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Long before you are about to use a protected appliance or light, the GFCI will have sensed most faults and cut power off.
The other 1% of the time, you actually start to get shocked, and the GFI trips power off. Besides preventing shock, it is also common for a GFCI outlet or GFCI breaker to trip for conditions that might not put you in any danger.
For instance, it will trip if the bare ground wire in a box happens to be touching the neutral screw of a protected receptacle.
Often the tripped GFI will allow itself to be reset by the (red) reset button, since the cause of its tripping was a passing thing.
They do not prevent shock altogether, only deadly shock. That is the job of a circuit breaker at the main panel. If you don't know the complication, you won't be looking in the right place to restore power. Besides having to hook a GFI up correctly, anytime you introduce GFI protection onto existing wiring and existing loads, you may find unexpected tripping.
GFI Outlet Diagram -- Hooking Up Is an Unknown GFCI the Cause of an Outage? First, this chart summarizes troubleshooting the health of a GFI receptacle device: NOTE: A brand new GFI comes from the factory in a tripped state and cannot be reset till it is hooked up right and power turned on. When homes are upgraded, PEOPLE OFTEN THINK GFIs NEED TO BE ADDED in bathrooms, kitchens, and elsewhere.
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Still, if you have an outage of the receptacles in one of the rooms mentioned above, it may help to look for GFCI outlets in all of those areas and to reset them all. It may be that the bathroom and outdoor outlets are dead from a GFI in the garage that is never used itself, because it is behind a pile of storage boxes. That means pushing the test button, seeing that the reset has popped out, seeing that nothing will run using the outlet at that point, and then pushing the reset.
Although this could be detecting a shock hazard you weren't aware of before, there are also a few wiring conditions from the past that are not GFCI friendly. If a ground-fault interrupter is giving trouble, can you tell the difference between its (re)tripping and its simply failing to reset?
One unintentional condition would be where a ground wire is contacting the neutral side of a receptacle. The reset buttons of newer GFIs (from 2003 on) will purposely not catch hold if they are not receiving power or are not hooked up right.
GFCIs trip for reasons, including misconnections and an incompatibility with a few motors, treadmills, UPSs, dimmers, and fluorescent lights.
But most commonly it is for various faults downstream in wiring or plugged-in appliances -- both dangerous and harmless faults.
If the switched item is going to be on the same circuit, then how you proceed depends on whether the switched item should be GFCI-protected or not.