I hate GFCI's

Discussion in 'Christmas Trees & Seasonal' started by David Gretzmier, Dec 17, 2008.

  1. britelights

    britelights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 91

    It's so nice to know we're not alone with GFCI problems!! While we don't have a ton of customers calling with GFCI problems -- we seem to have 1 or 2 problem children every year. And we also keep cords off the ground, use silicone, etc. My husband went to one of the problem houses last night and sat in front of the house. It was a rainy evening and he had a hunch the pesky GFCI would pop again. Sure enough it did. He was able to track it down to the mini-lights on their small trees -- incandescents. We unplugged those and will be switching them to LED. That particular customer also has blue LED minis on different trees -- no problem. My suggestion -- try to be at one of these problem houses when the GFCI trips...then immediately start tracking it down. You should hopefully be able to narrow it down to one particular product, one tree, etc. Try to keep the house lights on a completely different circuit so at least if the ground stuff trips, the customer can still have the house lights on. That makes 'em feel a little better. We only have this problem at houses where there's stuff on the ground...the houses with just lights on the house and/or starbursts in trees...no GFCI problems.

    Like someone else suggested...I'm dying to switch out GFCI outlets to non-GFCI outlets at problem houses. Is that legal? Do you open yourself to any liability? I would think you would want to get the customer's permission in writing.
  2. turf hokie

    turf hokie LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,753

    Thanks for the suggestions, and fast too everyone.

    Hotrod they are NOT the flexchange, that is what has me, I just figured water was getting into the connections because there are so many on some of these houses.

    We dont tape because it did not help any of the problems in the past and just wasted time.

    britelights, I have done that way too many times, customers appreciate it but dont think it is anything that is beyond the call of duty, unbelievable to be out on a Sunday in a rain storm to figure out a GFCI problem and the customer thinks that I SHOULD be there.
    Anyway, we do the same thing, unplug everything and slowly plug all back in until you find the spot tripping. Then isolate it and fix later, we also try to split the display into sections so that if/when something goes they still have most of their display and dont flip out....

    As far as switching out an GFCI for a NON-GFCI I would NEVER do that for a number of reasons. Building codes require them, I need a seperate town/county license to mess with the electric, and last but not least, heaven forbid somthing happens, even unrelated, I am in a world of hurt because the finger will get pointed at me for changing out the receptacle.

    Today should be our last day of new installs, 11 days til Christmas, let's hope we dont get anymore rain until the 26th. Pray we dont get rain on the 24th or 25th, those are the worst calls EVER....
  3. AI Inc

    AI Inc LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 27,061

    How old are these GFI,s you guys are dealing with? Most seem to only have a lifespan of about 5 yrs.
  4. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,157

    I can understand if the light go out as a result of a faulty string, broken bulbs, ect. but at what point do you put the responsibility on the customer to check this stuff. Ie Customer calls, my lights are not working. you respond No problem I'll come take a look, but there will be a service charge is its something simple like a tripped GFI/breaker.

    FWIW I do a lot of RC boating. and water and electronics really don't mix. but I use a Chemical called corrosion X, I have been able to run servos, receivers, batteries under water with no loss of connection or shorts..

    I've also been using Fluid film on new applications and getting good results.

    might be something worth looking into..
  5. AI Inc

    AI Inc LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 27,061

    Dilectric greese?
  6. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    I hate GFCI issues. I have several properties, that have an old, cracked dangerous looking old plug hidden in a shed somewhere. Those things are awesome ! they never trip. but I have hundreds of brand new state of the art 20 amp GFCI outlets out there that pop all the time. It kills me that it is plenty legal to plug into an old outlet, but not legal to change them out. I have had customers wrap bags around timers, cord connections, taping, siliconing, etc, in an effort to keep them from tripping. I have customers that run a cord into a spare unused bedroom window, and then block the window draft with newspaper. They hate not having their lights on. I actually do the lights at the electric company. and they have 10 GFCI outlets that are worthless in the rain. but they have one old non-gfci plug on the end of the building...

    I will tell you that changing out a GFCI does not endanger the home in any way because of overload or fire, etc. , but it does endanger someone of getting a shock. they are designed for that purpose, keeping someone from even feeling a shock, specifically around water. I have gotten a shock that trips a breaker on a non gfci circuit, and man, that wakes you up.

    You could try switching them out with new 20 amp new gfci's. The new ones seem to be WAY better at not tripping until they trip that first time. after that, not so much. once a GFCI has been reset 10-20 times, spend the 10-15 bucks to replace it. It should be done by a master electrician, but any website in the world will tell you to put the black wire on the "hot" side, the white on the "white" side, and the green on the green ground screw. every GFCI outlet I have seen is labeled.

    again, probably illegal, but those light socket to plug adapters can usually handle 3-500 watts and might just be on a non gfci circuit. for LED jobs, might help...

    but I am not advising anyone to do anything illegal....
  7. britelights

    britelights LawnSite Member
    Messages: 91

    David...so have you switched out GFCIs to brand new GFCIs and then experienced less problems? I'm more than willing to spend the $15-20 if it will help the problem. Even if I have to replace it every year...that's better than service calls!

    I'm in the process of researching brands of GFCIs....is there one better than another? I saw something briefly about a GFCI Panel designed just for hot tubs that is supposed to greatly reduce false tripping. There has to be something we can do!
  8. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,646

    I know the new ones trip less. I know the ones that have the rounded buttons seem to trip more. fultron and red dot seem to trip less, but it is hit and miss. maybe it is just me, but the grey 20 amp may just look more industrial, but I hardly ever reset those. The 20 amp ones are the ones with the sideways "T" on one side of the plug.

    luckily it looks like only one day between now and Christmas Eve with a 30% chance of rain.
  9. rlitman

    rlitman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,763

    Do the GFI's giving you trouble have the correct rain-resistant cover, which stays dry, even with a plug in?

    You should try water repellent dielectric grease on everything. Tape can hold moisture in. Grease will keep it out. I've heard of using WD-40 to dry out electrical connections. That might work for you too.
  10. Toy2

    Toy2 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,924

    My problem GFCI's are located in the garage, I'm going to talk to the homeowner about updating his GFCI's.

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