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How to Fix Red Light on GFCI Outlet (Causes & Fixes)

If you’re concerned about a red light blinking on your GFCI outlet, you’ll want to know what it means and what you can do to fix it.

A red light on a GFCI outlet is a warning light that indicates an electrical fault. There are several likely reasons, the most common being an overloaded circuit, faulty appliance, or a ground fault. You must identify the exact cause and apply the solution accordingly to fix it.

For instance, you may need to reduce the load, fix a faulty appliance, remove the short circuit, replace burnt wires, secure the connections, or replace the outlet. After that, you should reset the outlet.

In this article, I describe eight possible causes, how to identify them, and what you can do to fix each one of them.

Quick Summary

Common Causes of the Red LightWays to Fix it
Overloaded CircuitReduce the load on the circuit by removing some devices or appliances. Inspect the appliance for a possible malfunction.
Faulty ApplianceInspect the appliance for a possible malfunction. Please don’t use it again until it is fixed.
Ground FaultCheck the outlet, wiring, and appliance to find where the short circuit or contact occurred. Then separate the wires in contact.
Faulty WiringVisually inspect the wire connections and the wire itself. Secure all the connections. Fix that portion or replace the whole wire.
Weak OutletUse a tester to confirm and replace it if it is weak.
Failed Regular OutletInspect all other outlets connected to the GFCI outlet. Check for faulty wiring and appliances.
Failed Self-TestReplace the GFCI outlet.
Faulty GFCI OutletReturn it to the retailer and ask for a replacement.
Green LightEverything is working normally.
No LightThe GFCI outlet is turned off, or the circuit has tripped.
Red LightSomething is wrong. Investigate further to identify the cause and apply the solution.

A Red Light on a GFCI Outlet

A red light on a GFCI outlet (whether blinking or not) means something is wrong, i.e., an electrical fault.

It might be a tripped breaker due to a circuit overload, which is a common reason, but it might be something else. You will have to check to know for sure and fix the issue.


Common Causes of the Red Light and Ways to Fix it

Here are some reasons why the outlet might be showing a red light, starting with perhaps the most common ones:

Overloaded Circuit or Faulty Appliance

The total load on a circuit should not exceed what it can handle.

If you haven’t overloaded the circuit, it could be due to a malfunctioned appliance drawing more power than normal. It can happen if the appliance is faulty, old, due to a current surge by the electricity supplier, or a lightning bolt.

Reduce the load on the circuit by removing some devices or appliances. If you didn’t add any appliance, the operational one might be drawing too much power. Inspect the appliance for a possible malfunction. Please don’t use it again until it is fixed.

Ground Fault

current or lightning icon

A ground fault means the current has found an abnormal path to the ground, i.e., the electricity could not take its normal route.

A short circuit occurs if two conductors touch each other. It might be due to worn-out wires, a faulty appliance, or incorrect wiring.

Check the outlet, wiring, and appliance to find where the short circuit or contact occurred. Then separate the wires in contact. If you see electrical burn marks, replace both wires.

Faulty Wiring

If the outlet was wired correctly, it might be due to a loose wire. Otherwise, something may have burned inside, or a mouse chewed on a wire.

Visually inspect the wire connections and the wire itself. Secure all the connections. If the wire is damaged, fix that portion or replace the whole wire if you are unsure where the problem is.

Weak Outlet

A GFCI outlet normally lasts up to 15 years (theoretically up to 25) if used safely.

However, it can wear out soon if used harshly, such as overloading its circuit or exposure to moisture or humidity.

If you suspect the outlet has weakened, use a tester to confirm and replace it if it is weak.

Press the TEST button. If it works, you’ll hear a snap, and the power will be switched off. You can confirm this using a voltage tester. Then press the RESET button to restore the power.

The outlet must be replaced if this test fails to cut off or restore power.

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Video | Silver Cymbal

Failed Regular Outlet

If the GFCI outlet is connected to other regular outlets to protect them, it can also trip the GFCI outlet.

Inspect all other outlets connected to the GFCI outlet. Check also for faulty wiring and appliances.

There might be a faulty appliance plugged into any one of them.

Failed Self-Test

When a GFCI outlet restarts, it performs a self-test before allowing you to use it.

The red light will show if the self-test fails for whatever reason.

A failed GFCI outlet must be replaced.

Faulty GFCI Outlet

Although GFCI outlets are generally reliable, it’s possible that you bought a defective one.

If you’re using it for the first time, this might be the reason for the red light.

Return it to the retailer and ask for a replacement GFCI outlet that works.


FAQs

What do the other lights on a GFCI outlet mean?

Everything normally works if you see a green light on a GFCI outlet.

If you see no light, the GFCI outlet is turned off, or the circuit has tripped.

The red light, as you know, means that something is wrong. You must investigate further to identify the cause and apply the solution (see above).




Video Reference

Silver Cymbal

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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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