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LOR Show blowing GFCI


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The light show keeps tripping the GFCI. I have unplugged each cord and plugged it directly into the gfci and they light up and don't trip the circuit right away. I plug the LOR in and try to run the show and it trips within 10 seconds. I've unplugges one channel at a time and tried running my show each time to try and pinpoint the trouble maker, but it trips the gfci each time. I've taken the precautions to wrap adapter junctions with plastic to keep dry. All light strands that have an open string-to-string plug have had those ends covered with electrical tape. This is very frustrating for a newbie!

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Try replacing the GFCI. They fail too. Just run a heavy extension cord to a known good GFCI outlet and power your controller that way to see if it still blows. If it does, you have something leaking current to ground in your display. It could be more than 1 thing. If you plug 1 wire in it might not be enough to trip, but when you plug the second fault in it totals up and trips.

That being said, I'd place a bet on the faulty GFCI. Lived here ten years, had ten GFCI's fail... 3 on extension cords, 4 outside, 1 inline to an Air Conditioner, and 2 indoor outlets. They're cheaply made in a foreign country...

jeff

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jeffmill wrote:

Just run a heavy extension cord to a known good GFCI outlet and power your controller that way to see if it still blows. If it does, you have something leaking current to ground in your display. It could be more than 1 thing. If you plug 1 wire in it might not be enough to trip, but when you plug the second fault in it totals up and trips.

And this is where the LOR Hardware Utility comes in handy. You can select a subset of channels on a controller to test out at one time. (And all of my GFCI faults were always more than one circuit put together.) Steady-on may work, but I had good luck with using shimmer to make a GFCI fault happen. By including or excluding individual circuits, you can use the hardware utility to help you isolate the fault.

Perhaps in LOR 7.0 Platinum Beta, they'll include a fancy-dancy GFCI fault analysis tool.
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I've got the problem narrowed down. I'm relieved to say it's not the gfci or even a blown fuse. I ended up unplugging ALL of my mini trees and ran the show without tripping the circuit. So, I think I'm going to take the light strand off the bottom row of each tree and move it up a notch. I'm also going to move their location. With my trees being the heart of my show, I need to get them up and running again! Oh, and... Even though I don't have what I think is a significant amount of lights. I took the time to do the math on how many amps I was running on each channel and double checked what I was pushing through the LOR. I was surprised to see the numbers add up, but was glad to know that I hadn't overloaded it.

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I had that occur last weekend when it rained. Several channels tripped the GFI. There was water in the connector. I just shutdown till it dried out.

Also, I suspect the polarity of some of the ungrounded plugs (non-polarized) on the strings of lights were reversed on the same display, causing a fault condition on that channel.

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sadayo wrote:

The light show keeps tripping the GFCI. I have unplugged each cord and plugged it directly into the gfci and they light up and don't trip the circuit right away. I plug the LOR in and try to run the show and it trips within 10 seconds. I've unplugges one channel at a time and tried running my show each time to try and pinpoint the trouble maker, but it trips the gfci each time. I've taken the precautions to wrap adapter junctions with plastic to keep dry. All light strands that have an open string-to-string plug have had those ends covered with electrical tape. This is very frustrating for a newbie!


Electrical tape can backfire and water penetrates and then tape allows it to fill up like a bucket in the connection. Its better to use drip loops and raise connections above ground so that water getting on the connection runs away from the connection via gravity instead of towards connections. You can lift runs on the ground up by placing on a brick or stake, you can use a plastic bag and shroud or "hood" the connections but leave the plastic open below. Use of 3-ways and indoor cords and indoor items outdoors are SURE to pop GFCI's. This is why they lable them as indoor products because they have vulnerabilities to water and electrical shocks. Ourdoor products and cords are less likely to harbor or fill up with water.

A broken bulb anywhere on the display is likely to cause a GFCI trip, in fact its more like a sure thing. Inspect and look for broken our blackened bulbs and replace them. A spraying of WD 40 sometimes helps problem items as WD40 is not conductive directly and will cause water to "bead away" from the sprayed area, kind of like rain-x on a windshield.
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That's right I had a broken "TuneTo" flood light, also. It was an indoor flood, not reinforced, and cracked at the base when cold water collected.

Good ideas about the "drip loops!" I hang my plug/receptacles 3 - 4 inches off the ground as normal routine on each display, such that any water which collects will run down the wire, away from the plug/receptacle, and drip on the ground. Never thought to mention anything about "drip loops." It is done in industry all the time.

