets are wired “downstream” of a GFCI outlet. Typically, the installer will place a small sticker on the outlet that says “GFCI protected”, but that certainly isn’t always the case. I generally tell people to start in one room of the house and walk the entire house. I’ve seen GFCI outlets behind closet doors. Start looking.
Finally, check the main electrical panel. It may be that you have a GFCI breaker installed in the panel, and it has tripped. Reset the GFCI breaker and it should restore power to your bathroom.
A realtor called yesterday saying that she had no power in her garage and several other outlets. This is a pretty common call and so rather than head out to her home and start troubleshooting, I asked her to do a couple of things. Her husband is not afraid to get his hands dirty, and she said he had already replaced the GFCI outlet (ground fault circuit interrupter) and they still had no power.
I asked her to go to the main electrical panel and check to make sure that none of the breakers had tripped. She said she had already done that and the breakers were all on. I then asked her to walk around the house and check to see if any other GFCI outlets had tripped (GFCI outlets have a button that says "test" and another button that says "reset"). These outlets will trip off and stop the power flowing to the outlets downstream of it, if the outlet senses a ground fault. She hastily said she had, but I doubted it. Okay, so she did the easy stuff and still had a problem.
Upon arrival at the house, the first thing we checked was the main electrical panel. Sure enough, a circuit breaker had tripped off. We flipped it back on and her problem was solved. She was embarrassed.
Typically, when a breaker trips, it will end up sitting in between the "on" and "off" positions. It is pretty obvious when this happens. You first need to push the switch all the way to the "off" position and then flip it to "on".
This is one of the most common calls I get as a Las Vegas handyman, and it really is difficult to get people to believe that they can solve this problem by themselves. Typically, all you need is your index finger.
There are safety features in your home's electrical system. If you have electrical outlets near wet locations (bathrooms, kitchen, garage, exterior of the house), you should have Ground Fault Protection.
A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is a safety tool that protects against electrical shock caused by a faulty plug, cord or appliance. It senses small changes in electrical current and can shut off the power faster than you can blink your eyes. But all kidding aside, a GFCI could save you from a potentially deadly shock.
The GFCI receptacle has two buttons in the middle to periodically test that it is functioning properly. One button is labeled "test" and the other is labeled "reset." When you press the test button, the power to that receptacle should shut off immediately. To restore the power, depress the reset button. The power to additional receptacles may also shut off if they are downstream of the GFCI, that is, if they receive their power from that particular GFCI. In this case, those additional outlets should be labeled "GFCI protected outlet," but this is not always the case.
So, the fix here is to reset the GFCI outlet by depressing the "reset" button. Realize that the GFCI outlet in question may not even be located in the bathroom, but rather in the garage, the kitchen, on an exterior wall, etc...so look around until you find it.
You may have GFCI protection even though you don't see a GFCI outlet. In your home's main electrical panel, there may be a GFCI circuit breaker. This breaker has a test switch on it to ensure that the outlets in the circuit are operating properly. If this is the case at your home, the circuit breaker will trip to a middle position. Just turn it off and then turn it back on.
You will have to figure out why the GFCI outlet tripped. You may want to unplug whatever you have plugged in to the circuit and then eliminate possible sources.