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Old 06-26-2013, 02:03 PM   #1
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GFI's randomly tripping


Hey all,

Sorry for the long initial post, but I'm trying to be as descriptive as possible.

We recently bought a new house in November and am experiencing some electrical anomalies that I could really use some advice on. I am not an electrician but have experience with electronics and circuits for controller boards and such.

It seems that every day, a few of our GFI plugs trip at random intervals. These could be in the kitchen, garage, master bath, laundry, wherever. Every day it's a walk through to see which ones have tripped. I have just started really auditing this, but believe that the ones that do trip do have loads on them. Just this morning my garage door opener tripped at some point last night, nothing else on that circuit I believe and it obviously wasn't used during the night.

Here's the kicker: I do a lot of work with casting and molding materials in my garage so I installed a 2 ton residential AC unit there with the help from my brother (a licensed HVAC tech) to obtain climate control for the materials I work with. We installed a 30A breaker in the main panel below where the existing compressor 30 is (two hot's and a ground back to the compressor) AND we installed a separate 20A circuit in the sub panel for the blower unit to plug into. Since I've done this work, I'm hesitant to call the builder yet since they could consider the work I've done a void to our home warranty.

I have installed a bit of shelving in the garage and don't believe I've screwed into any wiring (not sure if that would even cause this problem).

It's perplexing me since it's not just one, but MOST of the circuits in the house that have GFI's on them that are tripping at random. Since the hot weather is upon us now, the garage AC is running more than normal, and it does seem to correlate with an increased activity on the failures (or at least I'm noticing it more now). The red light on the GFI's never lights up on fault, the receptacles just trip and need reset.

Any help or advice would really be appreciated. Thanks.

-Eric

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Old 06-26-2013, 04:27 PM   #2
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GFI's randomly tripping


Odd maybe a batch of the cheapest grade Gfcis were used and noise on supply side is falsely tripping them.

Maybe go buy a name brand gfci and swap out the worst offending unit and see if that changes anything.

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Old 06-27-2013, 01:11 PM   #3
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GFI's randomly tripping


So i was under the impression that the load side normally trips these GFI's. Is there a condition where something on the source would cause a GFI to trip and not fault?
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Old 06-27-2013, 01:54 PM   #4
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GFI's randomly tripping


Quote:
Originally Posted by sindel
So i was under the impression that the load side normally trips these GFI's. Is there a condition where something on the source would cause a GFI to trip and not fault?
Lightening strikes, electrical surges internal and external, cheap product, people pressing the buttons because they are there, the list goes on.

If it was not doing it before all of these upgrades you did, I would point my finger to shoddy electrical work.

I of course love when people open that they know electronic circuits and design in a post. Then again just about all of use that deal with electrical circuits on a daily basis or hvac understand how this works, so it was irrelevant to post OP.

Really, if the problem did not occur before all of these extra citcuits were done, my guess is someone squirrelled things up, not knowing what they were doing, when they did this work.
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Old 06-27-2013, 02:12 PM   #5
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GFI's randomly tripping


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So i was under the impression that the load side normally trips these GFI's. Is there a condition where something on the source would cause a GFI to trip and not fault?
Neutral ground connections downstream also.
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Old 06-27-2013, 03:06 PM   #6
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Lightening strikes, electrical surges internal and external, cheap product, people pressing the buttons because they are there, the list goes on.
Useful information, thanks for that.

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If it was not doing it before all of these upgrades you did, I would point my finger to shoddy electrical work.
We did the work as soon as I moved in so I have no record of any previous failures.

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I of course love when people open that they know electronic circuits and design in a post. Then again just about all of use that deal with electrical circuits on a daily basis or hvac understand how this works, so it was irrelevant to post OP.
The point of listing my experience was to give small background on myself, so that potential responders would have an idea that I might know some terminology and concepts. My past experience is primarily with DC circuits, I never mentioned design. Not sure if you realized it, but this part of your post pretty much came off as patronizing and made me feel like I was wasting the boards time with my 'irrelevant' details. Sorry if I broke some sort of protocol, but I'm new here and was simply looking for guidance since I don't deal with electrical or HVAC on a daily basis. I imagined that since this is a DIY board, not everyone here has all the necessary experience, otherwise they wouldn't be here asking questions.
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Old 06-27-2013, 03:12 PM   #7
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GFI's randomly tripping


If they started tripping after you moved in, and did the electrical work, that would be the first place I would look at as the culprit.

Stuff does not happen, without a cause. As for your background, You could have stated you are a Neuro-Surgeon, which means it is irrelevant to the matter at hand.

It is like stating you made yourself a bowl of Ice Cream last night, now the fridge no longer works. You see what I am saying.
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Old 06-27-2013, 03:39 PM   #8
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Neutral ground connections downstream also.
So I could disconnect one of the offending circuits at the sub panel and buzz out the neutral to ground to test. But that would only reveal a static connection which wouldn't cause an intermittent trip. These things go off with as little as 6mA of current from what I know. Could be hard to find that kind of intermittent leak.

