Jump to content
Light-O-Rama Forums
Sign in to follow this  
dharker

GFCI Question

Recommended Posts

After my first year or LOR I have lots of questions, I'll try not to post to many at once !

What do you folks do for weatherproofing. I have certain banks that trip my GFI circuits when raining. The outlet box is completely covered and I did tape most of my ends. I can't imagine people with real large displays tape ? ?

I don't even understand why the lights would trip the GFI when there is no ground on the christmas lights and I do not have 3 prong anything.

Nothing worse then having folks watching and it looks like crap because 8 or 16 channels are out. I actually canceled 2 nights this year with rain.... :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First problem--taping. Don't tape. Tape won't keep water out (no matter how "good" you tape), but will keep water in. Probably your biggest culprit.

Also, try to get the plugs off the ground. It isn't the water that is the problem, but more the sediment that mixes with the water, such as dirt and fertilizer. At least prop the connections up with a brick or something. Some make stakes and hang their connections from them. Some people try to point all open connections down, so water is less likely to trap in the open ends. I would start with the easiest thing first (don't tape) and work your way up until you get to a point of not GFCI tripping.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Surfing4Dough wrote:

First problem--taping. Don't tape. Tape won't keep water out (no matter how "good" you tape), but will keep water in. Probably your biggest culprit.

Also, try to get the plugs off the ground. It isn't the water that is the problem, but more the sediment that mixes with the water, such as dirt and fertilizer. At least prop the connections up with a brick or something. Some make stakes and hang their connections from them. Some people try to point all open connections down, so water is less likely to trap in the open ends. I would start with the easiest thing first (don't tape) and work your way up until you get to a point of not GFCI tripping.

I totally agree with this advice. As a first year noob, I was totally freaked out worrying about tripping GFCI's before I threw the switch. I had vampire plugs on the roof, laying near gutters, under bushes, and laying on the ground. I DID NOT tape based on advice here, and didn't have a single trip all season. I tried to keep the plug ends up if possible, but wasn't able to on about 50 %.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

GFCI's compare the current out on the hot vs the current back in on the neutral, and trip on an imbalance between the two. That imbalance could be leakage to the ground in that circuit, the actual earth ground, or even current from a different hot leaking into this neutral...

Keep your cord ends clean, keep your cord ends elevated. If you have some that still are an issue, you can try to shield them from rainfall from above, but don't try to seal them... We did fairly well at keeping everything running here. One issue we found at the city park was that several of our triple tap cords have hollow ends, and fill with water. Given enough time, enough copper dissolves to be a GFCI issue in that volume of water. That is one that would help to have some loose shielding from above to keep it from filling. But I may get rid of the triple tap next year by converting that controller to single inlet. At home, one issue I had turned out to be the test cord that I keep in the side yard, and can drag out to plug lights into while trying to locate bad bulbs, or when zapping them with the LKP. (I don't want to do that while plugged into a channel, it might zap the triac)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest guest

Surfing4Dough wrote:

First problem--taping. Don't tape. Tape won't keep water out (no matter how "good" you tape), but will keep water in. Probably your biggest culprit.

Also, try to get the plugs off the ground. It isn't the water that is the problem, but more the sediment that mixes with the water, such as dirt and fertilizer. At least prop the connections up with a brick or something. Some make stakes and hang their connections from them. Some people try to point all open connections down, so water is less likely to trap in the open ends. I would start with the easiest thing first (don't tape) and work your way up until you get to a point of not GFCI tripping.


On the no tape, I have to disagree. I had some L.E.D. strings on a Candy Cane "elevated" fence line and every time it rained they'd be the only ones to trip my GFCI outlet, I could unplug them and everything else would work fine. The female ends were pointed and secured to candy canes in the down position, this did not help with these L.E.D. lights at all. So after they dried out and the string stopped tripping the GFCI, I bound them up with electrical tape at the female2male connections, once I did, I never had another issue with rain tripping my GFCI outlet ever again, even in the worst downpour, the strings never once tripped my GFCI or circuit breaker, which would occur if I reset the GFCI and then turned on the offending "fence line string".

Once I taped the female plugs over and securely wrapped, I never, not once had another issue with my GFCI tripping or my display going off.

In some scenarios taping works, in others it may not. But I now will tape all my exposed female ends because it keeps my display in operation, not doing it and I was constantly hunting down the source of GFCI trips.

Despite what some think, wrapping electrical tape securely around the female plug to keep out water and moisture can be done.

