Christmas Lights and Warm Outlet.

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Old 12-07-12, 08:53 AM
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Cool Christmas Lights and Warm Outlet.

Hello,

Long read, but any help is appreciated!

I am new to this forum, but have lurked for a lot of sound advice so hopefully someone can help me with this.

I helped a family member install Christmas lights on his home. About 200 c7 5 watt bulbs. There are 25 bulbs per string with a 5 amp fuse in each. The roof outline is totally lined, and the power between the strings is split.

There is an extension cord with a three female plug end running to the roof. From there, there is a set of three light strands plugged in lining the garage. There is a a homemade 30 ft extension cord made of 14/2 wire that runs to a plug connecting 5 strings, and the third set with about 30 lights, which run from a window outline, into a 6 foot homemade cord that connects to set of about 7 lights, with another 6 foot extension cord of the same properties run right to the main extension cord providing power below. Many Christmas light guys use zip plugs or vampire plugs on the c7s because they are non polarized, so we figured store bought plugs and cord would work the same purpose. There are also about 600 mini lights connected to this same circuit. The lights run into a three way plug, and then into a plug in 15 amp breaker, which is in the outlet. There are landscape lights hooked up to this circuit also, I believe it is low voltage as there is a transformer box next to the outlet.

The wife was using a hair dryer in the bathroom at the same time the lights were on and the circuit inside tripped. This leads me to believe the Christmas lights were on the same circuit as they were on when she powered up the hair dryer.

The next day, the landscape lots were on at the same time as the Christmas lights and the outlet in the bathroom got hot. I told them immediately to unplug everything. After some trial and error, the outlet does not get hot with just landscape lights. It gets ever so slightly warm with just the Christmas lights, but not hot.

Here is the math

200*5=1000/120=8.33 amps
100 mini lights are about 40 watts so
1240/120= 10.3 amps
80% of circuit would be 12 amps

When I first hooked the lights up, I hooked up five strings together to make sure it would be okay. Wire never got hot, and the fuse rated for 5 Amps never blew are a long period of being on. The math brings it to 5.2 Amos anyway.

So my dilemma is this. The breaker outside inline with the lights is not tripping. The breaker inside has only tripped once, and only when the hair dryer came on at the same time. When the outlet got hot just the landscape lights and Christmas lights were on.

I am led to believe the outlet outside is ran from the outlet in the bathroom. Wen the Christmas lights are unplugged, the outlet cools. Is this an issue from the christmas light wiring or a bad receptacle? I figured the outside breaker would blow in he case power consumption was too much but apparently not.

Any help with this would be extremely appreciated. If anyone sees any problems in what I have done, please correct me. and if there are problems understanding, I can make up a diagram to show what is happnening.
 
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Old 12-07-12, 08:56 AM
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Would putting half of the lit on a separate circuit remedy the issue? If there is a problem in the wiring of the lights I'm not sure that will do it. If there is not a problem with the lights wiring, then that could solve the issue, but what about the hot outlet?
 
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Old 12-07-12, 09:19 AM
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Splitting up the lights would help.....but you still might have an underlying issue.

Is the house copper or aluminum wiring?.....if copper then proceed as follows.

Turn off the breaker at the panel and pull out the bathroom receptacle.

If it is a feed through setup.....there should be 2 black & 2 white wires connected (plus ground)

Look for any obvious heat damage.....check for any loose screws on the wire connections.

If the wires are stabbed in from the back.....change out the receptacle for a new one.

But.....connect the wires using the screws with clockwise loops on the wires.

Mod note: If this is a GFCI receptacle it will be back wired or side wired. Don't confuse that with back stabbed. Back wired or side wired is fine. Just be sure the screws are tight.



.
 

Last edited by ray2047; 12-07-12 at 10:25 AM.
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Old 12-07-12, 09:41 AM
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I am unsure if the wiring is aluminum or copper. The home is of newer construction, built within the last 15 years, so I am assuming it is copper. I am going to make it there this weekend, so I want to have all of my options covered before I go.

