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  • Ground Fault Circuit Problems!

    We bought a new house several months ago but there is one problem I haven't been able to solve. The basement and outside outlets are on a ground fault circuit. When I would turn on a shop vac to vacuum out the car or vacuum up in the basement, the circuit would trip. It would also trip sometimes when we were gone for no apparent reason. The electrical firm that wired the house checked it twice and proclaimed that it was OK!

    Now that the home warranty has expired, the ground fault outlet is tripped and will not reset. I replaced the ground fault outlet twice (Cooper brand) and it still would not reset. I called a local electrician and he said I would probably have to replace the Romex on that entire circuit!!!! I finally replaced the ground fault outlet with a standard outlet which works fine, but we will probably sell the house in a couple of years and I'll need to reinstall the ground fault outlet and it will need to be serviceable.

    I removed every outlet on the circuit and checked the ground connection to be sure it was snug. The ground continuity on the entire circuit checks out with a multimeter.

    Anyone have any suggestions as to what could be wrong and how to fix it without replacing the cable?

    Steve

  • #2
    My bet is that you have a drywall screw or staple that is shorting the ground and neutral wires down stream from the gfci outlet (connected to the load side). The reason it works with a non gfi outlet is because neutral and ground are actually tied together at the panel and are at the same potential, the problem is that you can not use ground as a neutral return it is only for safety. You can verify the theory with an ohmmeter. Drop the power to the circuit and pull the wires off the load side (or what was the load side since you changed the plug) make sure nothing is plugged into any of the downstream outlets. Use a low setting (usually 2000 ohm) and measure between ground and neutral, you should see OL (open loop) meaning there is no connection, my guess is you see a short 0 ohm or close to it. If the reading is not OL start removing outlets downstream and measuring ground to neutral, once the meter reads OL you know that the wire between the plug that you just removed and the previous plug has the short. You may be able to replace the wire via the basement if you are lucky. If there are light fixtures on the circuit they could also be a source of a short between ground and neutral.
    Last edited by wbrooks; 07-31-2006, 11:09 PM.

    Comment


    • #3
      "We bought a new house several months ago......
      .....Now that the home warranty has expired..."

      You mean your home warranty is gone after only a few months?
      Was this a new home which you had built or was this home built by someone else and you bought it with only a few months remaining on the warranty?

      Here (NJ) the new home warranty is 10 years. If the problem IS a damaged wire or incorrectly wired circuit the builder would have to make good on it.
      ---------------
      Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
      ---------------
      “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
      ---------
      "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
      ---------
      sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

      Comment


      • #4
        Nice warranty. Up here (Ontario) we have a staged warranty. First year covers everything, in the second year most major things are covered like ...
        Water penetration through the basement or foundation walls; Defects in materials, including windows, doors and caulking, or defects in work that result in water penetration into the building envelope; Defects in work or materials in the electrical, plumbing and heating delivery and distribution systems; Defects in work or materials which result in the detachment, displacement or deterioration of exterior cladding (such as brickwork, aluminum or vinyl siding); Violations of the Ontario Building Code affecting health and safety (including, but not limited to, violations relating to fire safety and the structural adequacy of the home); and Major structural defects

        Then up to 7 years only major structural defects like as in the house is going to fall down

        Comment


        • #5
          Maybe "a few months" was a poor choice of description. The house is actually 14 months old and we purchased it new as a spec. house.

          The norm for a house warranty in this area from a builder is 12 month, which covers everything. After 12 months, it becomes your problem. Of course items such as HVAC, appliances, etc. may have manufacturers warranties.

          Structural defects and other more serious problems would require court intervention. However, most reputable builders readily take care of any major problem that pops up after the 12 month warranty period for the sake of their reputation.

          Steve

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks, Wayne, for the advice. I will follow your suggestion this weekend and see what turns up.

            Steve

            Comment


            • #7
              Doh!!

              I just went to the State's web site and looked up the plan here. It is not as comprehensive as I remember it but still decent. It boils down to being about the same as yours, two years on most stuff then only structural after that.



