GFI circuit breakers tripping when TV is on


Old 03-18-09, 07:58 AM
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GFI circuit breakers tripping when TV is on

Hello all,

I have an electrical problem that I can't make sense out of. We are in the process of doing some minor renovations to a house that we recently bought. The house has GFI circuit breakers for the bathrooms, kitchen, and garage at the main panel rather than GFCI outlets.

We recently installed a 58" plasma TV which has a standard three prong plug. When I plugged in the TV and turned it on, two of the three GFI breakers tripped within a couple of seconds. The TV itself is not plugged in to one of the GFI protected circuits. And, the breaker for the circuit that the TV is plugged into did NOT trip. So, even though powering on the TV caused the two GFI circuit breakers to trip, it did not cause its own breaker to trip. I tried plugging the TV into a different outlet (on a different circuit) and it does not cause the GFI circuit breakers to trip. But, as soon as I plug it back into the first outlet (which is the closest one to the TV) and power on the TV the GFI breakers trip. This happens 100% of the time. And, as long as the TV is on, I cannot reset the GFI breakers. If I turn off the TV I can reset the GFI breakers and they are fine until I power on the TV again.

I have tried plugging various devices that have two prong plugs into the TV's outlet and they have not caused the GFI breakers to trip. We haven't yet moved into the house, so I don't have anything else with three prongs to try to plug in there.

Now, a little more background on the renovations. We did remove one outlet on the same circuit as the TV. The outlet we removed was immediately downstream from the TV's outlet and was the only other outlet on the circuit (and the ending point of the circuit). The wiring that led from the TV's outlet to the removed outlet was disconnected (making the TV's outlet the ending point for the circuit).

Also, just before the previous owners moved out, they replaced a light fixture which is on the same circuit as the TV's outlet.

Does anyone have any idea what the problem might be, or what things to look at?

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Old 03-18-09, 08:56 AM
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My guess is that your GFCI breakers are very old. GFCI technology has improved immensely in the last decade, and the new generation of GFCI is far less vulnerable to false tripping. You might consider new GFCI breakers, or, if you can determine which is the first receptacle on the line, replace the GFCI breaker with an ordinary breaker and put a GFCI receptacle at the head of the circuit.
Old 03-18-09, 09:20 AM
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HDTV tuners emit higher frequency interference than their SDTV counterparts. This interferences causes some older GFCI devices to falsely trip. You'll need to replace your old breakers with newer ones that are designed to filter the higher frequency interference. John's suggestion of using GFCI receptacles will be cheaper than replacing the GFCI breakers.
Old 03-24-09, 02:29 PM
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Thanks for the help, guys! Based on what you posted, and from folks that I've talked to, I'm pretty confident that interference being emitted by the TV is the problem. My breakers are quite old (~23 years), and I'm sure they are not good at filtering out the interference.

That being said, before I swapped out the breakers, I decided to see if moving the TV circuit breaker within the breaker box would make a difference. So, we swapped the TV's breaker with the breaker above it, and lo and behold that seems to have done the trick (i.e., the GFI breakers are no longer tripping when the TV is on). I still have one GFI that is off for the season (the pool pump). Once I open the pool, we'll see if it is affected. But for now, so far so good.

Thanks again for the help!!

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