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popping breaker at panel

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by Pro-Scapes, Sep 13, 2007.

  1. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    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 ?
  2. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,102

    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.
  3. ccfree

    ccfree LawnSite Member
    Posts: 100

    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.
  4. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,181

    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!
  5. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,645

    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.
  6. ChampionLS

    ChampionLS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,066

    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.
  7. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,830

    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.
  8. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,113

    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.
  9. pete scalia

    pete scalia LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 960

    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
  10. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,933

    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.

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