The day I had planned on teardown, it rained ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT, the next day there was water and wet/damp strings all over the place. Every exposed female outlet I had taped up, DRY AS A BONE! Not one bit of water or moisture in the plug.

Sure saved me a lot of greif and headaches in 2009, so from now on, I will be electrical taping ANY exposed female2male connecton in my display. It worked out for me, but then I really tug and seal my taped connections. Ain't nothing getting inside those taped and mated plugs! So it worked out for me and I'll keep on doing it because it solved my problem of exposed plugs, even hanging them off the ground from tripping my GFCI.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are about as many opinions on taping as there are displays here. I won't argue the fact that it has worked for some and was nothing but a headache for another. I my self do not tape the connections, but i do throw a piece of tape on the female ends - trying to keep most of the liquid and debris out. I haven't had too much trouble with gfci trips until this year. Not sure if i have a flaky one or not. This summer i plan on making a few short cords with a gfci on them for emergency bypasses from my normal power distro center. I had to bypass one controller this season to keep the show live, but i was not thrilled about it. I like the comfort that the gfci provides me. Plus it will let me know if I have an outlet that is flaky. Like all electronics, this only like to be turned off so many times. I have seen reports that breakers and gfci's do have a max trip number, not that we would probably exceed it.

Final line - do what makes you feel comfortable, safe and sound, keeping in mind those around you - family and friends that may wander thru the display or your helpers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest guest

I agree Dave. Do what works for you, the tape worked for me on this particular section. It was the ONLY area I had to really tape, everything else that was "hung off the ground" and pointing downward had no issues, it was just this one set of 3 L.E.D. strings. Out of the 30-40 L.E.D. strings I had up, I can't say this was all that bad, just glad it was at about knee level, so it was easy to correct.

I actually try NOT to use tape if at all possible, because even though it saved my bacon from constantly tripping my GFCI outlet, it was a headache removing the tape from the connections when time for tear down too! LOL

Seems no matter which way you go with the taping, one way or the other, it's still going to make your life miserable at some point in the process!:shock:



Like said, it saved me on these and only these 3 had a problem. Don't know why they were the only strings I had that did this, couldn't find a darn thing wrong with them either, if I ran an extension cord from inside my garage to them, they'd work just fine, soon as I plugged them into any other outlet outside connected through the GFCI, they'd trip it. It had me going in circles trying to figure out what exactly the problem was. So I resorted to taping them up after they dried out and that worked for me. Weird in my opinion.



BTW: these L.E.D. strings were tested by being plugged into a regular extenstion cord direct to the GFI, one at a time, and all 3 did it (tripped the GFCI) individually. Once I taped their connections very tightly, I had no more issues the rest of the season. Like said, that is weird, huh?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just called the electrician who did my service upgrade and LOR sub-panel and asked him about this issue. Of course, being a "purist" plus a Master Electrician, he doesn't recommend electrical plugs being exposed to moisture of any kind. On the other hand he asked me to inquire of the members if anybody had routinely used either a silicone spray or WD40 on and in the plugs before the start of the season. He does a lot of work in power plants and told me that his guys use WD40 on some electrical panels to keep moiusture at bay. I don't know how long WD40 or silicone would last outside. Any thoughts?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That would be a far more suitable use for WD40 than as a lubricant... I suspect it even would have benefit after it appears to have dried up, in leaving a non polar, water repellent film behind.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest guest

I have a lot of WD40 and I never even thought about using it in this way. I think I'll try this out on some strings I am using in the yard right now as ambient/accent (white L.E.D.) lighting around my ponds and see how well it works. I wonder if the WD40 could be sprayed inside the L.E.D. sockets to keep their leads from rusting away as well? Hmmm, interesting, may have to do some testing here. Then again, I think WD40 may short the socket if not allowed to dry first.

So now I'm not so sure about spraying inside any fermale sockets or "vampire" plugs...???

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have used WD40 inside a distributer cap on a car that would not start. after spraying closed cap and engine started. That is 20000 to 50000 vdc.

So i don't see a problem with 120v ac lines.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No tape for me... I have seen the corrosive effects afterwards of holding condensation... not pretty :P

BTW... the "WD" in WD40 stands for "water displacer" (or something to that effect) from what I understand.
It was originally developed for the government and military use.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

terrypowerz wrote:

No tape for me... I have seen the corrosive effects afterwards of holding condensation... not pretty :P

BTW... the "WD" in WD40 stands for "water displacer" (or something to that effect) from what I understand.
It was originally developed for the government and military use.


