How to diagnose intermittent tripping of GFCI breaker


J

JJ

we have a GFCI breaker in our breaker box. On that circuit are the
lights and outlets in two bathrooms and the garage door opener. I'm
not sure if anything else is on the circuit.

Intermittently, the breaker has been tripping (usually in the middle
of the night or when we are at work during the day). When I reset the
breaker, it stays on. This has recently been happening on a frequency
of between twice per day to once every few days. At night we have a
night light on in one bathroom, but during day I can't think of
anything on this circuit that would be drawing a current

One time it tripped when I was actually at home, and I found that when
I tried to reset the breaker that it would immediately (within a
second or two) trip again - but after about 10 minutes I was able to
reset it and it stayed.

I'm not sure how to diagnose the cause of this problem if whatever is
causing the short will not stay shorted.

There used to be two outdoor outlets on the circuit - but I discovered
that whenever we had a hard rain, moisture would get into those boxes
(which were no longer well sealed) and cause the breaker to trip - it
could not be reset until the moisture was gone. Those outlets have
since been removed, so are not the cause of the current problem.

Also, this has been happening recently during a period of bone-dry
weather.

Any help on how to diagnose this problem and resolve it greatly
appreciated.

Thanks.

-J
 
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M

Metspitzer

we have a GFCI breaker in our breaker box. On that circuit are the
lights and outlets in two bathrooms and the garage door opener. I'm
not sure if anything else is on the circuit.

Intermittently, the breaker has been tripping (usually in the middle
of the night or when we are at work during the day). When I reset the
breaker, it stays on. This has recently been happening on a frequency
of between twice per day to once every few days. At night we have a
night light on in one bathroom, but during day I can't think of
anything on this circuit that would be drawing a current

One time it tripped when I was actually at home, and I found that when
I tried to reset the breaker that it would immediately (within a
second or two) trip again - but after about 10 minutes I was able to
reset it and it stayed.

I'm not sure how to diagnose the cause of this problem if whatever is
causing the short will not stay shorted.

There used to be two outdoor outlets on the circuit - but I discovered
that whenever we had a hard rain, moisture would get into those boxes
(which were no longer well sealed) and cause the breaker to trip - it
could not be reset until the moisture was gone. Those outlets have
since been removed, so are not the cause of the current problem.

Also, this has been happening recently during a period of bone-dry
weather.

Any help on how to diagnose this problem and resolve it greatly
appreciated.

Thanks.

-J
Mice can be the cause.

Without a megohm meter, the best way to go is to split the circuit in
two. Open a box and disconnect half of the outlets. If the problem
stops, then it is farther down the line. If it persists, the problem
is up the line.

With the breaker tripped it is pretty easy to figure what is on the
circuit.

It could be that the breaker is going bad. If you have two GFI
breakers in the box you can switch the circuits. This will tell you
if it is the breaker or the wiring.
 
B

Bill

"JJ" wrote in message
we have a GFCI breaker in our breaker box. On that circuit are the
lights and outlets in two bathrooms and the garage door opener. I'm
not sure if anything else is on the circuit.
Start with the easy stuff. For example unplug the garage door opener.
Wait a day. Maybe you will be lucky and that is it.

If that is not it, next day unplug everything from the bathroom
outlets. If that is it, plug one thing back in per day. When it starts
tripping again, the last thing you plugged in is the faulty appliance.

If that does not do it, then time to start disconnecting things.
 
R

RBM

we have a GFCI breaker in our breaker box. On that circuit are the
lights and outlets in two bathrooms and the garage door opener. I'm
not sure if anything else is on the circuit.

Intermittently, the breaker has been tripping (usually in the middle
of the night or when we are at work during the day). When I reset the
breaker, it stays on. This has recently been happening on a frequency
of between twice per day to once every few days. At night we have a
night light on in one bathroom, but during day I can't think of
anything on this circuit that would be drawing a current

One time it tripped when I was actually at home, and I found that when
I tried to reset the breaker that it would immediately (within a
second or two) trip again - but after about 10 minutes I was able to
reset it and it stayed.

