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  • INTELLICON
    started a topic Ground Fault Circuit Problems!

    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

  • Rocky Mountain Sparky
    replied
    Sounds like a good plan. Sorry, hadn't been around to check in in a while.

    If it's so easy for you, it really makes me wonder why the first electricians who wired the house didn't do it that way. Make good use of your studfinder, and be sure of the framing of the front wall before you get too into it, for one.

    The reason that it goes up the first floor stairwall instead of making a basement beeline for the front door, could also be that there is an outlet between the basement and the front door you didn't notice. Or, there's a mysterious horrible steel I-beam in the bottom of the wall, and they had to go over because of it.

    Go slow, and be sure.

    Sounds like you're on top of it, though.

    Leave a comment:


  • INTELLICON
    replied
    Ground Fault Problem

    Wayne,

    That sounds like the voice of experience!!!! Your suggestion sure beats repeated measurements that could still be off by a foot and on the other side of a stud. I like it and surely will give it a try. Thank you.

    Steve

    Leave a comment:


  • wbrooks
    replied
    Sounds like you have a good plan. A neat trick that may help you... take a coat hanger and cut the long bottom part off. You now have a very flexible strong and thin drill bit that you chuck up in your drill and pop it through the sub floor just in front of the drywall where your switch is. If you have tile or vinyl in the front hall just pry the baseboard out a bit and sink the coat hanger behind it. Now you know exactly where to drill from the basement

    Leave a comment:


  • JimDon
    replied
    Pulling new wire

    Yeah, I was afraid it would be some messy thing like that. Those can never be simple can they. Sometimes, however, you get one where you can see where it exits the basement and goes up to the first floor. Was hoping it was one of those with the outlet being the first one up from the basement. That's why I asked for some more details. Sounds like you got a plan going, though. Keep at it! And don't forget to ask for help. This is still a challenge for us out here and we want to know how it goes. That's why so many people are willing to jump on in and offer suggestions and ideas as the posts go along.
    Jim Don

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  • INTELLICON
    replied
    Ground Fault Problem

    Jim,

    Thank you for the new suggestions. Is anything ever easy? I don't think using the existing cable to pull new cable is going to work.

    The problem cable starts at an outlet in the basement and goes to an outlet on a porch on the first floor. The straight-line "routing" distance is about 60 feet. The basement is unfinished and serves as my woodworking and stained glass shop and an electronics lab for our "retirement business."

    The outlet in the basement is attached to a stud framing the stairwell. The inside of the stairwell is finished with drywall. The cable runs up the stud, enters a hole in the cap and continues into the wall of the stairwell at the first floor. Where it goes from there is anybody's guess. Once it gets to the first floor it probably continues inside the stairwell wall then across the top, since the top of the stairwell from the basement becomes the underside of a stairwell going to the second floor. Then it probably travels through an interior wall over a doorway and down an outside wall to the outlet.

    I tried pulling on the cable from the basement and had my wife keep an eye & ear on the cable at the porch outlet - no movement at all. There are just too many turns in its routing.

    The good news is that I am pretty sure (still need to do a bit of measuring) I can route the cable along the basement ceiling and drill at an angle at the top of the cinder block wall into the sill plate under the porch outlet. That way I would simply eliminate the problem run. I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks again for the help and recommendations.

    Steve

    Leave a comment:


  • JimDon
    replied
    House Call

    Just looked at your profile. Guess TN is a little far for a housecall. If you lived closer I'd make the frickin trip myself. HA !
    Jim Don

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  • JimDon
    replied
    Inaccessible!

    Can you give us some kind of an idea how long the run is that is bad and whether or not you have ANY access at all. One of the most common things to do in this case is to USE EXISTING WIRE TO PULL NEW WIRE WHENEVER POSSIBLE. In other words, you disconnect the wire from the first bad outlet. You remove the existing box. Is it metal and attached with nails or is is a brown fiber or gray fiber box. Those you just smash to little pieces with a hammer and screwdriver and remove the pieces as you go to get access. You should see a stable pretty close to that box, within 18 inches or so. Pry the staple up and get it out. Then you see if you can pull from below or not. If there are other staples, you may have to pull really hard on the wire to get the Romex loose from the staple. You might also end up punching a hole or two in your drywall to pop the staple out to get the wire to pull through. Give us a little more detail on what the situation looks and feels like. Length, etc. And well shoot whatever answers we can back at ya. Don't worry about wearing out your welcome on the forum. This is like WAY TOO much fun trying to figure this out from a distance. LOL
    Jim Don

    Leave a comment:


  • INTELLICON
    replied
    Ground Fault Problem

    I feel like I'm wearing out my welcome on the forum, but I simply wanted to thank Polar Sparky, Wayne, Jim and Rocky Mountain Sparky, and everyone else for their advice.

    I took everyone's suggestions and started with the tests this morning. Of course, I started with the simplest and easiest first. Apparently, Wayne hit the nail on the head (no pun - really!).

    After removing everything plugged into the circuit, I disconnected the neutrals from the outlets on the entire run and began at the first outlet from the panel, checkng between the ground and neutral at each outlet. Yep, using a VOM I isolated the section where the neutral and ground were shorted. BUT, as most everyone can guess, since you all are experienced in this type work, it is in THE run that is totally inaccessible!!!!! It meanders between the walls from the basement to upper floors.

    Just to be doubly sure, tomorrow I will run a piece of Romex up the stairs and out the front door between the outlets, making my own connection, then reinstall the GFI at the first outlet. I have no doubt it will perform perfectly. Then all I have to do is figure out how on earth I can run the Romex properly, bypassing the flawed section.

    By the way, wives are wonderful helpers until you get into the small, cramped space that is 120 degrees and they start to sweat!!! Then, they get testy, cranky and lose interest pretty quick. But, I got off the subject.

    Thanks again for the help. Maybe I can return the favor sometime.

    Steve

    Leave a comment:


  • Polar Sparky 1224
    replied
    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.....

    Leave a comment:


  • JimDon
    replied
    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

    Leave a comment:


  • INTELLICON
    replied
    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

    Leave a comment:


  • INTELLICON
    replied
    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

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  • Polar Sparky 1224
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • JimDon
    replied
    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

    Leave a comment:

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