GFCI receptacle tester trip AFCI

I have a Sperry GFCI/outlet tester. I have used it on numerous inspections without a hitch. Today I used it in bedrooms with AFCI breakers and it tripped the AFCI breakers in all three bedrooms. I did not press the GFCI button, it happened as soon as I plugged it in. Never had it happen on other AFCI breakers at other inspections. I went to my vehicle to get my GB GFCI tester, my client plugged a lamp in and it did not trip the breaker. My GB tester did not trip the breaker. Anyone had this experience? Is there a known issue with the Sperry testers?

I’m curious to see what an electrician says on this, but you may have found a reverse polarity bootleg ground.

My theory: Please wait for a sparky to confirm or deny.

In an older home wired for 2 conductor (no ground) sometimes people will attempt to obtain a ground by wiring the ground to neutral, if an outlet is reverse wired on the same circuit this condition can occur. Many times items plugged in will work fine too, but your tester may, while testing ground and reverse polarity, trip the AFCI.

In any case, if your operational tester tripped the breaker, write it up an needing service by an electrician.

I wouldn’t be “writing up” anything if my equipment was causing this type of reaction. This is exactly why it’s important to carry multiple devices for circuit testing/analysis.

I would have left the Sperry plugged in while I reset the AFCI to see what type of reaction would occur. It sounds like the AFCI was detecting an arc within your equipment (which may be normal for that tester) and tripping as it’s supposed to do.

The home was built in 2007, that negates the older home theory. Jeff, I did leave the tester plugged in and tried to reset the breaker; it wouldn’t reset. The GB tester did not produce the same results. The sperry is just a basic GFCI tester, I am not sure it is normal for it to cause that reaction. It has not done that at other inspections with AFCI breakers. I may call Sperry and inquire about the issue. I will also be looking into getting a real tester. Anyone have a suggestion?

SureTest 61-165

Thanks Jeff.

Just for fun I used the Sperry tester HGT6120 at my home inspection the following day. This house was also built in 2007 and had AFCI breakers. The tester did not trip the breakers in this house. I wonder if it depends on the manufacturer of the breaker and panel.

Mike I do recall that early AFCI breakers were more sensitive if installed before 2007.

Mike, what brand breakers were they?


Just searching the internet for an answer to my issue and came across this thread. I am not an inspector, just a resident in a highrise building in New York. I just moved into my apartment and setup a home office in the 2nd bedroom. The arc fault breaker trips often. I have a fair amount of studio equipment in here, much of which is wired to power conditioners. When I flip the main switch for the gear, it trips immediately 50% of the time. The other 50%, it functions as normal. As my building saw the amount of gear (all of which has lived in other apartments in this building plugged in the same way with no issue), they assumed it was an overload. I plugged a power meter inline and am only pulling 5 amps and 600 watts when all is powered on. This is a 20 amp circuit. The tripping happens on multiple outlets… More often on one than another. I just got a Sperry HGT6120 to test the outlets and it trips the arc fault on most of the outlets immediately. I see a split second green light as it’s tripping. I tried the tester in the other bedroom, and it tripped the arc fault for that circuit as well. The tester works fine on all non arc fault outlets in the apt. Before I go further with having my building staff open up my outlets, should the tester trip the arc faults? From the looks above it shouldn’t but this thread started with a Sperry doing it in a house. Should I try another brand tester? Thanks for the help!


Are you sure no test button was pushed? Most AFCI breakers have 30ma GFI logic in them to help detect wiring errors. If your tester produces ground fault values over 5ma that might trip the breaker. Also keep in mind that plug in testers test for an open ground via a bulb connected between hot and ground. If that bulb is high wattage enough it will do that too. Either that, your tester is defective in some way.

The GFCI button was definitely not pushed. Is there a way to tell how high the bulb wattage is in the tester? The tester was purchased new yesterday. Says 125 VAC, 0.3W on the back. I still think there has to be something wrong with the ARC breakers themselves or wiring somewhere in the walls because my electronics are randomly tripping it as well when turned on. Just wanted to clarify that an outlet tester is not supposed to trip the arcs. If that’s the case, I will at least get another tester to double check.

Useing ohms law 0.3 watts at 120 volts gives around 2.4 milliamps. This alone shouldnt trip an AFCI, a fault in the tester might. You mention tripping on electronics, which certainly is possible. Older AFCIs are notorious for tripping on electronics, vacuums and TVs. If this is an early version of an AFCI that is certainly possible.

I have had the same issue (on one home only), and was scratching my head. The AFCIs are about ten years old. I flagged it, and subsequently an electrician checked it out and declared that all was good. Interesting…

I’ve had the exact same issue today. Used a Sperry Stop Shock II. Have used on several AFCI breaker Hines with no issue, but this one, a Cutler Hammer, in a house built in 2007, would insta-trip the AFCI as soon as it was plugged in. Leaving it in, I could flip the breaker to the on position and it would close, then open right up again. Used my backup red GB with no issues.

I guess I need to try this thing on my house, which was built in 2006 and also has CH breakers.

Edit: found this other thread, where Sperry indicated this could be an issue with AFCI breakers and this device. I liked it because it was a bit bigger than usual testers, easy to grip and seemed to go into tamper resistant outlets more easily as well.

Had the same problem a couple years ago. Now I carry four different ones. Customer reviews: Sperry Instruments HGT6120 Stop Shock GFCI Circuit-Ground Analyzer, DIY Testing - 120V AC, 3 Color LED Indicator, Comfort Grip, Patented

ByClete Pfeifferon August 19, 2014

This plug tester trips AFCI breakers the moment you plug it into any outlet on that circuit, which renders this unit virtually unusable for use in home inspections.

Reverse polarity on one receptacle does not make a bootleg ground receptacle become a reverse polarity bootleg ground.

Reverse polarity bootleg ground is caused when someone attempts to create a bootleg ground and manages to reverse the polarity in the same receptacle, thus connecting the hot leg to the ground.

The cover plate screws (and receptacle box) on this type of connection are energised.

It can, depending upon the RH% in the home, be detected by an electric current running over the condensation on a drywall ( or plaster ) surface, but it’s more frequently detected by someone getting dead from electrocution.

Here’s the proper way to test an AFCI as part of a Home Inspection.