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Old 05-03-2010, 06:43 PM   #1
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Multiple Motion Sensor Lights Tripping GFCI


I am new to this forum and would love some help with this problem that I am having. I am trying to replace 4 flood lights on my dock with motion sensor lights, but now that they are installed, the gfci trips if there is more than one bulb on the circuit. It doesn't matter which fixture or which one of the light sockets I use, as long as there is only one bulb installed and drawing power. I am using the existing wiring, which is twelve gauge three-wire with a ground. The 20 amp gfci-breaker is located onshore in a breaker box. This feeds four outlets on the dock and two switches, one switch for the four lights that I am trying to replace and one switch for a single standard flood over my boat. This circuit operated correctly with all standard floods, so I am certain that it is something to do with the motion sensor lights. The motion sensor lights that I am using are Lumark LMS185's. I would really appreciate someone's help!

Thanks in advance,

Wan Miguel

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Old 05-03-2010, 09:32 PM   #2
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Multiple Motion Sensor Lights Tripping GFCI


Try a 10w incand. bulb, for a test.

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Old 05-03-2010, 09:52 PM   #3
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Multiple Motion Sensor Lights Tripping GFCI


Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
Try a 10w incand. bulb, for a test.
IMHO, it's the motion sensor that is causing a leakage current situation. For practical purposes it would be worth to try another device. Or the frame of this motion-sensor to be tested for conductivity to the wires.!
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Old 05-03-2010, 09:56 PM   #4
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Multiple Motion Sensor Lights Tripping GFCI


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Originally Posted by spark plug View Post
IMHO, it's the motion sensor that is causing a leakage current situation. For practical purposes it would be worth to try another device. Or the frame of this motion-sensor to be tested for conductivity to the wires.!
The OP could check how many milliamps are flowing in the ground lead. There's a trick to this so the meter doesn't get blown.

And I think Fluke makes a meter to check differential current, just like the GFCI does, in case the extra current is actually going into the earth.

I guess he can hook up just the motion sensor directly to a GFCI, to rule out all other causes.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 05-03-2010 at 10:01 PM.
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Old 05-04-2010, 10:59 AM   #5
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Multiple Motion Sensor Lights Tripping GFCI


Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
The OP could check how many milliamps are flowing in the ground lead. There's a trick to this so the meter doesn't get blown.

And I think Fluke makes a meter to check differential current, just like the GFCI does, in case the extra current is actually going into the earth.

I guess he can hook up just the motion sensor directly to a GFCI, to rule out all other causes.
Yes. there's no magic formula. Sometimes it boils down to pounding the pavement. Trying different methods and the process of elimination. sometimes it's a simple thing being overlooked. Maybe when the Blog operator will start a contest about Electrical near-disasters and horror stories I'll get a chance to contribute something.!
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Old 05-05-2010, 08:14 AM   #6
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Multiple Motion Sensor Lights Tripping GFCI


Are these lights fed from the same circuit as the GFCI? If they are on another circuit but using the GFCI neutral or are on the GFCI circuit but using a neutral from another circuit the GFCI will see this as a fault and trip.

I have connected many different types of lighting as well as motor loads and even heating elements to GFCI protected circuits without a problem so I dont' see why any specific type of lamp would cause the GFCI to trip.

I don't know your level of experience so if you are not comfortable with the following you should find a qualified electrician to troubleshoot the problem.

A GFCI's basic function is to measure the current flowing through and returning. If the current is higher or lower coming back it senses a fault and trips. So if you bypass the GFCI (take the GFCI device out of the circuit) and then turn everything on and measure the load on the hot and the neutral they should be the same. If you have for example 5 amps on the hot you should have 5 amps on the neutral (for single phase loads) if you have 5 amps on the hot and a different amount on the neutral you have a problem. If you have more amps on the neutral you probably have something from another circuit using that neutral and if you have less amps on the neutral you probably have a fault to ground somewhere.

To Bypass: If the GFCI is a breaker replace it temporarily with a non GFCI breaker for this test but be sure to identify the neutral so you can reconnect it when you replace the GFCI breaker. If the GFCI is a receptacle remove it and splice the wiring straight through but make sure you identify line and load so you can reconnect it properly later.

A regular non GFCI circuit breaker will not trip because of a fault to ground unless it is a short circuit so the circuit will not shut off while you are testing.
DO NOT LEAVE THE CIRCUIT UNPROTECTED! REPLACE THE GFCI AFTER TESTING.

I hope this helps!
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Old 05-05-2010, 11:01 AM   #7
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Multiple Motion Sensor Lights Tripping GFCI


sparks1up (Poster #6) I will just address something you mentioned in the Second Paragraph. (Addressed to the OP). If you're using a different Neutral (than the Hot wire off the Load side of the GFCI receptacle?) the lights will automatically trip. But then they would trip the GFI device even with the slmallest load. But, assuming the OP is not highly proficient with the workings of GFI and wiring in general. The most practical way to find out if the Motion sensing device is the cause of the tripping lights, is to (temporarily) replace the Motion sensor.!

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