I'm not sure how to diagnose the cause of this problem if whatever is
causing the short will not stay shorted.

There used to be two outdoor outlets on the circuit - but I discovered
that whenever we had a hard rain, moisture would get into those boxes
(which were no longer well sealed) and cause the breaker to trip - it
could not be reset until the moisture was gone. Those outlets have
since been removed, so are not the cause of the current problem.

Also, this has been happening recently during a period of bone-dry
weather.

Any help on how to diagnose this problem and resolve it greatly
appreciated.

Thanks.

-J
That sounds like a strange setup. It sounds like something that was done
in the late 70's early 80's. I would kill the breaker and determine what
receptacle outlets are on that circuit, paying special attention to
outside outlets, basement outlets, garage outlets and bathroom outlets.
Once you determine what's on the circuit, I would replace the breaker
with a standard breaker, and install GFCI receptacles in all the
locations where they are currently required. This would include the
bathroom outlets, but only the receptacles, not the lights, outside
receptacles, basement, and all garage receptacles, that were on that
circuit. Once that's done, it'll be clear where the problem is,or was.
 
B

Bob

we have a GFCI breaker in our breaker box. On that circuit are the
lights and outlets in two bathrooms and the garage door opener. I'm
not sure if anything else is on the circuit.

Intermittently, the breaker has been tripping (usually in the middle
of the night or when we are at work during the day)...
I had a similar problem with a GFCI breaker in an outdoor panel. As far
as I know, ants were the culprit. No problem after I sprayed bug killer
on the breaker panel. The house was built in 1980, when GFCIs were
first required and expensive. If the problem persists, you may want to
consider replacing the breaker with a standard one and replace outlet(s)
on the circuit with GFCI outlets to offer continued safety. Multiple
GFCIs will also also save you from having dead outlets in the bathrooms
just because an exterior outlet got wet from rain.
--
 
J

JJ

That sounds like a strange setup. It sounds like something that was done
in the late 70's early 80's.
Good deduction. The house was built in '77.

Thanks for all the replies.

It occurred to me that the garage outlets are also on the circuit and
the problem could be there too.

One difficulty with unplugging stuff (not much stuff actually plugged
in to the affected outlets) and waiting is that that can only tell you
what is not the problem - if it circuit trips with a device unplugged,
you know that device it's not the culprit (unless there is more than
one culprit). Waiting a day or two with a device unplugged may not be
long enough to establish the device as the culprit - sometimes the
circuit can trip just a few hours, but sometimes it will be fine for
several days.

Perhaps I will go ahead and replace the breaker with a standard
breaker and replace all the outlets with GFCI outlets. One problem is
that one bathroom has a light fixture with an integrated outlet (for
shavers). I guess I could just disconnect the outlet on that fixture
though (it never gets used anyway).

Mice and ants were mentioned as possible culprits. I'm not sure how
you mean? I could see mice chewing through wiring and leaving wires
exposed - which could then short - but wouldn't that be more of a
continuous problem? Can ants chew through wiring to? Or is there
another way these pests could be causing a short?

Thanks.

-J
 
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J

JIMMIE

we have a GFCI breaker in our breaker box.  On that circuit are the
lights and outlets in two bathrooms and the garage door opener.  I'm
not sure if anything else is on the circuit.

Intermittently, the breaker has been tripping (usually in the middle
of the night or when we are at work during the day).  When I reset the
breaker, it stays on.  This has recently been happening on a frequency
of between twice per day to once every few days.  At night we have a
night light on in one bathroom, but during day I can't think of
anything on this circuit that would be drawing a current

One time it tripped when I was actually at home, and I found that when
I tried to reset the breaker that it would immediately (within a
second or two) trip again - but after about 10 minutes I was able to
reset it and it stayed.

I'm not sure how to diagnose the cause of this problem if whatever is
causing the short will not stay shorted.

