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Torqumada286

Tracking down a short

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A picture of my PVC feet.

c9g9r90z3qt56opcw.jpg

Torqumada

Whats going to keep it from blowing over? BTW you got a lamp missing. :o

Edited by Max-Paul

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Spikes in the other 2 feet. Yeah, I found it and replaced it after I took the shot.

Torqumada

Edited by Torqumada286

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I have them anchored into the ground using dog fence flags that I bent into a "V".

If they are metal, this IS your short to ground. Remove them,

You can try stapling the frames to a length of 5-quarter (or dog-ear wooden fencing) board. It keeps them isolated from the Earth (so no current drain) and secured onto the planking. Trust me on this, you do NOT want your minitrees metal-anchored to the Earth, unless you want a dark display.

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Here is a bit more for all to chew on. Wire on a wet yard will capacitivly (SP?) conduct current. A single instance will not be enough. But with all of the wires we lay across the ground, it all adds up. So, on top of putting wire frames of any kind up off of the ground cause of capacitive coupling to the metal frame and then to ground. Or getting stakes and tying the wires to the stakes so that the majority of the wire is up and off of the ground.

Any rule of thumb on how much wire should be up off the ground?

Torqumada

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YMMV,

I am not suggesting that you do this right off, but if all fails then this is a possible solution or part of a solution.

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If they are metal, this IS your short to ground. Remove them,

You can try stapling the frames to a length of 5-quarter (or dog-ear wooden fencing) board. It keeps them isolated from the Earth (so no current drain) and secured onto the planking. Trust me on this, you do NOT want your minitrees metal-anchored to the Earth, unless you want a dark display.

Yes, my anchors are metal, so that's obviously my issue. If I staple them to fencing board, I'd need to make sure the whole thing doesn't blow over. Not that we get 60mph winds all day, but I'm on top of a small hill with very few houses or trees to protect us. So it can get pretty breezy when a storm front comes through. May try the PVC in the ground idea.

What about using those lawn stakes, usually used for C7 or C9 bulbs? Something like these? http://www.christmaslightsetc.com/p/7.5-inch-All-In-One-Light-Stake-25-Pack--13483.htm?gclid=CMO465yWhrQCFQVgMgodgh0A9g Put a number of them in the ground in a circle pattern and rest/zip tie the cage to the clips??

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Instead of going outside and pulling each plug, you do dthe same using the hardware utility in the comfort of your easy chair!

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I have some of those C7 or C9 yard stakes. Use them to hold some strobes off of the ground. In my opinion you would need about a dozen to MAYBE do the job. Seem kind of weak to me. Where as a 3/4 or 1" PVC pipe about 1' long and with a hole drilled at the one end and kind of slant cut at the other end. Then 3 or 4 of them driven about 6 -8" into the ground would be more sturdy. Although Torq's idea of making a ring about 3 or 4" long out of say 2 or 3" pipe. The zip tying to one side and a metal anchor on the other side (and the two shall not meet) is a good idea that does the same thing. Keeps the metal of the tree off of the ground.

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Ugh...raining again today and I still have the short somewhere. I have my mini trees off the ground. They're sitting on 1.5" PVC hammered into the ground with plastic zip ties securing them in. Very much like the picture above. But they're still tripping the GFCI. I know it's them, because there are 8 of them and they're channels 1-8. If I unplug that cord and only run channels 9-16, I'm fine. I've tried plugging them back in one at a time. Only one of them seems to work without tripping the GFCI. At this point, should I assume it's the extension cords getting water in them? Most of them are a combination of shorter cords, perhaps water is getting into the connection? Or is it possible water is getting into the female end of the first strand of lights on the trees? That first strand is anchored on the top of the mini-tree, with the female end in the open. Suggestions?? We have a holiday open house tomorrow and I really want to get this working right.

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I had problems with my minis until tonight,last season when it rained no go on the show.even this year we elevated the minis off the ground to no avail. I tried one last thing,my garage had 20 amp gfcis that never tripped with my static display,and the new ones I had run last seasom were 15 amp,on the 20 amp gfcis it's running even as it's raining now.

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Klayfish,

could you give either a details discription of channel leads leaving the controller all of the way to the mini tree. Where are the plugs and sockets, are the up in the air or laying on the ground? Or as they say, a photo is worth 1000 words.

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Hopefully this link works. I just tried taking some pictures.

http://s1197.beta.photobucket.com/user/Klayfish/library/Christmas%202012

The cords are all laying on the ground. The outlet I'm using is on my front porch. I have a 100' extension cord running from there towards the box. It's plugged into a 3 way splitter extension cord. I use two of those for the power cords coming out of the control box (the third outlet on the splitter cord is unused). The control box is laying under the ramp with Santa/Rudolph on it. There are extension cords running from each mini tree to the box. Some of the cords are SPT1 cords I made myself, others are store bought cords. They occupy channels 1-8. Channels 9-16 are used by the light trees that you see attached to the wooden stakes. They also use a mix of extension cords (SPT1 and store bought).

