GFCI clicking sound

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by opeets, May 27, 2015.

  1. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    In my master bathroom my GFCI outlet has been making a random faint clicking sound of late even when nothing is plugged into it. Suggestions on troubleshooting it before the next obvious step of replacing it? This outlet is connect to several other outlets in adjoining rooms on the 2nd floor of my home. Poor design but that's how the house was originally built.
     
  2. PackratKing

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    850
    215
    If a lamp is plugged in downstream from the suspect GFCI... Does it flicker ?
     
  3. DickCappels

    Moderator

    Aug 21, 2008
    2,647
    632
    Anything leaking downstream or putting differential noise on the line can cause the problem. Had the same setup in one house I had. One GFI feeding outlets in three bathrooms; what a troubleshooting nightmare that could have been.
     
  4. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    No lamps, all of the adjoining bedrooms have ceiling lights/fans (on a different circuit). I hear this sound in the bathroom in the morning typically....the only thing that is plugged in and turned on at this point of the day is my daughter's white noise machine which is used as a sleeping aide.
     
  5. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    What can cause leaks and how do leaks occur? Are you saying the GFCI is operating per design? Why isn't it tripping if there is an issue?
     
  6. DickCappels

    Moderator

    Aug 21, 2008
    2,647
    632
    That is THE question. The ticking might be that it is "trying" to trip. Leaks occur when there is resistance, in this case probably to earth from Line. It could be from insulation breakdown, dirt, moisture, or (and this seems to happen a lot more than one would expect) a pile of ants.
     
  7. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    Okay, what would be a systematic approach to hunting down the source of the problem? Should I first rule out a faulty GFCI outlet by getting a new one so I don't waste unnecessary time? Are there measurements I can take with meters? I have a pair of decent Extech DMMs.
     
  8. DickCappels

    Moderator

    Aug 21, 2008
    2,647
    632
    Changing out the breaker sounds like a good idea.

    Since the GFI breakers need several milliamps to trip (from what little I have read on the topic), if you are confident in your ability to safely measure the current on the Line and Neutral outputs of the breaker and you don't have any load on the line, you should be able to see the leakage on an AC Amps scale on a digital mulitmeter.

    Personally, I would not mess with it and call an good electrician to make sure A) The problem is found and properly corrected, and B) I don't risk my life or injury playing electrician because I'm not one. (In my past I have worked with tens of kilovolts and been nailed enough!)
     
    DerStrom8 likes this.
  9. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    The breaker in the panel or the GFCI outlet?
     
  10. DickCappels

    Moderator

    Aug 21, 2008
    2,647
    632
    If my house the breaker in the panel was an "ordinary" breaker. The GFI outlet with the "test" button had the breaker in it (the button is mounted on the breaker). That is the one I would change, it is unlikely that it is the one on the breaker panel, but you never know until the problem is solved.
     
  11. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    I replaced the GFCI receptable in my bathroom this weekend and thought I solved the problem but I still heard the clicking sound this morning. There is only one set of wires coming into this outlet (no load) but I can tell you that when I turned the breaker off in the garage panel (in order to replace the receptacle), I had no power in my master bedroom ceiling fan/light among other things on the 2nd floor. It just really irks me how badly this house was wired for something that was built in 1982.

    I will jot down a list of what else is connected to the same circuit in the next day or two. I am hoping I can at least narrow down the source of the problem without having to do any professional electrical work on my own. Then I'll decide what to do from that point. Any suggestions moving forward? Thanks for you help so far.
     
  12. ian field

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 27, 2012
    4,413
    782
    By "bathroom"; do you mean the smallest room with the great white telephone in it - or the room where people take baths and/or showers?

    Humidity could easily be the problem, but trying a replacement breaker is the easiest - if not the cheapest place to start..
     
  13. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    But I did that...unless you're referring to the actual non-GFCI breaker in the panel?
     
  14. ian field

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 27, 2012
    4,413
    782
    If you swapped out the bit that was clicking and the replacement was just the same - something else is making it click.

    You may need an electrician to isolate any appliances/bulbs etc fed by that breaker and do a leakage test on the house wiring.

    If there's any junction boxes on that circuit, it might be worth inspecting them for condensation.
     
  15. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    Was wondering if I could do some basic troubleshooting before I call an electrician to rule out something obvious. Why shell out big bucks for something I can figure out on my own? Besides most electricians I know are not interested in this type of work. They want big money jobs to make it worth their while.
     
  16. ian field

    Distinguished Member

    Oct 27, 2012
    4,413
    782
    Probably the best you can do is remove any loads from that circuit and isolate it from the mains, you can do a preliminary earth leakage test with a DMM - but mains wiring is normally insulation tested at double the normal mains rating. Any leakage whatsoever indicates a problem.

    Leakage current through condensation can burn and carbonise insulation, that in turn carries a higher leakage current that can start a fire - the ticking breaker may already have prevented that from happening, its not the sort of thing I'd leave to chance!
     
  17. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    How do you detect a leak though?
     
  18. bwilliams60

    Active Member

    Nov 18, 2012
    721
    88
    Does this receptacle click all day long or only at certain times in the day? If you pull it out away from the box, does it still click? Just thinking possibly an uninvited house guest may be in the vicinity?
     
  19. opeets

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 16, 2015
    103
    0
    It's pretty random and only occurs every few minutes or so. It's more of a single "tick" sound rather than a click. I just need to sit by it one day and record the frequency of it's occurrence
     
  20. BReeves

    Member

    Nov 24, 2012
    412
    64
    Divide and Conquer... If you know what outlets are down stream from the GFI. Turn the breaker off, go to the middle of the outlet chain and disconnect the wires that feed the outlets after that one. Insulate the wires, turn the breaker back on and see if it still clicks. If the clicking is gone you have eliminated 1/2 the circuit. Hook the wire you disconnected back up and go the middle outlet of the ones you had disconnected. Disconnect the outlets down stream from that one and see if it still clicks. You have now isolated it down to 1/4 of the circuit.

    If it still clicks when you disconnected the first 1/2, just work back the other way. Now you should have it isolated down to one or two outlets without needing any test equipment at all. From there you can try to determine what the problem is or call an electrician, you have saved him quite a bit of time if he will listen to what you have done.
     
Loading...