There used to be two outdoor outlets on the circuit - but I discovered
that whenever we had a hard rain, moisture would get into those boxes
(which were no longer well sealed) and cause the breaker to trip - it
could not be reset until the moisture was gone.  Those outlets have
since been removed, so are not the cause of the current problem.

Also, this has been happening recently during a period of bone-dry
weather.

Any help on how to diagnose this problem and resolve it greatly
appreciated.

Thanks.

-J
My house was wired the same way with a 15amp GFCI breaker.. If wife
and daughter were both using their blow dryers it would trip the
breaker every time. I replaced the 15 amp GFCI breaker with a 20 NON
GFCI unit. Installed GFCI outlets in the bathrooms and put the garage
on a separate circuit with a 20 A GFCI breaker. Used the old 15 A GFCI
to run a circuit for the freezer in the garage about a year later as
it was causing trip when I used my power saws.

Jimmie
 
R

RBM

Good deduction. The house was built in '77.

Thanks for all the replies.

It occurred to me that the garage outlets are also on the circuit and
the problem could be there too.

One difficulty with unplugging stuff (not much stuff actually plugged
in to the affected outlets) and waiting is that that can only tell you
what is not the problem - if it circuit trips with a device unplugged,
you know that device it's not the culprit (unless there is more than
one culprit). Waiting a day or two with a device unplugged may not be
long enough to establish the device as the culprit - sometimes the
circuit can trip just a few hours, but sometimes it will be fine for
several days.

Perhaps I will go ahead and replace the breaker with a standard
breaker and replace all the outlets with GFCI outlets. One problem is
that one bathroom has a light fixture with an integrated outlet (for
shavers). I guess I could just disconnect the outlet on that fixture
though (it never gets used anyway).

Mice and ants were mentioned as possible culprits. I'm not sure how
you mean? I could see mice chewing through wiring and leaving wires
exposed - which could then short - but wouldn't that be more of a
continuous problem? Can ants chew through wiring to? Or is there
another way these pests could be causing a short?

Thanks.

-J
I've had to replace GFCI outlets at swimming pools, where tiny ants
literally crawl inside the device and nest. Ultimately it destroys the
device
 
R

RBM

My house was wired the same way with a 15amp GFCI breaker.. If wife
and daughter were both using their blow dryers it would trip the
breaker every time. I replaced the 15 amp GFCI breaker with a 20 NON
GFCI unit. Installed GFCI outlets in the bathrooms and put the garage
on a separate circuit with a 20 A GFCI breaker. Used the old 15 A GFCI
to run a circuit for the freezer in the garage about a year later as
it was causing trip when I used my power saws.

Jimmie
You don't want to replace a 15 amp (gfci) breaker with a 20 amp breaker,
unless the wire is 12 gauge.
 
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J

JJ

That sounds like a strange setup. It sounds like something that was done
in the late 70's early 80's.
Good deduction. The house was built in '77.

Thanks for all the replies.

It occurred to me that the garage outlets are also on the circuit and
the problem could be there too.

One difficulty with unplugging stuff (not much stuff actually plugged
in
to the affected outlets) and waiting is that that can only tell you
what
is not the problem - if it circuit trips with a device unplugged, you
know that device it's not the culprit (unless there is more than one
culprit). Waiting a day or two with a device unplugged may not be
long
enough to establish the device as the culprit - sometimes the circuit
can trip just a few hours, but sometimes it will be fine for several
days.

Perhaps I will go ahead and replace the breaker with a standard
breaker
and replace all the outlets with GFCI outlets. One problem is that
one
bathroom has a light fixture with an integrated outlet (for shavers).
I
guess I could just disconnect the outlet on that fixture though (it
never gets used anyway).

Mice and ants were mentioned as possible culprits. I'm not sure how
you
mean? I could see mice chewing through wiring and leaving wires
exposed
- which could then short - but wouldn't that be more of a continuous
problem? Can ants chew through wiring to? Or is there another way
these pests could be causing a short?

Thanks.

-J
 

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