Is it possible the wiring may be too light of a gauge?


Thanks for the tip!
 
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Old 12-07-12, 10:23 AM
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In a newer home it's highly unlikely they used undersized wires.

Over-heating can occur anywhere there is a loose connection.

If the bathroom recept. is the feed.....then either the breaker or receptacle should be GFCI

Or......it's also possible the bathroom is fed by a GFCI receptacle somewhere else in the home.

If the bathroom recept. is GFCI and shows signs of heat.....then install a new GFCI receptacle.

Before removal....mark which wires are going to the "Load" and which go to the "Line"

You must connect the wires to the new GFCI receptacle the same way.

And remember.....in the end.....the hair dryer tripping the breaker issue will still be there.




.



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Old 12-07-12, 10:30 AM
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Under current code the bathroom should be on a dedicated 20 amp circuit. Your best solution here is to bring the bathroom up to current code by running a new circuit and leaving the outside receptacles on their current circuit. You simply don't have the capacity to do what you want to do with the existing circuit.
 
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Old 12-07-12, 10:47 AM
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Halton: the current receptacle in the bathroom should certainly be a GFCI. I actually have not seen the bathroom, just been old the symptoms by my family member and have been troubleshooting via the phone. He live about an hour away so I needed to wait until the weekend to go and check it out in person.

Ray: I was told over the phone the circuit for the bathroom is a 15 amp breaker. So I am assuming this is not up to code? There are two outlets on the rear of the home that are "supposedly" on a separate circuit (was told this by same family member) that I could run the lights to, but apparently there are kitchen appliances attached to this same circuit. I'm assuming the only appliance running on that constant should be the refrigerator.

i am just dumbfounded as to why The Christmas lights are heating the outlet in the bathroom. Does this allude to any problem in the Christmas light wiring? I figured if There was a portable breaker connected to an outside GFCI one of owe would trip if there was problems. The outside outlet does not heat up, and i cannot imagine heat conducting that far up the wire. I have run other Christmas displays like this without problems.

you yes have been a big help, thank you
 
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Old 12-07-12, 02:16 PM
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The wife was using a hair dryer in the bathroom at the same time the lights were on and the circuit inside tripped. This leads me to believe the Christmas lights were on the same circuit as they were on when she powered up the hair dryer.

I am led to believe the outlet outside is ran from the outlet in the bathroom.
The bathroom receptacle should be a 20A circuit with GFCI protection, and the outdoor receptacle should also have GFCI protection. It is not uncommon for the GFCI protection for a bathroom and an outside receptacle to be the same.

The breaker outside inline with the lights is not tripping. The breaker inside has only tripped once, and only when the hair dryer came on at the same time. When the outlet got hot just the landscape lights and Christmas lights were on.
Every device that needs GFCI protection should only receive that protection in one location: From a GFCI breaker in the panel, or from the LOAD terminals of a GFCI receptacle or other device upstream (but downstream from the panel), or from the device itself. If, when you say that there is a "breaker outside inline with the lights," you are saying that the outside receptacle is a GFCI receptacle, you need to determine that the GFCI protection is needed there.

If the outside receptacle is a GFCI receptacle that is fed from the LOAD terminals of a GFCI receptacle, then the outside receptacle should be replaced with a standard duplex receptacle made, and designated, for use in a wet location. If it is fed from the LINE terminals of a GFCI receptacle inside, then it needs to be a GFCI receptacle, also made and designated for use in a wet location, with the wires connected to the LINE terminals.

GFCI protection measures the difference between the power "going out" on the ungrounded conductor (the hot wire) and "returning" on the grounded conductor (the neutral wire). If it sees even a small decrease on the neutral relative to the hot, over a period of time that can be as short a one and one-half cycles (about 1/25th of a second) it opens the circuit. Standard circuit breakers protect against thermal overload and have a much longer reaction, or delay, time.