I have confirmed that if I unplug the mini tree power supply (channels 1-8), I can run channels 9-16 in the rain. So the issue is definitely in the mini trees. Hopefully the picture shows it well, but I've got them all off the ground using PVC pipe.

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Yep, thousands of words. Ok just going to drop back for a minute. As you know, a GFI works like this. It senses the amount of current flowing out on the hot lead. Now if all is as it should be and to keep the GFI happy and Balanced. The GFI also sense the amount of current flowing back on the neutral lead. Although nothing is 100% perfect and we humans (maybe animals too) can handle a little zap. So the engineers allow a wee bit of imbalance of a few mili Amps, say about 40 or so.

Now what is happening in your case is several things. First wires on the ground will capacitivily couple and allow an apparent current flow (not real like two wire touching). And you have the same happen with the wires wrapped around the wire cages and siting on the ground. And then you have actual current leak via water in the plugs and sockets on the ground. All of these little leaks add up and then the amount of current leaks exceed the rating of the GFI and then it trips.

How to prevent tripping GFI: Get the wire cages off of the ground, which you have done. Get the plugs and sockets up off of the ground so that water has a longer path or the path to ground is broken (BTW are those dongles from LOR with ground pin? Get rid of them. They promote your problem at the socket.) Do, this for all items that are on that outlet, not just the mini trees. Remember they all contribute to the leakage for that GFI. Foot Note: A reminder for those who know what a capacitor is and something to help the newbies understand what it is. For a better Def, google it. A Cap as we like to call them is two surfaces with a charge (voltage) potential. In our case the hot wire is one surface and earth ground is another. And if you take a volt meter lead and jam it into the ground and the other lead on the hot wire. You will see different voltages depending on the moisture content of the dirt you have your one probe in. As the ground become wetter from rain the voltage reading will go up. As the voltage goes up the leaking current goes up for both sockets / plugs and the capacitivily couple type. Thus when it rains your GFI is more likely to trip and in some cases just dew or foggy weather will do it too.

So, get your junk ( :rolleyes::P ) up off of the ground.

PS. Bet you can unplug other controllers that you have on the GFI and their supply wires. And your 8 mini trees will work.

Sorry, didnt mean this to become like one of the other members tome

Edited by Max-Paul

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BTW that is animal cruelty, making Rudolph do all the pulling around of that fat old fart all by himself. :lol:

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Awesome, thanks for the suggestions!! I'm still learning a lot about the electrical side of this stuff, as I don't have a ton of experience with it. My first purchase when I started this was a Kill O Watt, and I've used it a ton. I actually have the controller on a circuit almost by itself. The only other thing plugged into that circuit is about 3 or 4 incan mini strings that are on a couple of bushes. So there must be a lot of leaks along the path. And what you said makes sense. I actually have problems if there's a lot of dew/moisture, it doesn't even have to be really raining. Off to WalMart I go to pick up things to get my junk off the ground. Hopefully the little old ladies there won't be offended... :blink:

As for enslaving Rudolph. He hasn't complained too much yet. Just hope PETA doesn't pass by my house. Not only will they be mad he's pulling around a dude in a sleigh alone, they'll hate how Rudolph's feet are stapled to the wood. :lol:

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Progress, but still have issues. Every electrical connection is now off the ground. The lights now work when the ground is wet, but they won't work when it's actually raining. So water is still getting into somewhere when the rain falls. Just watching the forecast and hoping for dry weather... :rolleyes:B)

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I had issues like that, but ONLY during the show, checking the controllers independantly and even turning them all on full on everything via the HWU, never tripped the GFCI, show starts and the GFCI would trip. Like to drove me crazy.

My solutions:

#1. All power cord/extension cord connections raised off the ground using 2 green plastic yard light stakes at each connection.

#2. Using PLASTIC brown tent stakes to stake down my wire frame deer, also moved all lights on wire frames that were close to the ground up a couple of inches on the wire frames.

#3. Used PLASTIC child proof outlet caps on ALL exposed female pass throughs and end of strand connections. Also put these in any UNUSED dongle from all controllers.

#4. I use extension cords that have covers on their female ends so they can be closed to keep moisture out, if I have some that don't, I modify the plastic child outlet caps to fit and plug those in any unused open female connections on an extension cord with multiple connection points.

