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Electrical gurus - GFI quandry

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by stee6043, Jul 6, 2012.

  1. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Does the garage has a dedicated GFI breaker? Turn the garage outlets circuit breaker off, then on and see if that helps. If it trips immediately, a short was introduced with the outlet change.

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  2. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Hah! That is how my old garage was wired. Bloody fool wired the garage through a switch on the wall, from an outlet in the MBR. That threw me for a while. I mean, who in their braindead mind would do that? Oh yah, the same guy that burned a hole in the garage roof charing the rafters and plywood roof deck, and spray painted it to hide it, and then covered it with sheetrock and metal roofing. That garage is no longer, replaced by two accessory buildings built to code.

    Newer stuff is likely not wired through a switch, but I have seen some cheap-azz wiring done to save about ten dollars a house. My house in CA had all copper plumbing except the close nipples were steel on the ends to attach to the sinks, johns and tubs. Bi-metal corrosion set in and 20 years later they were all failing. Maybe saved a dollar each at the time compared to using brass, but add up all that money 'saved' building subdivisions, and it means a trip to Hawaii for Christmas for the plumbing contractor and his wife. Or a guranteed job for Junior when papa is retired from plumbing.
  3. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Depending on the type, your generator panel may have three-position switches for generator mode, regular mode, or off. They are usually wired downwind of the main panel breakers off the black/red wires, or after a bypass switch. Any circuits on them will fail if the switches are set to generator mode when the generator is not running, or if they are set to off mode. Or there may be regular or GFIC breakers in there that tripped (cannot tell from here). Make sure any generator panel breakers/switches are not in generator mode, or tripped (off). Toggle them all to make sure none are tripped or stuck or off.

    I would also be shutting off the mains and pulling the panel covers off by now and seeing if there are any loose wires connected to the breakers. Also test any breakers that are GFIC (with pigtails). They are really expensive though, so unless you have a hot tub circuit of some special reason to have one in a breaker box, they are not likely to be there. They will be marked GFIC and have test buttons on them.
  4. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Good guess. Could be the breaker. I've had them go bad after I tripped them. The only real way to tell is to start figuring out how far the current goes.
  5. Wooden Head

    Wooden Head Member

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    Where are you in West Michigan? I may know someone near that may help.
  6. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Well it is with great sadness and much embarassment that I report this was as initially thought....a silly tripped GFI. This morning as I was getting ready to leave for work I had to go into the laundry room and grab a shirt. Low and behold...a mysterious SEVENTH (yes, 7th) GFI with a bright red shining light was hiding behind a pile of towels on the counter next to the sink. I don't think I ever knew this outlet existed. There is another outlet not 2 feet away from this one, albeit on another wall. During my 83 trips around the house over the weekend I never thought to move anything around on the counter because I had no reason to think there would be another outlet in there. Clearly I don't spend enough time in the laundry room.

    Thanks again for all the great advice and at least giving me a place to vent!!! As usual, hearth.com comes through in fine style.

    At least my Monday has started on a positive note. Thanks again, everyone. Have a great day.
  7. Jack Straw

    Jack Straw Minister of Fire

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    I'm a little sad that's it's over....I'm glad you figured it out though.
  8. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, this was an interesting read! And kudos to stee6043 for manning up and telling us the outcome!
  9. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    Well I'm glad I could provide some entertainment. I refused to believe I could have missed an outlet originally. REFUSED! ha. I can tell you that I will never forgot about that little gem of a GFI outlet from now on.

    I laughed at myself this morning when I saw it. Of course you'd find it when you stop looking for it. And I hadn't even had a cup of coffee yet...
  10. ironpony

    ironpony Minister of Fire

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    had a similar experience at a house we were working on, the basement gfi controlled the outside side outlet only.
    took quite a while to find it.
    I agree a gfi should only control the room it is in.
  11. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    Funny how whatever you're looking for is in the last place you look….:p
  12. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Awesome.
  13. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Well, since you plead guilty to the crime of not finding the missing GFIC outlet...

    I sentence you to going to your circuit breaker panel, and turning off each breaker one at a time and finding out what is off, then LABELING the breaker box circuits with a Sharpie pen. I could also sentence you to adding GFIC stickers to the outlets that are downwind from your GFIC outlets and thus protected but the goons that wired your house circuits, but maybe that would be going too far.
  14. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    I drew a rough sketch of my house, all floors, marking every outlet and switch. I then turned off breaker #1 to see which circuits were dead. I then marked the sketch with #1 at each dead device. I then turned on #1 and turned off #2; repeated as necessary. It took a little while, but then I had a diagram that was very easy to work with. If a switch was marked #3 on the sketch, I knew which breaker fed it at a glance.
    Now I have a device that tells me which breaker a circuit is on.

    Here's a link to one, there are less expensive ones out there: http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/IDEAL-Digital-Circuit-Breaker-Finder-1PA29?Pid=search
  15. stee6043

    stee6043 Minister of Fire

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    A fair and reasonable sentence. To think my home is not even 10 years old and this kind of stuff happens. There are no less than TWO GFI outlets closer to the garage than the one that actually controls it. I'm glad I can laugh about it now but man....I was not happy over the weekend.
  16. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Well, I would bet you are happier than you would have been if you had called an electrician... who would have been happy to have pressed that GFIC reset for you for about $160.
  17. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    The real problem is that new houses should come with an owners manual.

