Tackling the GFCI Tripping Problem with Outdoor Extension Cords

Outdoor extension cords play a vital role in powering various devices and equipment in outdoor settings. However, it can be frustrating when your extension cord repeatedly trips the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).

The outdoor extension cord may be tripping the GFCI due to ground faults, overloading the circuit, damaged cords, wet conditions, incompatible cords with the GFCI, or faults in connected devices.

This article will explore the reasons behind this issue and provide practical solutions to prevent GFCI tripping.

What is a GFCI?

A GFCI, or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, is a device designed to protect against electrical shocks by detecting imbalances in current flow.

It monitors the electrical current entering and exiting a circuit, instantly shutting off power if it detects a ground fault.

GFCIs are particularly crucial in outdoor environments where the risk of electrical accidents is higher.

Understanding the Tripping of GFCI with Outdoor Extension Cords

GFCI tripping with outdoor extension cords can occur due to several reasons. It’s essential to identify these causes to effectively troubleshoot the issue.

  1. Damaged or Worn-Out Cord: Frayed insulation, exposed wires, or damaged plugs can cause electrical faults and trigger the GFCI.
  2. Wet or Damp Conditions: Moisture is a significant hazard when it comes to outdoor electrical connections. Wet or damp cords can cause leakage currents and ground faults, leading to GFCI tripping.
  3. Ground Fault in Connected Devices or Equipment: Faulty or malfunctioning devices connected to the extension cord can cause ground faults, resulting in GFCI tripping.
  4. Insufficient Wire Gauge: Using extension cords with a lower wire gauge than required can lead to voltage drops, overheating, and GFCI tripping.
  5. Incompatibility Between the Cord and GFCI: Some extension cords may not be compatible with specific types of GFCI outlets, causing tripping issues.

Read also my article: Don’t Trip Up! The Impact of Low-Quality Extension Cords on GFCIs.

Troubleshooting and Solutions

To address the problem of GFCI tripping with outdoor extension cords, follow these troubleshooting steps and implement the suggested solutions:

  1. Check and Replace Damaged Cords: Regularly inspect the extension cord for any signs of damage. Replace any cords with frayed insulation, exposed wires, or broken plugs.
  2. Ensure Proper Wire Gauge: Use extension cords with an appropriate wire gauge for the intended load. Refer to wire gauge charts or consult an electrician for guidance.
  3. Use Appropriate GFCI Outlets or Adapters: Ensure compatibility between the extension cord and GFCI outlet. Consider using GFCI adapters if necessary, but exercise caution and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Keep Cords Dry and Protected from Water: Position the extension cord away from water sources, and use waterproof enclosures or covers when needed. Consider using weather-resistant or outdoor-rated extension cords.
  5. Properly Ground Connected Devices: Ensure that all devices or equipment connected to the extension cord are properly grounded. Faulty grounding can cause ground faults and lead to GFCI tripping.

Safety Tips for Using Outdoor Extension Cords

To prevent electrical hazards and ensure safe usage of outdoor extension cords, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Regular Inspection and Maintenance: Periodically inspect the extension cords for any damage and replace worn-out cords promptly.
  2. Proper Storage and Handling: Coil and store extension cords properly to avoid tangling and potential damage. Avoid sharp bends or kinks that can weaken the cord.
  3. Use Outdoor-Rated Extension Cords: Choose extension cords specifically designed for outdoor use. They are built to withstand harsh weather conditions and are more resistant to moisture.
  4. Avoid Overloading and Daisy-Chaining: Do not exceed the maximum load capacity of the extension cord and avoid connecting multiple cords together (daisy-chaining).
  5. Avoid Exposure to Extreme Weather Conditions: Protect the extension cords from extreme heat, direct sunlight, or freezing temperatures to prevent damage.

Read also my article: Power up your toaster: Can you use an extension cord?


Understanding the reasons behind GFCI tripping with outdoor extension cords and implementing proper troubleshooting steps and solutions can help prevent electrical hazards and ensure a safe outdoor environment.

Regular inspection, proper usage, and adherence to safety guidelines are key to maintaining the reliability and longevity of outdoor extension cords while minimizing the risk of GFCI tripping incidents.