#5. I use dielectric grease in all my incan and LED light sockets, including blowmold houshold lamp and C7 sockets.

I have never had a GFCI trip since doing this on my display. The only GFCI issue I had was when the GFCI actually went bad and had to be replaced due to old age.

But what works for my setup may or may not work for others.

BTW: All my extension cords all are on the ground, only the connections are off the ground by 2-3 inches using the green light stakes.

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Is the controller still laying on the ground? Even under the display element, that could be a problem. Eighteen cord attachment points in close proximity can increase odds of a GFCI trip. Plus there are tons of geckos here as well as other insects, snakes, etc. that would love to crawl in there and make themselves at home. Somewhere recently there was a thread about a critter and a controller, neither came out of that encounter very well. And yes, many of these very critters can crawl up the cords and do the same thing; being on the ground makes the enclosure a little more enticing for a squatter.

A pin hole in the insulation of a wire can cause a GFCI trip. With the amount of extension cords you have on the display, there is a lot of opportunity for a bad spot to be present. If any of the cords cross an area where water tends to puddle or run, move the cord(s) from that area if possible, or raise them up to avoid being submerged in water.

Light strings in bushes/trees also leave some opportunity for problems. Plants are conductive, and even more so when wet. If you have a spot where water can contact both the plant and a conductor, then you can easily have a GFCI trip.

One other thing you might try is replacing the GFCI receptacle. They can become troublesome as they age and are cycled. I am not sure if you have done that yet, but it is a possibility that the device is simply prone to tripping. However with it only happening during the rain there is likely a fault you haven't been able to locate.

Keep at it. Locating a pesky ground fault can be a major pain in the posterior.

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The rain is still wrecking havoc with my display. I have been able to track it as far as controller two, but can't narrow it down from there. I think it might be just from the power cords, though, as my isolated mini trees don't seem to trip the GFCI. It might be all of the extension cords.

Regarding mini tree construction: I wonder if spray painting them with something like flex seal might help to isolate them a bit more?

Torqumada

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I really would not think that any kind of paint or varnish would make a difference. Now what would make a difference is if the wires are further away from a metal structure that would conduct the current to the ground. A cap is two surfaces in close range not contact. To wrap your head about it. take a sheet of paper and two slightly smaller sheets of foil. Now make a sandwich with the paper in the middle and the foil in front and behind the paper. Attach a wire to both sheets of foil. You have a basic cap now. Add one more sheet of paper on top, and now you can roll it up. Still a cap. So each time a wire with insulation touches the wire of the tomato cage you have a cap. But each time it touches you have another cap in parallel. Caps in parallel add up the amount to make it look like one larger cap. A plan cap acts like a resistor to A.C. current. With out getting into the deep theory of it all, just believe that you will have current flow through a plain cap. This current adds up in each mini tree, cord on the ground, or anything else that would conduct current directly or indirect via the cap effect. Once you exceed a given amount (about .04 amps). Been some years, but I think it was something about .01 one starts to feel a tingle of shock. And as little as .1 amp can kill a person.

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Been some years, but I think it was something about .01 one starts to feel a tingle of shock. And as little as .1 amp can kill a person.

Actually the 10 milliamp AC threshold interferes with voluntary muscle control, making someone unable to let go of whatever is shocking them. It's 30 milliamps AC and higher that can cause ventricular fibrillation which can lead to death, if the skin is intact. If you can bypass the resistance of the skin, the amperage needed to stop...and start the heart can be much lower down the the microamps. I know that when we pace a heart with transcutaneous pacing we treat in milliamps, but I don't recall how high our monitors will go off the top of my head. IIRC, internal pacemakers run on the microamp range.

Torqumada

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Thanks Torq,

Been many years ago and well what can I say other than the memory aint what it used to be.

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A couple of things that may help you out here as well.

Get some of the clear plastic storage bins from a dollar store or where ever and when you put your controller out you can put it in the container or put the congtroller on something to raise it up off the ground just a bit and then place the storage container over it upside down to protect the wiring and plugs from rain and moisture.

You can take plastic soda bottles and cut the neck off of them and place them over cord connections raised up off the ground as well. It is a simple way to keep rain and moisture out of electrical connections. If you want, you can even paint the soda bottles with something like Krylon fusion paint for plastic to hide them even more.

You do not want to make them so tight that they will hold water in but just something to keep the water from spraying directly on the connections.

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One thing I have done for the mega trees is to use 10ft cords wired directly in the controllers instead of the 1 ft dongles. The cables coming out of the controller perfectly reach all my light strings and I have reduced the number of connections ( and possible water getting into them) by 50%...

Next project would be to convert the tons of plugs on the leaping arches to a single Multi-pin plug...

This also cuts down on setup time.

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