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Rrrr. Well, my light show seems to be an ongoing battle. The mini trees are driving me out of my mind. I have mini lights in other areas of my show that are running with no problem, so I'm lost at why the mini lights on tomato cages are tripping the circuit! Does it make a difference what kind of ground they are setting on? I have them on the grass. Would setting them on pavement or on bark make a difference?

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sadayo wrote:

Rrrr. Well, my light show seems to be an ongoing battle. The mini trees are driving me out of my mind. I have mini lights in other areas of my show that are running with no problem, so I'm lost at why the mini lights on tomato cages are tripping the circuit! Does it make a difference what kind of ground they are setting on? I have them on the grass. Would setting them on pavement or on bark make a difference?

Sounds like a broken bulb somewhere on the tomato cage frames. Wireframe reindeer are bad for lots of people too.
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One method of troubleshooting, would be to go the the hardware utility, chase sequence - super slow, and select circuits to test.

Then step through the chase sequence real slow until you hit on the light device which is tripping your GFCI.

You can even pull the light device out of the circuit with the select circuits to test.

There may be more than one fault.

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sadayo wrote:

Rrrr. Well, my light show seems to be an ongoing battle. The mini trees are driving me out of my mind. I have mini lights in other areas of my show that are running with no problem, so I'm lost at why the mini lights on tomato cages are tripping the circuit! Does it make a difference what kind of ground they are setting on? I have them on the grass. Would setting them on pavement or on bark make a difference?


It rained here last night. My 12 tomato cage minitrees are also tripping a GFI circuit when they all come on at once. I'm sure some voltage is leaking across the metal cage with 200 lights getting wet. They are sitting in a landscape on rocks!

If there was some way to insulate the metal cages from the ground the problem would probably be solved. I suppose taking some sort of black automotive rubber hosing, cutting it lengthwise & putting it around the bottom of the cages could help. Or if you don't care about looks and have an old garden hose laying around that could be used too.

Note that this is just an idea off the top of my head... I haven't tried it but it sure seems like it would help insulate those metal tomato cages from the ground! Anyone else have some ideas?
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One more idea: Maybe a strip of black landscaping plastic (either some of the thicker 7mil stuff or the thinner stuff doubled-up) could be staked down. Then put the mini-trees ontop of that. Maybe that would be enough insulation. I guess for that matter even a garbage bag could be put under them?

For asthetics I still like the little rubber hose idea best I think. Tossing down a strip of plastic might be easier/faster for this year though...

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DanV wrote:

sadayo wrote:
Rrrr. Well, my light show seems to be an ongoing battle. The mini trees are driving me out of my mind. I have mini lights in other areas of my show that are running with no problem, so I'm lost at why the mini lights on tomato cages are tripping the circuit! Does it make a difference what kind of ground they are setting on? I have them on the grass. Would setting them on pavement or on bark make a difference?


It rained here last night. My 12 tomato cage minitrees are also tripping a GFI circuit when they all come on at once. I'm sure some voltage is leaking across the metal cage with 200 lights getting wet. They are sitting in a landscape on rocks!

If there was some way to insulate the metal cages from the ground the problem would probably be solved. I suppose taking some sort of black automotive rubber hosing, cutting it lengthwise & putting it around the bottom of the cages could help. Or if you don't care about looks and have an old garden hose laying around that could be used too.

Note that this is just an idea off the top of my head... I haven't tried it but it sure seems like it would help insulate those metal tomato cages from the ground! Anyone else have some ideas?

Paint the tomato cages with a rubber based paint.
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I like that idea too. Paint the entire tomoato cage before putting the lights on to help insulate everything. I'm thinking about making smaller minis next year and this sound like the way to go when building from scratch on a metal structure. Thanks for the idea Joseph!

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If your going to try and insulate your cages with paint you may want to try using a material call Scotchkote by 3M (Part #14853). This is used in the electreical industry and motor shops to insulate wire,electrical splices, and electrical motor windings. You paint it on with a brush that comes in the can. It may not be cheap but is usually carried at your electrical supply stores. It could get messy.

Let me know what your solution is for I too tripped my GFCI that had my wire cage mini's on.

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Update: I was able to put landscaping plastic under my trees to solve the problem for this year.

One lite shy: thanks for the info on the 3m stuff. I'll have to look into that for next year!

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DanV wrote:

Update: I was able to put landscaping plastic under my trees to solve the problem for this year.

One lite shy: thanks for the info on the 3m stuff. I'll have to look into that for next year!


Someone should invent a GFCI sensitivity meter. Something you can plug a circuit into and get a readout that would tell you how likely it is to trip a GFCI circuit.
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jmccorm wrote:

DanV wrote:
Update: I was able to put landscaping plastic under my trees to solve the problem for this year.

One lite shy: thanks for the info on the 3m stuff. I'll have to look into that for next year!


