View Full Version : popping breaker at panel

09-13-2007, 09:55 PM
We did an install 2 months ago. Home was prewired for an outlet out front and the guys put in a GFCI for landscape lighting. I installed a single 600w kichler trans. Also wired on the same breaker are the porch (single coach light) and the foyer light.

2 days ago I added 100w to the system and its now drawing a total of 3.9a on the primary loop. Well within specs.

Landscapers tilled an area 2 weeks ago and resodded due to grubs. They tilled in an area i have a 10ga but the system has been performing fine.

Tonight I got an email saying my system is causing the breaker in the home to trip when it rains hard. They could not get the breaker to stay on unless they cut off my system.

Now i thought if there was a short (im thinking nicked wire when it rains it shorts) it would cause my secondary in the trans to trip or the gfci to pop before the breaker inside blew unless the main breaker is overloaded which it shouldnt be.

Any ideas short of pulling up all the wires trying to find this intermittant short ?

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
09-13-2007, 10:16 PM
Billy.... How old are the breakers in the house? Sometimes, with age and use, breakers will wear out. I would start with replacing the breaker.

Also, you might want to install a GFI Breaker and get away from the often problematic GFI receptacles. Be prepared for a bit of dough though.

If the breaker is not the problem, I would suggest that perhaps the landscapers have disturbed an un-seen line voltage wire in the landscape. When it rains and water fills the cut jacket, it could cause a short to the breaker. This doesnt however answer why the breaker stays on when your transformer is unplugged.

Perhaps a faulty transformer?

Good luck.

09-13-2007, 10:17 PM
My thoughts are this: Really doubtful that it is a secondary wiring problem. That would prompt the secondary circuit breaker to trip as you all ready know and stated. First thought would be to check the breaker in the panel when everything is turned on and see what your amperage reading is since it was working fine before you added an extra 100 watts. Second thought would be to make sure there is not any wiring problems at the GCFI breaker. Maybe a bad connection or a nick behind the scenes. I have seen that happen before. Third thought, it could be a bad GCFI. And lastly, the breaker in the panel could be bad.

09-13-2007, 10:25 PM
but internal problems dont answer why it only happens when it rains.

I just spoke to the landscaper who is a friend of mine and he says they found the line when tilling but doesnt think he knicked it. Im sure its rained since before my addition (5 ft of wire and 2 lights) so I am going to start by pulling that up and looking for visual clues.

The prob very well could be in the GFCI outlet. I doubt its a faulty trans because it performs fine then when rain comes it trips the breaker inside.

the fact my secondarys aint tripping tossed me for a loop.

The house is about 2-3 years old. Brand new still. Something in my system or the outside outlet has to be causing that breaker to pop when its wet!

David Gretzmier
09-13-2007, 11:49 PM
If the breaker does not pop when your trans is unplugged...then the only reason it would not be the trans is if anything at a similar load would pop the breaker. try a circular saw, they pull tons of amps. If that does not pop the breaker, your trans is the problem.

A way to test that is to get a good extension cord and run the trans power to another gfci outlet on a different circuit, maybe in the garage. If it pops, then you have a trans that has a short. have you tried the trans with the main wires off but the trans on( unloaded? )? does it still pop? then it is an internal trans problem. If not, If you have run multiple wires into the trans you could add them back until it pops, or connect main and go to a hub and cut off runs one at a time until it does not. the secondaries may be fused on and unable to pop off. I've seen that at least once before. good luck.

09-14-2007, 12:05 AM
Sounds like the GFCI is getting wet from splash- which will trip it instantly. If it's not getting wet or damp, somewhere there is a ground fault, which could also be in the design of the transformer your using.

Chris J
09-14-2007, 12:17 AM
The hassle with this type of problem is that you can't go through a simple "process of elimination". It has to rain hard for the problem to exist, therefore, anything he trys, he has to wait for the hard rain to determine if it works. This could take forever, not to mention piss the customer off in the meantime.
Good luck Billy. This one is strange, but as I said in my email to you I think it the problem will be found in the watertight integrity of the J-box. Let us know what you find.

09-14-2007, 12:55 AM
Hey Billy, I ran into the same problem about 3 months ago. The GFCI would constantly pop. I thought the landscapers nicked the wire through the grass so I hooked up my ground fault locater to the wires trying to find the nick in the line, but I had no ground strikes. The only thing left was to replace the GFCI recepticle on the house in a watertight box. Sure enough, It was just weak and kept trippin the breaker. Brand new house, 6 months old. I would check that first.

pete scalia
09-14-2007, 01:43 AM
a nicked low voltage wire is not going to cause a gfi to trip. water is getting into the gfi, it's only a consequence that your transformer is plugged into it. If it was something else it would still do the same thing

09-14-2007, 11:00 AM
You should make sure you have HACR rated breakers. They hold up better for what we do becuase of the inrush (not that this is your problem). It sounds like you could have a neutral problem but wierd it only pops when it is raining.