In addition to GFCI protection, all outdoor receptacles need to be protected from the weather by having an in-use cover that keeps rain and runoff from entering the housing even when a cord is plugged into the receptacle. This was rarely done in the past, and is not universally done today. If the outdoor receptacle you are plugging the lights into has only been protected by a "damp location" trap-door cover and it is out where it can get wet, it may be damaged, and need to be replaced.

BTW, 1240W plus 1800W = 3040W. 100% of a 20A circuit is 2400W, and 80% is 1920W. The good news is that the panel breaker opened the circuit.

A final thought: It is more likely that the wires connected to the receptacle in the bathroom are heating up, and not the receptacle itself. You should check to ensure that each conductor is properly terminated there, and have a look for damage from overheating. Darkened or brittle wire insulation is one common result.
 
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Old 12-07-12, 02:54 PM
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Nashkat: when I said breaker inline, I meant portable GFCI, which I have plugged in to the outlet, which would go...

outlet>portable GFCI>3 way adaptor>3 extension cords going to lights

the outlet itself is not a GFCI, which is one of the reasons why I put it there in the first place. If figured it was protected somewhere but wanted to be safe. The outlet does have metal covers over the females.

also nashkat, what did you mean by the numbers below regarding the twenty amp breaker? I am having trouble following that. Unless you were talking about 1800 watts from the hair dryer, which I understand why it tripped.

So at this point, can it be reasonably considered it is not the lights, rather the receptacles/circuitry? If the lights are not the cause, I'd like to eliminate them from the equation, other than the amount of power they pull. And if it isn't the lights, is the only option to remedy that issue to split them up between the existing circuits?

Thanks!
 
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Old 12-07-12, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Nashkat1
Every device that needs GFCI protection should only receive that protection in one location: From a GFCI breaker in the panel, or from the LOAD terminals of a GFCI receptacle or other device upstream (but downstream from the panel), or from the device itself. If, when you say that there is a "breaker outside inline with the lights," you are saying that the outside receptacle is a GFCI receptacle, you need to determine that the GFCI protection is needed there.
Originally Posted by Allitup
when I said breaker inline, I meant portable GFCI, which I have plugged in to the outlet, which would go...

outlet>portable GFCI>3 way adaptor>3 extension cords going to lights

the outlet itself is not a GFCI, which is one of the reasons why I put it there in the first place. If figured it was protected somewhere but wanted to be safe.
Only one GFCI per circuit. Remove the plug-in GFCI. Use a GFCI tester to test for GFCI protection. If this house is less than 30 years old, it should be in place. Find and reset the GFCI. It sounds like it may be in the bathroom.

Yes, 1800W is the draw of many modern hair dryers. Sorry I wasn't clearer about that.

So at this point, can it be reasonably considered it is not the lights, rather the receptacles/circuitry? If the lights are not the cause, I'd like to eliminate them from the equation, other than the amount of power they pull. And if it isn't the lights, is the only option to remedy that issue to split them up between the existing circuits?
At this point, with the unusual behavior at the bathroom GFCI and the homemade extension cords, the only thing I would assume is that further research will be needed.
 
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Old 12-07-12, 06:40 PM
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Couldn't the length of the circuit be playing a role here as well?
 
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Old 12-07-12, 08:25 PM
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Couldn't the length of the circuit be playing a role here as well?
The length of the circuit? Do you mean the length of the lights and cords? Why do you think that whould affect it?
 
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Old 12-08-12, 08:27 AM
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Nashkat: I was under the impression C7 lights were not polarized. I know a few Christmas light installers that use the spt wire with zip plugs without the sockets to get power to small runs. Could a polarity problem between the homemade cords cause that heating up? All of the cords were tested prior to installation and all of the cords have the the corresponding prongs on both sides matching.

I will remove that GFCI and use a tester to see what's up. Is there anything else I should be looking at with the tester? And could two GFIs be causing the heat issue also? Forgive me for not totally keeping up, I am asking a lot of questions to try and understand
 
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Old 12-08-12, 08:56 AM
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The greater the load placed on a circuit the hotter the componenets will get. Any loose or marginal connections will exacerbate teh heat buildup and could lead to a fire.
 
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