              WARRANTY COVERAGE

              Almost everything is covered for the first year, including defective systems, workmanship, materials, appliances, fixtures, and equipment. The mechanical (heating and air conditioning), electrical, and plumbing systems are covered for two years. Major structural defects are covered for ten years.

              First Year - Most items are covered for defects in workmanship or materials during the first year, including grading, drainage, concrete, masonry, stucco and cement plaster, carpentry, finish carpentry, waterproofing, insulation, louvers and vents, exterior siding, roofing, doors and windows, finishes, flooring, carpeting, painting, wall covering, fireplaces, cabinets, fixtures and appliances.

              Second Year - The mechanical (heating and air conditioning), electrical, and plumbing systems are covered for two years. This includes septic tanks, all piping, leaks, chipped or damaged fixtures, drinking water that is free from contamination, low water pressure, noisy pipes, inadequate heating or cooling and problems with electrical switches or receptacles.

              Third through Tenth Year - The warranty covers major structural defects for ten years. Major structural defects include any actual damage to load-bearing portions of the home. The load-bearing portions of the home include roof rafters and trusses, ceiling and floor joists, bearing partitions, supporting beams, columns, basement and foundation walls and footings.

              The liability of a builder under a warranty is limited by law to the purchase price of the home in the first good faith sale or the fair market value of the home on its completion date if there is no good faith sale. (A "good faith sale" is the same as an "arms length" transaction. It means that there was no "inside deal" and the sales price reflects the actual market value at the time of the sale.)

              Site-work is not covered - homeowners must contact municipal government offices for assistance and information.


              ---------------
              Light is faster than sound. That's why some people seem really bright until you hear them speak.
              ---------------
              “If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber.” - Albert Einstein
              ---------
              "Its a table saw.... Do you know where your fingers are?"
              ---------
              sigpic http://www.helmetstohardhats.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                The basement and outside outlets are on a ground fault circuit.

                ...

                I finally replaced the ground fault outlet with a standard outlet which works fine...
                Steve, this is not an acceptable short term fix. GFCI's are a necessary safety device, and you're endangering yourself and your family by removing it. Please shut the power off to the circuit, and return to read the rest of my post.

                1. Now that the power is off, it should be easy to walk around the house and determine what receptacles and lights are affected. Walk around with a notepad, write down the location of each outlet, and what is plugged into them. If there are any lights affected, note the type. If any of the receptacles are in a box with switches that are not on this circuit, make note of that, too.

                Go into this step under the assumption that there are outlets on this circuit that you've not noticed before. What we're looking for are suspect appliances, that are legitimately tripping the GFCI. It could very well be the electrician was right, there's nothing wrong with his wiring, you have an appliance (like an old freezer, table saw, whatever) that leaks current to ground and trips the GFCI.

                For example, I have a Milwaukee Hole Hawg in my van that is starting to die, and it throws a cascade of sparks inside the casing when the drill is in operation. When 4mA of that current accidentally hits the case of the drill instead of passing through the neutral side of the GFCI, the GFCI trips. The GFCI is not defective, my drill is.

                2. Install one of the new GFCI receptacles back where it was, and be sure to hook up the line and load correctly.
                3. Hit the test button.
                4. Turn on the circuit breaker.
                5. Hit the reset button on the GFCI. Does it hold, or immediately trip?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sparky,

                  Thank you for your reply to my ground fault question. After posting my original problem, we have been gone for two weeks, so I have not been able to run the tests suggested. I will follow your suggested test, however.

                  Earlier, I removed everything from the circuit, and still the GFI outlet would not reset. As I mentioned in my original post, I replaced it with a new one and that one would not reset either. However, I did not try turning off the circuit at the breaker and hitting the reset button while the current was off. I will give that a try this week.

                  My dilema was that our freezer and alarm system were on the circuit and when we would leave (for a week at a time) I would have to run an extension cable from upstairs to the basement to power those two critical devices.

