Recessed Light Tripping GFCI - Electrical - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 05-11-2010, 11:29 PM   #1
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Recessed light tripping GFCI

I have a bit of an issue with a ceiling-recessed light at the bottom of my stairs. If I put a bulb in it, even with the switch off, it trips the GFCI in the bathroom on the same circuit. The house is fairly old construction with very little if any grounding - there is no ground wire on this fixture, though I assume the same goes for the two lights at the top of the stairs which don't have a problem (these are on the same circuit, knocked out when the GFCI trips).

Any idea what my best troubleshooting options would be? I opened up the fixture today and peeked around, didn't see any obvious problems other than the lack of grounding, but I don't think I'm quite ready to rewire the entire house just to get one light working. Does the fact that just inserting a bulb trips it give any useful clues? Would it be worth picking up a new fixture just to see if it works? Thanks for any help you can provide.


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Old 05-12-2010, 06:08 AM   #2
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Sounds to me like a neutral touching metal chassis. Is it a new construction fixture or remodel?? Recheck all wiring around the fixture.


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Old 05-12-2010, 07:37 AM   #3
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Did the light ever work? Are you sure the switch is "off"?

In an "older" home the light might have taken hot from one circuit and used the neutral of a different circuit. This is improper and will trip a GFCI when the light is turned on.

If the switch is really off, and screwing in a bulb trips a GFCI, then you have bare wires rubbing together in or near the fixture.
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Old 05-12-2010, 11:57 AM   #4
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@Just Bill - I'm pretty sure it's a remodel fixture. Nothing looked like it was touching but there's one point where the neutral goes into a little box that clips onto the side of the canister. Could be something wrong inside that which is why I was leaning toward just trying a new fixture.

@AllanJ - It's a three-way switch so maybe my definition of 'off' isn't the same as it would be with just a single switch. The light at the top of the stairs is off when I put the bulb in the lower fixture. However, my voltage detector wasn't going off with the switch in the 'off' position, so I'm fairly certain there was no power to the circuit at the time.

I'd read the different hot/neutral thing elsewhere and thought that would make perfect sense with some of the less-than-optimal work I've seen in this house... I'll have to take a closer look at the fixture and any wiring I can get access to when I get another chance. Thanks for the pointers guys.
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gfci , grounding , lighting

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