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Old 09-06-2009, 09:48 PM   #1
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Motion Light tripping GFCI?


Hi, was hoping someone would know what is going on here...

I wanted to replace my outside light with a new motion light.

My current setup is as follows. The light is on a switch which is coming from a GFCI located next to my breaker box. The line from the breaker goes to the GFCI which then has a run to the sump pump and basement lights, a run to an outlet in my living room and one outside on my deck and a run to the smoke alarm in my hallway...besides the switch for the outside light. The old light was a halogen flood, the new motion light is a dual flood but I am using 2 23w CF's.

I decided to add the light because I needed to take the switch out of the box to pull for my living room recessed lights (totally different project which looks awesome by the way). So to add the dimmer in that location I put in a bigger box and wired the switch back up, this was when i still had the old light in place and everything worked fine.

I removed the old light today and added the motion light, restored power and turning on the switch instantly trips the gfci. I double checked all the connections and the same thing happens. Thinking that perhaps there was a knick in the old wire or the old cramped small box was an issue I removed everything. I got a larger outside box and ran a new 3ft section of 12/2 from the light to the switch. Connections at the switch are blacks to the switch, whites spliced and grounds spliced with a pigtail to the ground on the switch, even tried switching the blacks from top to bottom can vice versa. Connections are the motion light are white to white, black to black and grounds spliced and pigtailed to the metal box.

All connections have now been tripple checked and are good. I removed the bulbs from the motion light and it still trips the gfci when I turn the switch on.

So, what am I missing, this is driving me crazy. The only things that were touched were the wall switch and the outside light, so i am inclined to think that the gfci is wired correctly (I had my central AC replaced 2 months prior and they tested the gfci on the outside outlets which are on this circuit and it was fine) also, the gfci is obviously working.

Well, thanks for the help, going to go recheck the wiring again while waiting for any ideas.

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Old 09-07-2009, 06:11 AM   #2
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Motion Light tripping GFCI?


Try removing the light, capping off the wires, and seeing if the circuit still trips.

Double check the switch - make sure the ground isn't close to the side or back of the switch.

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Old 09-07-2009, 06:36 PM   #3
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Motion Light tripping GFCI?


Thanks John, feel like a tool for not doing that to begin with

So, long story short, the switch was fine thanks to your suggestion. Took the light off to check the connections which were perfect so figured I had a bum light. After taking the whole thing off I dug more deeply into the wiring mess (Thanks Cooper for a good metal housing but a piss poor wire job and ignorant installation method) well, turns out that an epileptic 3 month old chimp was working at the factory that day and wired this light. Needless to say the amount of fraying on the elegant 300 gauge wire or whatever cheap crap they used was immense and tucked down into the wirenut and lamp stem. A quick visit to the other local borg got me a nice cheap-o plastic job which feels like it is build like a tank, mounts with more than 1 screw to the box, doesn't need a ground so no messy pigtail to my metal box and worked like a charm 5 minutes after I got home. Haven't even bothered looking at the make or model, just cracked open the box and pulled out the wiring and went with the first that didn't have 32ft of crap wirenutted together. Heck, they were even a 2 pack for less than $20...so lesson learned, don't think because something is new that it was put together in even a remotely safe or intelligent manner.

Thanks again for the heads up on eliminating the switch from the equation John.
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Old 09-07-2009, 06:52 PM   #4
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Motion Light tripping GFCI?


This sounds so much like a problem I ran across recently. The GFCI was placed in the circuit near the panel as protection for everything it fed on the outside of the house. In my case it was the timing system for the lawn sprinklers that was tripping the GFCI and causing all sorts of problems. I removed the GFCI, straight wired thru that box and capped the box. I then replaced the 20amp breaker in the panel with a GFCI breaker, which does not trip at the least little ground fault as appereared to be built into the lawn sprinkler controller. I hope this helps, Good Luck, David
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Old 09-07-2009, 06:58 PM   #5
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Motion Light tripping GFCI?


( Poster #1&3) Does it (your original Dual light/mo sense) have UL certification ?! The reason it kept on tripping the GFCI was because the NEUTRAL was shorted to GROUND. Thus using a different "NEUTRAL". Anytime the light or appliance (on the LOAD side) is using a different RETURN path, than the LINE side, the GFCI device will trip!!!(No matter what)Don't Drink and Drive, Ever!!!
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Old 09-07-2009, 07:52 PM   #6
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Motion Light tripping GFCI?


Hi Spark. Yeah, it has UL, quickly looking over Lowes website I don't even see it listed anymore...had it for a while...so maybe they stopped selling it because it was junk. Being that it had a metal body, it had it's own ground wire clamped to the inside of the base. Neutrals were all spliced, so the ground wasn't involved in their little party.

I think I came to the conclusion that the knicks in the wires along with the crappy splice (wire nuts way to small) and it all shoved into the light necks (also metal) was the reason it was shorting. Looking very close before I threw the junk away the knicks and beatings on all the wires showed a braid or two through the insulation. I would be pissed if I remember paying more than $10 for it.

Either way, new cheapo from the Depot works like a charm. Most wires are tucked or sealed out of the way. Plastic but no need for it to pigtail on the ground and yet sturdy. 2 wirenuts, a few screws and the gasket and everything is kosher now. I'm sure the Cooper light I had would have been good if I took it all apart and replaced all the wire, but I only need 1 light and I don't have time to fart around rebuilding one.

Thanks for all the replies guys. I thought at first it was some weird noise or leakage crap from the motion sensor that was causing the ground to trip.

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