Hall light tripping bathroom gfci

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  #1  
Old 02-18-06, 04:36 PM
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Hall light tripping bathroom gfci

I'm currently living in a 23 year old house. When I bought the house, my inspector suggested that I install GFCI in my kitchen and bathrooms.

Here's the first fun part... I'm now noticing that GFCI I installed in the master bath controls the the outlet in my guest bath, my hall light, and my kitchen light.

Here's the second fun part, though. I can plug in a radio into the GFCI outlet and everything's fine. I can plug a radio into the guest bath and it's fine. I can turn on the kitchen light (which is a fluorescent light) and it's fine. But, if I try to turn on the hall light (which is just a regular light bulb), it trips the GFCI. I double-checked how my GFCI is wired and I've got the white wires going to silver screws, black wires going to gold screws, and my ground is hooked up. I also checked the wiring on the light (which looks like it's probably original to the house) and it's got black going to back and white to white. There is no ground going to the light.

Is it likely that there is a problem with my light (which I'm hoping), that my GFCI is wired wrong or is faulty (which would also be simple), or is it more likely that my circuit needs to be re-worked and I need to call an electrician? This is my first house, but from talking to people, the way my circuits are grouped is sort of odd. But, I would think this house would have had to have passed inspection when it was built?!?!
 
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  #2  
Old 02-18-06, 04:50 PM
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Is it likely that there is a problem with my light (which I'm hoping),
Yes. You did not say whether you checked the switch. It could be a dirty switch too.


> that my GFCI is wired wrong or is faulty
Unlikely.


> from talking to people, the way my circuits are grouped is sort of odd.
Sounds typical. I've seen much worse.


> I would think this house would have had to have passed inspection
> when it was built?

I have no idea.


Inspection doesn't mean that everything was checked out.
 
  #3  
Old 02-18-06, 05:04 PM
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I would do two things.

First, and most importantly, I would figure out what is tripping the GFCI and correct it. How many switches control the hall light, and have you investigated the switches for the light?

Second, and only after find ind correcting the existing problem, I would change the wiring at your GFCI so that it does not provide protection to downstream devices, and then I would install a GFCI in the guest bathroom.
 
  #4  
Old 02-18-06, 05:14 PM
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There are two switches that control the hall light.

I suspect that the switches and the light are all original to the house. The only thing I know about these guys is that I painted the hallway (which involved patching and sanding some drywall) last year and took the switchplates off to do so. The other thing is, again, I looked at the wiring for the light and there is no ground wire.
 
  #5  
Old 02-18-06, 05:23 PM
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Look at the switch wiring.
 
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Old 02-18-06, 06:19 PM
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What am I looking for exactly?
 
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Old 02-18-06, 06:23 PM
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If you don't know, then tell us exactly how the wires are connected.
 
  #8  
Old 02-18-06, 06:25 PM
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Look for accidental or intentional contact between a neutral wire and a grounding wire, grounding screw, metal part of a fixture or device, or the metal box.
 
  #9  
Old 02-18-06, 06:48 PM
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I'm not seeing any wires touching. There were some spots where some wall texture stuff had gotten on the copper.

On the first switch, the right side has two black wires and the left has a white wire. (one of the blacks may be grey...it's hard to tell)

On the second switch one side has one black. The other side has a black on bottom and a white on top.
 
  #10  
Old 02-18-06, 06:59 PM
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Time to divide and conquer by starting to disconnect stuff. But be sure to extremely carefully record the connections before disconnecting anything. Don't come back here and ask us how to put it back together. Make sure you know how to put it back together before you take anything apart.

Shut off the breaker. Carefully remove the fixture by disconnecting the minimum number of connections necessary to get it off. Then restore power and operate the switches to see if the GFCI trips. It probably won't, but it'll be a good experiment.

If the GFCI doesn't trip with the fixture removed, then shut off the breaker and carefully put it back. Then gently pull both switches out of the box (without disconnecting the wires). Chase the kids and dogs out of the area, restore the power, and test again.

While you've got the switches out, tell us how many screws are on each switch, the color of each screw, and the color of the wire connected to each screw.
 
  #11  
Old 02-22-06, 08:34 AM
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Ok, I switched out the light fixture (which I was thinking about anyway). In the process of changing the fixture, I discovered that the light switches that control the problem light are controlled by two different breakers (thank goodness for my little $2 tester). Could this be part of the problem? I was told by friends at work that this is a bad thing and could be part of my problem. I wanted to confirm that this a no-no.
 
  #12  
Old 02-22-06, 08:46 AM
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Yes, this is the problem and is extremely dangerous. Isolate this light to either breaker. Pick the circuit based on what the two circuits are if it's not obvious which one it originally was.
 
  #13  
Old 02-22-06, 09:12 AM
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Ok, I'm starting to think this may be out of my league. I'm pretty comfortable changing out light fixtures or outlets, but this seems to be getting a little more serious.

As you can probably tell, I'm not an electrician (a couple of semesters of physics and two semesters of Circuits and Machinery in college 5 years ago and haven't used since is the closest I am)

I think at this point, I need to call an electrician to make sure I don't burn my house down. The fact that this is wired this way makes me a little nervous about whether my overall house is wired safely so I'm going to have an electrician fix my hall light and then inspect the rest of my electrical to make sure I don't have any other electrical boobie prizes waiting to electrocute someone or burn my house down.

All this from a little gfci outlet. I guess it's a good thing I installed the little guy or I wouldn't have known there was a problem.

Thank you guys for your help!
 

Last edited by mrcase; 02-22-06 at 10:23 AM.
  #14  
Old 02-22-06, 09:58 AM
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It's usually within our powers to solve problems when things are wired correctly or at least mostly correctly to start with. But you are not anywhere near this territory. Some lunatic apparently wired this up, and we're in an "all bets are off" situation. We cannot make any comfortable assumptions.

So I agree. You need an on-site expert to sort this mess out.
 
  #15  
Old 02-22-06, 10:52 AM
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My worry is if the lunatic was a previous owner wiring this light after the fact or if the lunatic was the person who wired my whole house 20 years ago. Given the location of this light, I have a sinking feeling it's the latter

Oh well. I guess that's part of the joy of home ownership.

Thanks again for the advice.
 
  #16  
Old 02-22-06, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by mrcase
All this from a little gfci outlet. I guess it's a good thing I installed the little guy or I wouldn't have known there was a problem.
I suspect that GFCIs have detected many hidden wiring errors. Good luck!
 
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