When it comes to GFI's, they can get weak with time, once they pop and then pop again they start to weaken and become more sensative.

09-14-2007, 05:49 PM
I also think it's the gfi outlet that is bad...probably is allowing water to get in the outlet when it rains.

I recently had a brand new gfi outlet put in and the thing kept popping the breaker only a couple weeks later. Turned out to be the outlet itself.

I'd replace the outlet, then take a spray bottle on a mist setting and get the area damp like rainfall would to test it.

09-14-2007, 09:55 PM
ok i located the issue today after 10 whole whopping min of trouble shooting.

Most of you missed... the GFCI was NOT popping it was the breaker at the panel in the home that was tripping.

As soon as I opened the in use cover I instantly smelled something cooked medium well. Since the power was off I removed the outlet and peeked inside. The wires where they entered the stucco were cooked to a crisp and had shorted from hot to ground thus tripping the breaker and not my secondary or the GFCI

It was just a coincidence my system had just been expanded I think because it was pretty wet out today and I took a reading.. 3.78 amps running off an extension cord.. all is well. I even peeled back the sod and yanked my 10ga up to verify nothing had happened and also pulled up the wires in areas I had just expanded on. I saw no shorts... no shunts and no loss of integrity in my system at all.

Does anyone think I could still have a bad trans or can everyone agree a nicked linevoltage wire where the romex prewire came out of the wall could cause my problems. I saw no signs of water in the j box. The homeowner will call the electrician who wired the home to have them repair the issue. I really think the masons jeapordized the romex.

If anyone with more experience than me can still honestly say that i got a faulty trans that overheated the romex I will replace the trans. I removed the timer and left the secondarys off and unplugged it so I will have to go back to restart the system.

I wasnt able to amp probe the breaker panel but asked that the electrician do that. I know there is a foyer light and a coach light on the same breaker. I think the bathroom light in the hall is as well and he needs to correct this somehow or install me a new outlet elsewhere and I will relocate my trans for a nominal fee.

09-14-2007, 10:16 PM
Good job Billy!! NEC states that any wire that is going through a wall must be in conduit. This is the electricians issue, not the mason.

09-15-2007, 12:15 AM
yeah i just thought about that after the fact and now we know why.

The electricians just stubbed it out like you would thru sheet rock... there is no J box in the wall or anything. The J box was surface mounted over the romex hanging out from the stucco. UGH!

Hope they get it back on soon. With the moonlights added and 2 fixtures moved this house looks stunning thru the woods at night.

Anyways... Good to still be able to say I have never had a system fail :) Glad I stopped to think and ask advice before I jumped right in on this. Ash was kind enough to get a lil muddy with me today and check the 10ga runs.

David Gretzmier
09-15-2007, 01:12 AM
glad you found the problem. 10 minutes is certainly better than 10 hours.

09-15-2007, 04:48 PM
I dont think you have to worry about the fault being your trans. It is obvious the fault is their melted wire causing it. There are many many customers out there that find any reason to blame there faults on thinking they are professional troubleshooters in the electrical industry. It could of trip back on them a dozen times and if it rained one time then they think they found the reason. No worries.:clapping:

09-15-2007, 10:46 PM
Second thought would be to make sure there is not any wiring problems at the GCFI breaker. Maybe a bad connection or a nick behind the scenes. I have seen that happen before. Glad you found it.

Chris J
09-15-2007, 10:54 PM
Can I at least say I won the contest because I told you to go straight to the J-box?

09-18-2007, 04:57 PM
THAT'S RIGHT!:clapping:

09-18-2007, 07:53 PM
sure chris you win. Now come join Burt... Paul G and I for a fishing trip this fall. Im researching charters this week... will be gulf coast someplace.

I refused to leave my system active so they could just plug it back in. I removed the timer and all and taped up the plugs so they wouldnt get moisture in em.

Its not a GFCI breaker either CC... Its a HM breaker. Its out of my hands til its repaired properly. Client is in no way mad at us and happy I wont charge them to return to set the system back online.

I think what really happened is the redneck electricians stripped the jacket off the romex with a razor and nicked the jacket on the hot wire.