It's a "Desiccant".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ChuckHutchings wrote:

terrypowerz wrote:
No tape for me... I have seen the corrosive effects afterwards of holding condensation... not pretty :P

BTW... the "WD" in WD40 stands for "water displacer" (or something to that effect) from what I understand.
It was originally developed for the government and military use.


It's a "Dessicant".

I'm sorry but a desiccant absorbs moisture...

I don't believe that is the action taking place with WD...

"The product began from a search for a rust preventative solvent and de-greaser to protect missile parts. WD-40 was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company.

Its name comes from the project that was to find a "water displacement" compound. They were successful with the fortieth formulation, thus WD-40.

The Corvair Company bought it in bulk to protect their Atlas missile parts. The workers were so pleased with the product, they began stealing it to use at home. The executives decided there might be a consumer market for it and put it in aerosol cans.

It is a carefully guarded recipe known only to four people. Only one of them is the "brew master."

About 2.5 million gallons are manufactured each year. It gets its distinctive smell from a fragrance that is added to the brew."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks i appreciate all the help and input. I guess no more electrical taping which now gives me more money for lights !

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've posted this in another thread but, don't remember which one. I used 1 1/2" ABS plastic drain pipe cut into 3 inch lengths to cover my plugs. Slide the pipe over the end of the extension cord, plug in your lights then slide the pipe back over the connection. This works well to keep rain out of the connection, keep the connections clean and, allow for ventilation if any rain dose get in by chance. Though this will not protect them from standing water. The ABS drain pipe is cheap and a ten foot section will make about 34 covers give or take how accurate you to stay to the 3 inch lenght.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It occurs to me that if you take that, and then have the cord run across the top, through the middle, and across the top, so you are winding one turn around the top with a little tension, this may hold the connection up towards the top of the pipe, and out of shallow water....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jeff Millard wrote:

... the biggest fear the media is planting in us is that the world is coming to an end when the cycle of the latest Mayan calendar ends on the 21st of December, 2012.

Jeff


Well, Hell! Does that mean I don't have to schedule any shows after 12-12-12?

BTW, was anybody doing LOR on Y2K? Did their controllers implode?

All kidding aside, nobody knows electrical safety like a licenced electrician.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And, you can save on Christmas presents!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

-klb- wrote:

And, you can save on Christmas presents!!!

True but I will have to get my fruit cake early.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I come a 230V 50Hz country.

My lor pc16 board is placed in a original lor box. My power connectors were put in a box or a plastic bag on the grass.

The Netherlands is very rainy. Before last christmas we had heavy rain. about 5 mm in a few hours. Then with the holydays we had about 10 centimeter snow. All the lights and my controllers worked perfect without any failures.

So keep all connetions dry then it works fine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fruit Cake...now there's something you can use to keep your plugs elevated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest guest

Jeff, I agree GFCI's definitely. I don't totally disagree with the taping, just that for some odd reason, I had 3 strings and that was the only way they'd stay dry and work! I tried securing the sockets to the plastic candy canes (non-lit type) in the down position, tried covering them with a plastic bag, which did condensate badly and made things much worse, the last resort was the use of electrical tape on these particular strings and it worked.

So I can only glean from my experience what worked in my particular situation. BTW: these strings were way above ground level as were their plugs, these were at least 3', possibly 4' off the ground. So I shouldn't of been having any problems with them.

It's why I say it was just a weird circumstance. The other 97% of my connections weren't taped at all and were exposed and never had an issue.

I'm seriously considering retiring these 3 L.E.D. light strings for "indoor" use only because of their inability to get along with the outside weather.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest guest

Brad wrote:

I've posted this in another thread but, don't remember which one. I used 1 1/2" ABS plastic drain pipe cut into 3 inch lengths to cover my plugs. Slide the pipe over the end of the extension cord, plug in your lights then slide the pipe back over the connection. This works well to keep rain out of the connection, keep the connections clean and, allow for ventilation if any rain dose get in by chance. Though this will not protect them from standing water. The ABS drain pipe is cheap and a ten foot section will make about 34 covers give or take how accurate you to stay to the 3 inch lenght.



hmmm, never thought of that before.

Thanks for the tip Brad. :cool:

I may just try and do that this year. Of course I will have to paint the pvc pipe green so it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb.:)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...