Outside GFCI Troubleshooting

Discussion in 'Electrical and Wiring' started by Duane_Boldt, Sep 27, 2011.

  1. Sep 27, 2011 #1

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

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    I now realize that my outside circuit should have been GFCI protected all along. I didn't pay enough attention when some landscapers wired the outside lighting. I regret not watching them more closely now.

    I replaced an outside 20 Amp breaker with a GFCI breaker. The breaker immediately tripped. Checked the outlets and turned out that a few were wired wrong. Corrected all of those "reversed" wires and still had the GFCI tripping.

    The condition inside the non-waterproof boxes did not look good. I cleaned up the wires and replaced all the outlets with weatherproof outlets and boxes.
    I replaced two switches with weatherproof boxes, also.

    I have one outlet that is before two switches that control the rest of the outlets. One of the switches controls an outlet for a fountain (I am going to use that for an above ground pool pump) and the other switch controls the rest of the outlets for outside lightning.

    The outlet before the switches works fine with the GFCI switch.
    But when either switch is closed, the GFCI trips. Even after I disconnects all three wires to all of the outlets.

    I replaced the regular breaker and all seems to work fine with my corrected outlets. Put in the GFCI and it trips right away if either switch is closed. I disconnected the Load Neutral and it still trips.

    I assume that this means that I have a Power wire somewhere underground, past the switches, that is shorting against a Ground wire.

    I am not looking forward to seeing what these guys did underground... Especially since it is under a large backyard of brick pavers.

    If I am wrong in my trouble shooting or if there is something else I should look for, please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Duane

    Boldt_Outside_20_Amp_GFCI.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2011
  2. Sep 27, 2011 #2

    kok328

    kok328

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    Remove the black & white wire from the outlets, one at a time working your way backwards from outlet #5 all the way back to point "A" until the breaker holds.
    You will now know where the problem is troubleshooting going forward.
    P.S.- Landscapers are now electricians ?
     
  3. Sep 28, 2011 #3

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

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    I had actually removed all three of the connections for all the outlets back to point A and it still trips if either switch is closed.
     
  4. Sep 28, 2011 #4

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

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    Also the outlets are wired in parallel not series. I assume even with this that GFCI would work fine unless there is a short to ground somewhere. Which by the test removing the Load Neutral at the GFCI breker would mean the Power line is shorted somewhere??
     
  5. Sep 28, 2011 #5

    kok328

    kok328

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    If the "hot" was shorted to neutral or ground then the non-gfci breaker would trip also.

    I'm starting to think that you have a bad gfci breaker.

    OR

    you have a wiring problem between (the breaker and outlet #1) or a wiring problem between (the breaker and point A).

    To test: disconnect all 3 wires from outlet #1 and see what happens.
    If the breaker trips then you have a problem with the wires going to outlet #1 or you have a bad gfci breaker.
    If the breaker holds then reinstall outlet #1 and disconnect all 3 wires from the output side of Point A.
    Basically what you need to do is disconnect and reconnect all wires from the switches and outlets working forward from the breaker and you will eventually get to a point where the breaker will not hold. Then you have found your problem.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  6. Sep 28, 2011 #6

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

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    If I disconnect at point A, it holds with switch #1 connected and with switch #1 disconnected. Once I connect the switches just past point A, it holds until eithwr one of them are closed.
     
  7. Sep 28, 2011 #7

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

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    Is it likely that the new GFCI breaker is bad even though it seems to work fine until I get past point A?
    Using a GFCI tester is outlet #1 it shows that it is wired correctly and breaks properly when the test button is pushed. It breaks just as the test button on teh GFCI breaker itself.
    If the small short or arc out past the switches, can't that trip the GFCI breaker and not the standard breaker?
    Also, is it better to have the outlets wired in series as opposed to parallel like they are now?
     
  8. Sep 28, 2011 #8

    kok328

    kok328

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    Is it likely that the new GFCI breaker is bad even though it seems to work fine until I get past point A? not likely but possible
    If the small short or arc out past the switches, can't that trip the GFCI breaker and not the standard breaker? I would expect either breaker to trip but, it does not appear to be the case.
    Also, is it better to have the outlets wired in series as opposed to parallel like they are now? In this case, it does not make a difference
    I would test for continuity between power and ground, power and neutral, and neutral and ground with the breaker turned off, the neutral disconnect from the breaker panel and both switches closed.
    If continuity is detected between any of these combinations then you have a short somewhere.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2011
  9. Sep 28, 2011 #9

    Blue Jay

    Blue Jay

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    Do you have an ohm meter? Sounds like you are ok to point A, meter each wire past switches to ground (both white and black). Should not have ANY reading on meter (at a high ohm setting). The line with the 4 outlets on it open ALL wires at the first outlet from the switch to test that section and then move on down the line. Any reading on any wire will trip the GF breaker
     
  10. Sep 29, 2011 #10

    edh

    edh

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    Or did the fellow who did your wiring actually install a GFCI somewhere or has your house been protected by a GFCI in the electrical box. If you try to wire two GFCI's on the same circuit I believe you may get the trouble you are having.
     
  11. Sep 29, 2011 #11

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

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    Thanks I will use the ohm meter and check it out to see if I can isolate where the short(s) are. Thanks. I will let you know what I find.

    With looking at the work, I am about set on just running new conduit and wire making sure it is all well sealed.
     
  12. Sep 29, 2011 #12

    Duane_Boldt

    Duane_Boldt

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    Edh, no there wasn't any GFCI's on it just a regular 20 amp breaker and just regular outlets with small holes exposed to the weather. I feel like an idiot for not paying closer attention. The boxes looked terrible inside. The insulation on the wires themselves was pretty dried and cracking, at least near the ends. I tried to clean it up some but they didn't leave me much wire at all to work with. It was also more than 10 years ago. And the installer is long gone.
    I am close to being resolved just to bite the bullet and start lifting of the brick pavers along the wall, make my own trench, install brand new conduit and wire...
    I am curious to see just how bad it is though and test with the ohm meter.

    My "little" cleanup job it turning into a bigger project than the pool itself...
     

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