Someone should invent a GFCI sensitivity meter. Something you can plug a circuit into and get a readout that would tell you how likely it is to trip a GFCI circuit.

How can it tell the difference between 2 amps shocking the apple tree or 2 amps shocking a person?
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I had similar GFCI problem in the rain also. I believe that that the addition of water put the sensitivity over the edge. If I ran single channels the GFCI seemed to hold, but when the boards are full on, it would trip.

I did some power leveling and all is well.

One other problem, I blew the fuses on one of my boards multiple times due to the plastic flood light holders. There was no way for water to get out and the holders just shorted and oxidized the whole socket. I was able to clean a couple of them out with brillo and clean water, but two were way to messed up to re-use. I spent this evening wiring a metal double flood holder to hold some spot. Tomorrw will be the test.

BTW - ASIDE.... What genious invented ceramic fuses? You can't tell if they are blown unless you put a meter across them!!!!!

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Joseph Ayo wrote:

jmccorm wrote:
Someone should invent a GFCI sensitivity meter. Something you can plug a circuit into and get a readout that would tell you how likely it is to trip a GFCI circuit.

How can it tell the difference between 2 amps shocking the apple tree or 2 amps shocking a person?


I should probably clarify that.

The GFCI sensitivity meter is.... a meter. That is human readable, to be manually plugged into a circuit. It would give you a reading of some sort which would show you the imbalance in a circuit. So, I could plug it into my sets of lights, one by one, and see which one(s) are the ones causing GFCI issues. Assuming, of course, it would be possible to make such a meter that would be more sensitive than the GFCI protection in a circuit.

Perhaps anothert side of the meter could slowly create an imbalance to determine the point at which a GFCI circuit would trip.
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Joseph Ayo wrote:

jmccorm wrote:
DanV wrote:
Update: I was able to put landscaping plastic under my trees to solve the problem for this year.

One lite shy: thanks for the info on the 3m stuff. I'll have to look into that for next year!


Someone should invent a GFCI sensitivity meter. Something you can plug a circuit into and get a readout that would tell you how likely it is to trip a GFCI circuit.

How can it tell the difference between 2 amps shocking the apple tree or 2 amps shocking a person?


Here is a little bit about GFCI's and how they work. In your electrical wiring, you have a hot lead (black) and a neutral (white) that carry the electrical current. There is also a green wire which is connected to earth in the electrical panel and is used to "ground" metallic parts of a plugged in device. The neutral is also connected to earth ground at the electrical service panel.

In a normal plugged in device, all electric current should flow out the hot line and all should return through the neutral line. The GFCI measures the electrical fields around both wires and because they have equal current flows in opposite directions the fields cancel out each other. If for some reason the current returns to "earth" not through the white neutral lead, the imbalance is detected and the GFCI trips. It was determined that a current under 10 milliamps (10/1000 of an amp) is enough to stop your heart. So GFCI's must trip if they see an imbalance of 6 milliamps. The trip window is normally 4 to 6 milliamps.

What is happening is that somewhere in the lights there is a leakage path (maybe more than one) that is sending current directly to earth, bypassing the neutral return wire. Once it gets above that magical trip point, the GFCI cuts the power off. It's there for a pretty good reason - to save your life should you accidentally come in contact with a hot electrical lead. It only takes a small fraction of an amp to stop your heart.

So look for any connections that may be in direct contact with earth, or are touching things like gutters that may be metal and provide a path to ground. Remember water contaminated with road salt makes a great electrical conductor. Sometimes just reversing the plugs of your lights (if they are non-polarized) will do the trick.

Hope this helps.

Mike
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Wow! I understand what GFIs do do(hence the reason I put plastic under my mini-trees) but I don't think I could have described it to others as well as you did. Well said Mike!

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MichaelC wrote:

BTW - ASIDE.... What genious invented ceramic fuses? You can't tell if they are blown unless you put a meter across them!!!!!


On the spots, you are supposed to never turn them facing up. You face them down or sideways, wetter to accommodate them this way or figure out a way to do this.

On the ceramic fuses, 9 out of 10 times they turn brown when bad on me, but maybe because this a warmer climate. I notice on coldest nights they are very hard to tell.
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  • 3 weeks later...

Joseph Ayo wrote:

Electrical tape can backfire and water penetrates and then tape allows it to fill up like a bucket in the connection.

Joe,

This is so true. I taped nothing this year and only had 2 trips due to someone walking into my display and taking something. My neighbor taped everything and couldn't keep his lights on. He came across the street and asked what I thought his problem was. I took a razor knife and cut all the tape off and water poured out of the connections.

jeff
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