Thats the problem I'm having, is the intermittent nature of it. That leads me to believe it's not a persistent short somewhere, but something that's firing off. Maybe I'll find an AC analog clock somewhere and plug it into one of the affected circuits. If it trips at a specific time every night, that would be an easy way to determine if it's happening when, lets say the sprinklers controller goes off, or the coffee machine turns on, etc.
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Old 06-27-2013, 03:57 PM   #9
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so it was irrelevant to post OP.
I would think it would be very easy to ignore this irrelevant information.
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:04 PM   #10
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If they started tripping after you moved in, and did the electrical work, that would be the first place I would look at as the culprit.
Good start, what would you suggest I check?

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Stuff does not happen, without a cause. As for your background, You could have stated you are a Neuro-Surgeon, which means it is irrelevant to the matter at hand.
I would hope that I know a little bit more about electrical theory and operation than a neuro-surgeon. I would argue that my experience is not completely irrelevant. Plus, it's not what you said, it's how you said it. Think about it this way: If I went into my neuro surgeons office and said I'm getting headaches and told him that I read online that it could be caused by bright light and wanted his opinion. I'm sure he's thinking "Great, another internet doctor", but to outright tell me "I just love it when people come into my office with their internet diagnosis after I've spent years in medical school". See how that sounds? My comment was only to show that I wasn't a completely newbie with electrical, and certainly not to impress upon anyone or confuse the issue. I'm probably being too sensitive here, and based on your history here and post count, you are more comfortable and have your own etiquette. Please disregard my previous comment as my only goal is to resolve this annoying issue.

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It is like stating you made yourself a bowl of Ice Cream last night, now the fridge no longer works. You see what I am saying.
I don't like ice cream, wouldn't happen.
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:24 PM   #11
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Good start, what would you suggest I check?
Begin... at the beginning.

One box at a time and in their wiring sequence (to the largest extent possible), open and check the connections at the device, the wirenutted tie in's behind the device and all else that is visible.
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:48 PM   #12
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GFI's randomly tripping


I've seen loose service and MWBC neutrals cause GFI's to trip from the surge.

Notice any lights dimming/brighten?

I'm guessing by your post, this is a brand new home?
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:53 PM   #13
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GFI's randomly tripping


sounds like an advantage to GFCI Breakers instead of Receptacles. At least you wouldn't need to run all over the place looking for the offender.
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Old 06-28-2013, 12:20 PM   #14
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GFI's randomly tripping


Sin.... Just extraneous information to the issue (don't want to offend anyone with extraneous information) but to me and solely in my personal opinion, you sound like a well reasoned and welcome valuable participant to this forum.


To the issue: This will sound stupid and simplistic, but CuriousB suggestted swapping out a GFI. ... or at least pull a GFI and see what the builder installed. Maybe, he went to Harbor Freight. Stranger things happen... GFI are an electronic device... possible bad (worse than normal) Chinese off maker junk bad run. Plus takes little time and little cost.

I can't think of an occurenec/ senario where you ran separate independent circuits (home runs I presume) that would account for the erratic (multiple branch circuits, inconsistant tripping, sometimes-maybe sometimes- not tripping under load). They should be / are all upstream of your GFI's (so to speak).

This is interesting issue/ puzzle

Best

EDIT: Afterthought, I presume that you have seen no other electrical anomalies, especially related to issues that WIRENUT discussed in above post.
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Last edited by MTN REMODEL LLC; 06-28-2013 at 12:22 PM.
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Old 06-28-2013, 03:33 PM   #15
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GFI's randomly tripping


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So I could disconnect one of the offending circuits at the sub panel and buzz out the neutral to ground to test. But that would only reveal a static connection which wouldn't cause an intermittent trip. These things go off with as little as 6mA of current from what I know. Could be hard to find that kind of intermittent leak.

Thats the problem I'm having, is the intermittent nature of it. That leads me to believe it's not a persistent short somewhere, but something that's firing off. Maybe I'll find an AC analog clock somewhere and plug it into one of the affected circuits. If it trips at a specific time every night, that would be an easy way to determine if it's happening when, lets say the sprinklers controller goes off, or the coffee machine turns on, etc.


if you take apart the neutral in the panel and get a reading anything but 0 ohms you got an issue ...

the GFI reading the basically the balance of what is coming in on the HOT versus whats coming back on the neutral .....

ie ... say the installer sliced a neutral with his razor knife and now that neutral was touching the metal ground somewhere ....it would not trip the breaker period ... BUT when power is used the netral and ground are now carring power that would trip the GFI

or they have hooked up the gfi's line to load 2nd GFI on load of the first ..

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