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Old 02-24-2019, 09:04 PM   #1
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Light trips GFCI


I have a weird problem in my garage I can't figure out. I have five 4ft double florescent lights installed in my garage, in addition to several other porcelain bulb holders. They have been in there for several years with no problems. A couple of weeks ago the GFCI tripped when I had my block heater in the car outside plugged in via an extension cord under the door.

I thought, there must be something wrong with the block heater since I have not used it in years because it had not be -30 in years.

I reset it and then a few days later it tripped again, and I bought a new one and installed it and it tripped when I turned on one of the overhead lights. I recreated it and it takes about 2 seconds before it trips. So I unplugged that light and then the other day I turned on another and it tripped it as well. None of the 3 others trip the GFCI.

Config is a sub panel in the garage with one 240 50amp circuit and 2 20 amp 120 circuits. The 50amp does not have GFCI but the 2 others do and they are fed via line to load outlets and have been double checked and the offending one has been replaced to no avail. One is fine, but the other is not. Again, this has been working for years with no problems and I have not touched anything in several years.

I apologize if I have been too verbose but I was trying to cover any unexpected questions.

Any ideas?
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Old 02-25-2019, 04:34 AM   #2
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Take your heater cord completely out of the picture and see if it trips. Of the two that trip the GFCI, open them up and see if the wiring has been compromised.....ie. rat chewed, etc.
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Old 02-25-2019, 09:26 AM   #3
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Thanks, the heater cord was only connected for one night. All of the wiring is in steel conduit and steel boxes so no possibility of mice.
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Old 02-25-2019, 09:53 AM   #4
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Apparently you have GFI circuit breakers. Try reversing the wiring. Move the wire from one to the other to see if anything acts differently.
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Old 02-25-2019, 10:28 AM   #5
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Thanks, they are not breakers, the first outlet in the series is a GFCI outlet with the line in and load out. Only one has a problem and that is the one with the lights. Nothing has changed in the last 3 or 4 years. I double checked the wiring and it is all correct. Not a novice to this, I rewired an entire house about 20 years ago all with steel conduit and greenfield whips to code less than 6 feet.

Only two of the lights trip it. I guess I will just get new lights.
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Old 02-25-2019, 12:11 PM   #6
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Leaky ballasts. Are these lights three prong?
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Old 02-25-2019, 03:16 PM   #7
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Yes they are.
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Old 02-25-2019, 04:46 PM   #8
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Re: Light trips GFCI


The ballasts are probably done. Leakage current is getting to ground so that hot and neutral currents are no longer the same which in turn causes GFCI to trip.


If you plug them in with a cord to disconnect the ground they probably won't trip. This isn't a safe solution though as the metal casing of the fixture will get energized and be a shock hazard. But it is a way to confirm the problem.
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Old 02-25-2019, 05:32 PM   #9
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Quote:
Originally Posted by curiousB View Post
The ballasts are probably done. Leakage current is getting to ground so that hot and neutral currents are no longer the same which in turn causes GFCI to trip.


If you plug them in with a cord to disconnect the ground they probably won't trip. This isn't a safe solution though as the metal casing of the fixture will get energized and be a shock hazard. But it is a way to confirm the problem.
Thanks, you are correct, I have outlets in the ceiling and they are plugged in with a cord, but to test your theory I broke off the ground pin and they no longer trip the GFCI.

I understand the metal can be energized and I will replace the lights. Thanks, gives me peace of mind that nothing else is wrong in the garage wiring. Mystery solved, likely that the engine block heater was a red herring and I probably left the light on that night and it was a coincidence that it went bad at the same time.
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Old 02-25-2019, 08:05 PM   #10
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Re: Light trips GFCI


Replace them with LED shop lights; much brighter, last longer, less electricity; can get them for 15..$20 at Costco.
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