Tripped by the GFI

Last Friday and Sunday I pressure washed the exterior of our house. The vinyl siding cleaned up nicely. Diane was very happy and kept saying how great the house looked. And if Stoker is happy everybody is happy.

Tripped Me Up

But no good deed goes unpunished. On Monday, I got out our electric lawn mower to cut our tiny piece of lawn. It is the old fashioned kind with a cord that plugs into an outlet. Not a good tool for a huge lawn, but our token lawn is so small that it does the job with a minimum of fuss.

I plugged it in, pulled on the safety handle to start the mower, and nothing happened. I tried the other socket, and still nothing. I tried the lawn mower by plugging it into an outlet in the garage and it worked fine. I went to the fuse box and saw the GFI fuse marked ‘outside’ was tripped.

I am not a real handyman type, but I do know that Ground Fault Interrupter Fuses (GFI ) are deliberately built so that they trip easily, for safety. I also know how to reset them. Pull the lever all the way to ‘off’, then push it hard to the ‘on’ position. It will click in if you do it correctly. To make sure, press the button that says ‘test’. If the fuse is working it will click off. Then use the reset method again and you are good to go.

I tried. I tried several times. The fuse would not click into the ‘on’ position, and the ‘test’ button did nothing. I checked the other backyard outlet on the ‘outside’ circuit and verified there was no power there either. So I assumed the fuse had failed and called our trusted electrical company. It was Fourth of July Week and they said no one could come until Thursday afternoon. I said that was fine, this certainly was not an emergency. The grass wasn’t going to get out of hand in a couple of days.

I figured that the pressure washing had gotten some water into the outlets and tripped the fuse. And that there might still be some water in the outlet which was causing the hypersensitive GFI’s to keep tripping and fail to reset.  I did think maybe if I waited a couple of days, they might dry out and I could reset the fuse. I resolved to try this Wednesday afternoon.

At 2 pm on Wednesday I got a call from the electrician; he was turning into my driveway! He was right on time for the promised 2 to 4 pm time slot, but he was a day early. There was some confusion, probably caused by the holiday week. He listened to me describe the problem, went to the fuse box, did exactly what I had done on Monday, and the fuse clicked into the ‘on’ position.

I told him I had done the same thing he did, and he said these fuses can be tricky. He was probably trying not to laugh at a clueless homeowner who can’t even reset a fuse. He agreed that the pressure washing might have gotten some water where it shouldn’t be, and could have been the problem. He left after about 5 minutes total, which will probably yield the highest return per minute of all his calls that day. If he hadn’t come a day early I might have been able to reset the fuse myself now that it had dried out, and I could have cancelled the service call and saved some money.

The same kind of thing happens with my bikes. I hear an irritating noise. I do everything I can think of to get rid of it but nothing works. Finally I give up and take it to the bike shop, where no matter how hard I try I cannot reproduce the noise. It is almost as if the bike is doing it on purpose, making its owner look silly. Just like the GFI did.



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  • Blog Author

    Rich Freggiaro

    Richard Freggiaro is a Stockton area native who grew up on his family’s farm. After an nine year detour to Davis for College, Washington DC for work, and Iowa for graduate school, he returned to San Joaquin County and spent the next quarter century farming with his father. He has been married to Diane for 31 years. He is (mostly) retired which leaves him plenty of time to ride each of his 4 bikes, and he is an enthusiastic and passionate cyclist. Read Full
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