help with GFCI installation

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  #1  
Old 07-13-13, 09:08 AM
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help with GFCI installation

i'm in the process of installing GFCIs in my bathrooms of my house. i am having issues with one of the GFCIs tripping in our bathroom upstairs.

there are two outlets in the bathroom, on the left and right side of the sink. i am trying to put a GFCI on the right side outlet, the left side outlet is on a separate circuit i have determined (and will probably put one there next so it's protected).

the main part of the bathroom has lights overhead controlled by two 3-way switches, and the toilet closet has a light and a fan. each of these three items are downstream of the GFCI, because when it's tripped none of them work.

my problem is, when i reset the GFCI, the minute i hit one of the two 3-way switches to turn the lights on the GFCI trips again. i can turn the toilet closet light and fan on and off no problem. i verified that i have the GFCI wired properly (load and line in the right spot), i have changed out the two 3-way switches in case one of them was bad, and have put in my GFCI tester and it tells me it's wired properly.

what do i need to look at next?? i am stumped.
 
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  #2  
Old 07-13-13, 09:28 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

You indeed do have issues. The GFI receptacles really shouldn't be running the lights but I'm guessing that was existing and is now almost impossible to change. You could make splices in the junction box so that the GFI receptacle was by itself and the lights and fan were not GFI protected.

If the GFI is ok until you turn on the light that the three ways control......then the problem is most likely the light. What is it.....florescent ? The next step would be to disconnect the light to see if the GFI still trips. If it does......it's in your lighting wiring......if it doesn't..... then it's the light.
 
  #3  
Old 07-13-13, 09:35 AM
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the overhead lights are two potlights over the sink in a bulkhead. each potlight has a 65W floodlamp type bulbs.

how the heck would i disconnect these? get up in the attic and access the potlight housings or something?
 
  #4  
Old 07-13-13, 09:42 AM
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Try just unscrewing them and see what happens first.
 
  #5  
Old 07-13-13, 09:43 AM
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i took the bulbs out and flipping the switch no longer causes the GFCI to trip.

the downstairs bathroom is also wired up this way, meaning the right side GFCI now protects all the overhead lights. guess that is just how they chose to do things.

one thing i forgot to mention, when i was installing the GFCI i noticed that the two ground wires, one from each cable coming into the box, were wrapped together. i didn't recall noticing that on the downstairs bathroom when i installed that GFCI. i connected the wrapped together ground wires to the ground screw on the GFCI (one of them is longer). that wouldn't cause any issues would it??
 
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Old 07-13-13, 09:48 AM
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i noticed that the two ground wires, one from each cable coming into the box, were wrapped together... that wouldn't cause any issues would it?
No, all grounds must always be tied together and if the box is metal to the box.

Since you have determined the recessed lights may be the problem you need to check the connections there. That can be done from below. Remove the trim. If new work installs you may see screws near the bottom holding them. If old work there may be tabs.

 
  #7  
Old 07-13-13, 09:55 AM
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ok, good. the box is nonmetal.
 
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Old 07-13-13, 10:22 AM
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ok, i'll see if i can figure anything out with the lights.

what's a little nerve racking is, everything was working fine before i tried to change anything out. which makes me wonder if there was a short somewhere i just never knew about, but now the GFCI is alerting me to.

another odd thing i discovered which may not be relevant...so just for grins i disconnected the left side outlet and turned the power back on. this time, when i put a bulb in the overhead light nothing came on, but the GFCI did not trip either. also, i noticed that only three wires in the box were connected to the left side outlet. one of the black hot wires was unstripped and not connected. the outlet did work fine though (both plugs).

so, i went ahead and connected all 4 wires to the left side outlet, turned power on, and the same original problem is back.

now even more confused
 
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Old 07-13-13, 10:38 AM
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makes me wonder if there was a short somewhere i just never knew about
A short would have been tripping the circuit breaker all along, a GFCI receptacle trips on an imbalance in current, not a short. Most likely you have a ground and grounded neutral conductor touching somewhere downstream of the GFCI outlet, maybe at a light fixture. I would go to the GFCI outlet that is tripping and pigtail the black wires and the white wires, then attach one black wire and one white wire to the LINE terminals on the GFCI outlet.

i noticed that the two ground wires, one from each cable coming into the box, were wrapped together.
These ground wires should not be simply wrapped together, but should have a wire nut securing them. The ground wires should then be attached to the green ground screw on the GFCI outlet.
 

