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Discussion Starter · #21 · (Edited)
The outlet before the switch I have incoming wires connected to bottom 2 screws and outgoing to top 2 screws. In the outlet before that I may have them going top to bottom. Did I inadvertently reverse the hot wire and neutral wire doing this? Black wires were always on the right side.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
I'm replying to myself here. I appreciate everyone's help. I'm starting to feel chest pains thinking I'm going to have to rip out painted/textured drywall to get to wiring that may be wrong. :wallbash:

I tried a single pole switch. Guess what, GFI still trips. :censored:
 

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think your going to have to start tearing apart the circuit one by one. Without seeing what has been done i doubt ur going to be able to get much help. Pick any point in the system to do a disconnect and test the components up to that point. If it works or not will at least show you which direction the problem is in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
I already showed that the last working point is the outlet before the switch. After I hook up the switch after that outlet, the GFI trips.
 

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Is it the GFCI tripping or the breaker? If it is the GFCI, look for a connection between the neutral and the ground.
I missed the GFCI tripping. I have been thinking the breaker was tripping.

How are the connection made at the GFCI receptacle?
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
GFI outlet is tripping, here's the connection again: GFI outlet which I then branched off the load to outlet >single-pole switch >3 mini recessed lights above fireplace. The other branch continues to outlet> outlet> 3-way switch.

I do not see any obvious connection between a ground and neutral. Maybe a drywall screw went too far. :surrender:
 

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Discussion Starter · #27 · (Edited)
So I removed the switch completely and connected power straight to the light. GFI tripped. :confused1:

My first electrical post from July '09 was extending the wire from the downstairs switch to extend around and up a half-wall and hiding the splice inside of another box used for a smoke detector. I had checked the wiring there and everything looks fine. White to white and black to black with all the grounds in that box connected together. So now I'm really confused. I'll disconnect the ground from the smokes circuit and check again. I'm not very optimistic I'm going to find something.

Is there anything I can do with a voltage tester or line tester?
 

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Another reason for GFCI tripping is crossed neutrals from different circuits or even from the same branch circuit if a GFCI was located in one subbranch. You need to be careful when feeds from different circuits come together in the same switch box or junction box. All grounds are tied together but neutrals are connected only to continuations of their respective circuits.

There may be only one neutral path from any location back to the panel and the neutral must follow the corresponding hot wire.

Also the load side neutral from a GFCI is not connected to any neutral connected to the line side; that subbranch (hot and neutral) originates at the GFCI, not at the panel.
 

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With the power off and the ground or white disconnected at the GFCI you should have no continuity between bare and white past the GFCI.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Would it be worth replacing the GFI outlet with a standard outlet and then replace the switch with another outlet with tester plugged in and check what LEDs are lit up?
 

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This could be a problem with how the GFCI is wired. Please tell us all the connections in the GFCI receptacle box.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 · (Edited)
I tried a few things when I got home, with direct connection to light at bottom of stairs (no 3-way switch), I disconnected ground where grounds were shared with 2 other circuits in the same boxes. GFI still tripped.

I then began breaking down the connection from the 3-way switch box to light (wire A from switch to smoke detector box spliced to wire B to light). I disconnected at the smoke dectector and wired a different light fixture at end of wireA .....surprise, surprise, GFI tripped.

I then tried a continuity test on wire A from switch box to smokes box. My worst fears were realized. I had continuity between the ground and neutral wire! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
:cursing: :wallbash:

I'm almost 100% sure that this is the reason for my GFCI outlet tripping. Now what? One wire is the culprit, where it is crossed I don't know. Can I assume a drywall screw or corner bead nail went somewhere it shouldn't and crossed the neutral and ground? When I ran the wire I thought I kept it away from any place that may have a screw near by.

Since a drywall screw will be near the surface, can I replace the GFI outlet with a standard outlet being extra careful and check for AC current near a "hot" screw? I imagine I'll have to rip out the entire wire so this is probably a waste of time. Can a wire that's crossed with a screw be patched and not have to be completely removed?
 

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Could cable clamp holding wire in box. Could be staple holding cable pounded too tight. Could be drywall screw.
 

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I tried a few things when I got home, with direct connection to light at bottom of stairs (no 3-way switch), I disconnected ground where grounds were shared with 2 other circuits in the same boxes. GFI still tripped.

I then began breaking down the connection from the 3-way switch box to light (wire A from switch to smoke detector box spliced to wire B to light). I disconnected at the smoke dectector and wired a different light fixture at end of wireA .....surprise, surprise, GFI tripped.

I then tried a continuity test on wire A from switch box to smokes box. My worst fears were realized. I had continuity between the ground and neutral wire! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
:cursing: :wallbash:

I'm almost 100% sure that this is the reason for my GFCI outlet tripping. Now what? One wire is the culprit, where it is crossed I don't know. Can I assume a drywall screw or corner bead nail went somewhere it shouldn't and crossed the neutral and ground? When I ran the wire I thought I kept it away from any place that may have a screw near by.

Since a drywall screw will be near the surface, can I replace the GFI outlet with a standard outlet being extra careful and check for AC current near a "hot" screw? I imagine I'll have to rip out the entire wire so this is probably a waste of time. Can a wire that's crossed with a screw be patched and not have to be completely removed?
I admit I haven't read the entire post...but one thing caught my eye. Continuity between neutral and ground should not be a surpise. They are connected at the main panel, correct?
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 · (Edited)
The wire I tested is an isolated wire. But yes naturally they all connect back at the neutral/ground bar in the panel. As I understand it, a ground-fault is an unintended continuity or touching of either the black wire or the white wire to the ground wire.

OK, i'm playing devil's advocate here.....
Can i get away with not connecting the grounds at either end of the 4 ft length of wire A? I'll still have ground connections at the switch box and at the smokes box wire B to light.
 

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your GFI will trip if the current leaving is not identical to what is returning through the neutral. So if any current goes to ground it will trip.
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
In my previous post "Can i get away with not connecting the grounds at either end of the 4 ft length of wire A?"

Well I tried it.......let there be light! The GFI outlet did not trip. Do I have bigger problems if I possibly crossed the neutral and ground with a plastic wire clip or drywall screw? Or can I leave it? - i.e. is it OK to have an ungrounded wire section hidden behind a ceiling/wall.

As i mentioned, the switch is grounded from the incoming wire and grounds from other circuit. Wire B to light is grounded with grounds from smokes circuit. The alternative is ripping out the entire wire.......unless someone knows it's OK to patch where the cable is damaged? My instincts tell me patching is not acceptable and to replace it. But my patience is getting the best of me here.
Thoughts?
 

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There is obviously some damage to the cable somewhere. Until you find it you don't know how much. There could be more damage than just a neutral ground short. If it's a nail or screw the black could be damaged to the point of creating a hot spot.
 
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