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Brand new circuit blows all flourescent ballasts, help please!

Brand new circuit blows all flourescent ballasts, help please!

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  #1  
Old 03-25-11, 10:16 AM
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Brand new circuit blows all flourescent ballasts, help please!

Hello all,

This is my first post on here, but I'm sure I'll find some help. I'm not a certified electrician, but I've done some electrical work here and there. Yesterday I installed a brand new circuit from the panel to the last plug, it's a 15A run with a GFCI outlet just behind the breaker, 4 outlets on a switch and 8 constant hot. I've checked the outlets with a GFCI tester (the kind with the lights that show if it's wired correctly and also tests the GFCI by shorting the circuit). Everything checks out right as far as being wired correctly and the GFCI trips when I push the test button. All the outlets work and power things but anytime I plug a flourescent light into any outlet in the circuit the ballasts pop and burn out.

Is there a possibility that the GFCI is bad? Everything is brand new. The panel is an older style square D, the type with the breakers that "clip" onto the rail and also have the wide clip onto the power bar. It doesn't have separate neutral and ground buss bars, I saw a couple other circuits with the ground/neutral sharing the same buss system so I did the same.

One note on the GFCI outlet that caused me confusion was when I plugged a radio into it, the standby light would only blink and the radio wouldn't turn on, but when I plugged it into a standard outlet on another circuit it worked just fine.

Any trouble shooting help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance,

Dave
 
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  #2  
Old 03-25-11, 10:33 AM
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Measure the voltage on the circuit at the light with an analog multimeter, good quality digital meter (cheap ones have ghost voltage problems), or a solenoid tester.
 
  #3  
Old 03-25-11, 10:43 AM
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Ray,

Thanks for the prompt reply, can you tell me what voltage I'm looking for? What would cause higher than acceptable voltage? A bad breaker? Bad GFCI?

Dave
 
  #4  
Old 03-25-11, 11:24 AM
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Just to make sure, this is a single family residence, right? Not a commercial building or large multi-unit? Are you running from the main panel (first after meter) or a subpanel?

The voltage should be about 115-125V between the wide slot and narrow slot and between the narrow slot and ground hole. Voltage should be no more than 1-2V between the wide slot and ground hole. You can use a digital meter if you also plug in a lamp with incandescent bulb and turn it on while you are testing. What are the voltage readings and does the brightness seem correct for the ~60W bulb?

Improper voltage could be caused by a loose or broken neutral wire feeding the panel or an upstream supply problem with the power company. A bad breaker or GFCI could not cause it.

Are these new 120V ballasts or are they perhaps miswired multitaps maybe recycled from a commercial building, anything like that?

If you feel comfortable doing so, use your multimeter to check voltage on the wires supplying the panel. Check hot to hot and from each hot to the neutral/ground.
 
  #5  
Old 03-25-11, 02:22 PM
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ibpooks,

That's very helpful info on the testing of the voltage, thanks. I'll trace the wiring and make sure that there aren't any loose connections. This is unique to just this circuit, other circuits on the panel are running flourescent lights without issue. All the fixtures I used that were damaged were new, prewired with a cord, not hardwired type and they had all worked fine on the previous circuit. They were being run off an extension cord which was severely overloaded, this is why the new circuit was installed.
 
  #6  
Old 03-25-11, 02:48 PM
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You did use a single-pole breaker, right? Black wire to the breaker terminal, white and bare to terminals on the ground/neutral bar?

Each receptacle is wired in parallel? At each box, blacks to the brass side, whites to the silver side, grounds to the bare/green?
 
  #7  
Old 03-25-11, 03:29 PM
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Just a shot in the dark...but if this was romex cable and you used the regulard die cast romex connectors in the box, and chance of overtightening those?? That should show with the tester but I have seen several that were tightened to the point of cutting the wire and shorting out, or putting voltage on the ground. A well placed nail can do that too. Is this is a house and was romex used?
 
  #8  
Old 03-25-11, 05:16 PM
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These fixtures came pre-wired with cords, right? Are they inexpensive shoplights? What kind of ballasts are used in these fixtures, electronic or core and coil type magnetic ballasts?
 
  #9  
Old 03-25-11, 05:43 PM
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I'm thinking cheap chinese ballasts that were protected by voltage drop of the overloaded extension cord.
 
  #10  
Old 03-26-11, 01:37 PM
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I used a single pole breaker and all the wiring is correct. Black to brass, white to silver and green/bare to ground. Black wire is connected to breaker and white/ground to bar. The outlets are all wired in parallel. The lights aren't cheap shop lights, they are actually higher quality fixtures.

I won't be able to test the voltage until tomorrow morning when I go back. I'll first test the voltage to see what it's reading, then I suppose I'll start tracing the run to see if there are any loose connections. This problem is unique to this particular circuit, all the other circuits that have the same type of fixtures on them are not having the same issue. I'm hoping that it's just a simple problem. All connections are hard connected to the terminals on the outlets except for one set of connections in a junction box where I used wire nuts.

Thanks again for all the help, I'll keep everyone posted.
 
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