Last edited by pcboss; 07-13-13 at 06:53 PM. Reason: line was load
  #10  
Old 07-13-13, 10:47 AM
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gotcha. i can address the proper connection of ground wires once i get this thing figured out.

what would pigtailing the blacks and whites do for me?
 
  #11  
Old 07-13-13, 11:38 AM
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well, i pulled the trim off the lights and pulled the bulb holder down. i didn't see anything obvious wrong with the wires on either light. nothing loose or any chafing or anything. i went up into the attic and unfortunately where the damn things are located are in the most inaccessible part possible of the attic. one of the lights is literally under the furnace which makes it next to impossible to get to.

where should i go from here? thanks for all the tips thus far, sorry for flooding the forum with posts lol.
 
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Old 07-13-13, 11:59 AM
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Once you drop the can.....you can access the junction box cover. There is a cover on each side of the junction box. The fixtures were designed to be completely accessible to work on from the attic or thru the ceiling.

Don't be sorry.... we're here to help.
 
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Old 07-13-13, 11:59 AM
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With the fixtures dangling, the junction box open, and wires connected but pulled out and well separated reinstall a bulb in one fixture and test. If that fixture works without tripping repeat with the second fixture. If no tripping carefully fold the wires back into one of the junction boxes. If no trip repeat with the second box.

where the [darn] things are located are in the most inaccessible part possible of the attic
You already have full access from below.
 
  #14  
Old 07-13-13, 12:11 PM
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ok. didn't realize i could get to the junction box from below as well. ill try this and see where it gets me.
 
  #15  
Old 07-13-13, 01:10 PM
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welp, i tried pulling the wires out of one junction box and putting a bulb in but no dice. still have the same problem. the only problem was that i couldn't get to the box for the second light that is under the furnace. for whatever reason the metal conduit shielding the wires from the box to the light isn't very long, and i can't pull the can out enough to dangle it and access the junction. i tried like heck but i think somehow it'll have to be reached from above.

is it worth giving up at this point and putting a non GFCI outlet back in place here? is whatever the cause of the trip a hazard i need to resolve?
 
  #16  
Old 07-13-13, 05:49 PM
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is it worth giving up at this point and putting a non GFCI outlet back in place here? is whatever the cause of the trip a hazard i need to resolve?
I would try to resolve the issue if you can find it, but if you cannot locate it, do not put a non GFI outlet back in.

what would pigtailing the blacks and whites do for me?
The way you installed the GFCI receptacle, you are protecting not just the receptacle, but everything else downstream on the circuit as well. If you pigtail the wires and only connect them to the LINE terminals, only that receptacle will be GFCI protected. The downstream loads, lights, etc, will be just powered from the breaker as before without GFCI protection which isn't required anyway.


In post #9, I stated the following:

I would go to the GFCI outlet that is tripping and pigtail the black wires and the white wires, then attach one black wire and one white wire to the LOAD terminals on the GFCI outlet.
I was thinking LINE and typed LOAD. I had intended to say you should connect that one GFCI device to the LINE terminals only so that the downstream lights, etc. would not be GFCI protected. That apparently is where your problem is. Did I muddy the water?

The post above was changed to reflect the typo
 

Last edited by pcboss; 07-13-13 at 06:55 PM. Reason: added note
  #17  
Old 07-13-13, 06:06 PM
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nope, i follow you. i went to the store tonight and got some extra wire to make pigtails, but the wife started baking so i had to quit killing power to the house (breakers not labeled at the moment - that's a project for another day).

i'll report back tomorrow after i pigtail it up and see what happens.
 
  #18  
Old 07-14-13, 10:09 AM
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hallelujah, the pigtails worked! everything works back to normal now. although the engineer in me hates not figuring out why it wouldn't work the other way, at least i gave it the ol college try.

thanks for the tips guys. this forum is great.
 
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