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boatman537 06-05-2012 09:42 AM

Dimming lights on one circuit, GFCI breaker tripped

I live in a 1950's house. I have one curcuit that is dimming periodically, multiple times per hour, for fractions of a second to a couple seconds. Just the lights dim... no appliances loose power. The circuit in question is a GFCI 15 amp circuit breaker (possibly an arc fault circuit breaker, it has a yellow test button, assume it's GFCI). Last night when no appliances were running, except a dehumidifier, the circuit breaker popped. I reset and it did not pop again (has been several hours) - lights still dimming though.

The circuit is a big complex, to the best of my knowledge it runs up from the electric box to my dinning room (just to dinning room light, the dinning room light that dims periodically). It should be noted that this light has dimmed periodically for several years now. It is also on a dimming switch (perhaps that is bad?). Then the circuit runs down the hall and picks up a single hall light and office/bedroom (one light and couple outlets). I have not noticed this light dimming in this room. Someone remodeled the basement before my time and jumped a wire off the outlets and dropped a couple outlets in the basement which are on this circuit. I run a dehumidifier on one of these outlets in basement. Then the circuit runs to a junction box/single light in the attic and splits to cover a light in the main bathroom, as well as a heat lamp, and the light in the master bath (single light and single outlet). This was the set up for last couple years and I only noticed the dinning room light dimming. Then recently i remodeled the bathroom. I removed an old heat lamp in the bathroom and replaced it with a ceiling fan and LED light (figured it's ok as the net draw is probably less). I also ran a new line for the outlets in the bathroom as not to overload it (lots on this circuit). However, now that I am done remodeling, i am noticing that my new bathroom LED light and fan (which replaced the old heat lamp), as well as the master bathroom light which is "down circuit" from this, dims periodically. So now in addition to the dinning room light which has always dimmed, the new bathroom light and fan dim (i can hear fan change speeds), and the master bath light (I think the last light on the circuit dims). Then last night when nothing was running save a dehumidifier, the GCFI circuit popped. I reset and it's been fine for several hours / did not immediately re-trip.

So to recap, circuit used to go from dinning room, 3rd bedroom/basement, to both bathrooms. Just dinning room (on dimmer switch) used to dim. Then I switched out a heat lamp for an LED light and bathroom fan. Now in addition to the dinning room, the new LED light and fan, as well as other bathroom, have dimming problems.

My uneducated guess is that i have an open connection somewhere, likely a neutral/common but potentially the hot wire. And that the location of this is probably in the recent work i just did. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that perhaps i screwed something up, can't be a coincidence that right after the remodel the problems start. I am going to re-inspect to make sure these connections are tight in the work i just did.

If that fixes the problem, i will only be left with a dimming dinning room light, which has dimmed for years. Perhaps the dimming switch is worn out and needs to be replaced?

If that doesn't fix the problem, what should I do? Is the dimming due to overloaded curcuit or open connection? Thougths? I could wire in a new line for the basement dehumidifier. That would relieve some load. Or I could also start checking all outlets along the circuit (should i start at beginning or end of curcuit?). Should i first check connections in the electric box (not all lights on the circuit dim so I'm guessing it's somewhere in the electric boxes/switches). How does the GFCI outlet tripping play into this.

Thanks in advance

k_buz 06-05-2012 09:52 AM

I'm sorry, I didn't read your entire post, but the first question I have is the dehumidifier on the circuit that is dimming?

boatman537 06-05-2012 09:59 AM

Yes, the dehumidifier is on that circuit. That said, the dimming occurs much more frequently than just when the dehumidifier kicks on and off.

danpik 06-05-2012 10:42 AM

You may have to determine if the GFCI breaker is tripping on Over Current or if it is tripping due to a Ground Fault. Two entirely different animals.

k_buz 06-05-2012 10:43 AM

Unplug the dehumdifier for a while and see if this stops the dimming...I'd be willing to bet that it does.

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