    Maybe old houses should come with a wiki.
  18. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    The real problem is electricians need to use some common sense. I lived in a house that a breaker would turn off an outlet in the living room, one in the kitchen, etc. The microwave, a wall furnace, the fridge and ALL the living room outlets/lights were on one 15 amp circuit!
  19. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Well, I used to think that houses failed as time passed, and living in a new one would be better. Ha! What a myth that was. My last ex and I lived in a new custom stick-built home and that was just one problem after another. I spent 2 years finishing what the contractor should have done (he gave her a refund for the work not done and the sub-standard stuff that she was not happy with, and she agreed not to sue him in exchange for the money). Most houses are built cheaply and many corners are cut to get them up as fast as possible and pass inspection. Of course now I live in a double wide, and this is a tin can on concrete blocks, and thsi place is the definition of cheap. Though it is a HUD approved post 1977 mobile home, so at least it has some better building features compared to earlier MH's, like a real 2x4 perimiter bearing walls. It is still holding up after 30 years, somehow. I bought this place for the land though, and the house was basically free.

    Around here they build most houses with OSB siding and floors over 2x4 or 2x6 wood framing, in the rain. The OSB gets wet, expands and warps by the time the siding or roofing is on it. The green wood used in the walls never dries after they are cut and milled, and they stay wet and are sided and rocked and they rot from the inside out. For that reason they are required to air-dry houses once they are sided and roofed, so they put in fans in there for a week to 10 days to 'dry' them out. However, green lumber does not dry out in a few days. Then they insulate and sheetrock them, and use huge sanders to level the water warped OSB flooring. I have seen this done over and over on $100k to $800k houses here. The only difference is the neighborhood, the lot size and the size of the houses. The $800k houses have large lots, 2 living rooms, larger kitchens, dining rooms and studies, 3 car garages, large vaulted entries, and a maze of rooms in the master bedroom suites with multiple ajoining closets, offices, and bathrooms. But other than that they are built the same as simple 3 BR 2 BA ranch homes. So called "custom". I lived in the most expensive town in Oregon in an old 100 year old house until a few years ago and the houses going up around us were all built like that. The wiring was slapped up as fast as possible with as short a run as possible but at least they use copper (though thinner gauge than I would want). The plumbing now is all done in PEX, for better or worse.

    Anyway, no owners manuals for houses. Maybe Arbor Homes has them, but they are built the cheapest of any builders around here. Most of the builders have long since gone belly up in this economy though. Others have replaced earlier ones on many unfinished housing projects. Many houses built in the boom years are being re-sided or re-roofed, or even re-leveled. I can see my MH being out of level, but it is on blocks. A custom concrete foundation house being 2 inches off level? Who misses that kind of stuff, and who inspected it from the county building office? A water level is all of a gallon juice bottle and a 1/4 inch clear plastic line, and I can easilly get within 1/16th of an inch of level in 100 feet or more. I use that to periodically level this place with, and I used it to rebuild my garage. I tells yah... plumb, square and level do not even exist any more. Never mind good plumbing and wiring, or concrete work. May as well buy a pre-fabed house, or a pre-made stick built home that they cut and fab in a factory and move on site to build with. At least the wood will be dry and the tolerances will be tight. You can get them for fairly cheap too, less than $100k.
  20. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I experienced the drying out framing. First year I was in my new home, they had to redo alot of the drywall job. One room a whole wall was sitting almost 1/2" off the studs. I leaned against it to bend down and the screws popped out all over the place.

    And of course they sent the least experienced "broom operator" to come fix the touch ups, so in the end I had to redo most of the stuff. I've got a few more that have popped up and some cracks, but I just look the other way, I'm sick of trying to get it close to perfect!

    Wiring they botched real bad, ran a #4 aluminum wire from my meter to the panel, protected by a 125 amp breaker. #4 AL is only rated to 75 amps I believe (I don't have the 310.16 table handie)... I found it when I went to wire a welder outlet and thought it was really weird that the wiring for the dryer and range where the same gauge. How the heck does that get screwed up and not noticed. Even a first week sparky should know something that basic!

    Lot of it boils down to "Can't see if from MY house" and the more they can crank out, the more $$ they are paid. You'd be surprised how many people wouldn't notice all sorts of thiings on a house. They are more concerned with the colors of the walls vs the fact that the wall is 3" out of plumb!
  21. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

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    I lived in an apartment once where the cement block firewall for the furnace in the basement was out of plumb. It was about 8' tall, the bottom was on the outside of a lolly column, and the top was fully on the inside of the column. I don't know how it stood long enough for the mortar to dry.
  22. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Yah, building these days is pretty bad. I would invite anyone that wants to buy a place to look at the homes being built next to and around them first. Not that anyone knows anything about building methods, what to look out for and what to avoid.

    #4 AL for a 125 amp service? That is only rated at 60 amps... do not run many appliances at the same time if that us really all that you have to your service panel. Are you sure it is not 4/0 wire? 4/0 would get you 200 amps in AL.
  23. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    No it was #4, it was fixed a few years ago
    StihlHead likes this.
  24. StihlHead

    StihlHead Guest

    Holy Sh**, Batman!
  25. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Our previous house had all the kitchen outlets wired to a single 40amp fuse. Folks with a little knowledge can do some serious dangerous stuff.

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