                  Steve

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Freezer

                    You may just have solved your own problem with the GFCI tripping when you wrote that there is a freezer on that circuit. Refrig and freezers on GFCI circuits will often cause them to trip and your freezer may be old enough with some wear in the motor windings that cause enough of an imbalance that it will not allow the GFCI to reset. You said you run an extension cord to the freezer when you're gone to insure that the freezer (and alarm system) remain on. Do you have any tripping with the circuit when that freezer is off line? Take the freezer off line and run your shop vac on it (you said this was causing tripping in earlier post.) Does it trip then? I don't think you've got a problem with the GFCI or the wiring. I think you've got a problem with one or two of the devices on the circuit and the GFCI is trying to tell you something. Why don't you check the motor on the freezer with a meter and see how that checks out. Just my 2cents worth.
                    Jim Don

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by INTELLICON
                      Sparky,
                      Earlier, I removed everything from the circuit, and still the GFI outlet would not reset. As I mentioned in my original post, I replaced it with a new one and that one would not reset either. However, I did not try turning off the circuit at the breaker and hitting the reset button while the current was off. I will give that a try this week.
                      Steve
                      Have you checked to make sure that the line and load are not reversed? Since if they are the GFCI will not reset until that is corrected.
                      "Diplomacy is saying nice dodging until you can find a rock." Will Rogers
                      "If a Monkey can do your job, are you in the right profession?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Ground Fault Problem

                        Jim,

                        Thank you for your advice as well. I will look at your suggestions while I'm running the checks Sparky mentioned - hopefully this week if my "retirement job" will slow down and let me spend a little while at home!!!

                        I'm not sure that is the problem, though, since initially I could not get the GFI to "reset" and neither the freezer or alarm was plugged in at the time.

                        Now I know why I was not an electrician - way too many variables involved in the craft!

                        Steve

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Ground Fault Problem

                          Polar Sparky,

                          Yes, that was one of the first things I checked at the suggestion of a local electrician.

                          The circuit performed fine for a couple of months, then after vacuuming the car we noticed the "reset" light was illuminated on the GFI. I pushed the reset and it reset without a problem. A week or so later, we came home from a day trip and again, the GFI had tripped. That's when we called the builder and had the electrician check it. Natrually, he could find no problem.

                          After it tripped twice more and would not reset, I called a local electrician, but since we were leaving the next morning for Panama, he had me perform a few tests to try and get it back in operation. After the tests checked out he walked me through over the phone, he suggested I replace the GFI. I replaced it with a new one, but it would not reset either. The electrician had me check the proper wiring at the breaker box and at the GFI. It was OK.

                          I tripped the breaker to the circuit while we were gone for two weeks and powered the alarm & freezer from another circuit via an extension. When we returned, I performed the checks I outlined earlier, but could never get the GFI to reset.

                          My next step is to follow all the suggestions Wayne & Sparky made. If none of those are fruitful, I will turn it over to an electrician - nope, not the firm that wired the house!!!

                          Thank you again for your comments.

                          Steve

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tests

                            Steve,
                            I misread the one post when you said you unplugged everything. Sorry. Thought I had an idea when you posted the thing about the freezer. Rocky Mountain Sparky seemed to have the best and most exhaustive way of testing that circuitry. Why don't you follow his suggestion step by step, check all the things on it, and test each outlet with a voltage tester to see if it is on or off when you throw the breaker to shut down that entire line. You might find something on there that you don't realize like Rocky Mtn. Sp. said. Just a thought.
                            Jim Don

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              If you feel safe doing Turn off your power from the meter panel outside or turn off all the breackers in your panel. Then take off your panel cover and beware of the larger terminals at the top those are still hot unless you turned of your meter panel. Make sure your panel is dead, and then check that all your neutrals are under seperate screws, check to make sure all the wires are not loose. If it works only part of the time you may have some loose wires in your panels.....
                              "Diplomacy is saying nice dodging until you can find a rock." Will Rogers
                              "If a Monkey can do your job, are you in the right profession?

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