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Water and Lights (and Mr. Christmas)


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I need help. I guess that water is getting to my plugs again! (although we have staked them up - etc.) If I got electrical tape and dried everything off and then staked them back up (although they may fall off in the wind) will it be ok and not keep tripping my GFI??

Thank you in advance - and to make matters worse - the news may be in my direction tonight but it was too dang cold and wet outside to fix them tonight.

I'm determined to have the show running for this weekend (even if that means going and buying some waterproof boxes to put them in!!)

Any advice would be helpful.

Randi

P.S. What do you other Washingtonian's do? (especially on the West side!)

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Randi wrote:

I need help. I guess that water is getting to my plugs again! (although we have staked them up - etc.) If I got electrical tape and dried everything off and then staked them back up (although they may fall off in the wind) will it be OK and not keep tripping my GFI??

Thank you in advance - and to make matters worse - the news may be in my direction tonight but it was too dang cold and wet outside to fix them tonight.

I'm determined to have the show running for this weekend (even if that means going and buying some waterproof boxes to put them in!!)

Any advice would be helpful.

Randi

P.S. What do you other Washingtonian's do? (especially on the West side!)

Randi,

Make sure your amps are OK.

When the GFI pops, go outside and start trouble shooting to find out what is causing the problem. I dry each plug off(if it is not raining). Unplug items and start plugging them back in until you find the problem. Usually, it is one or two strings. Replace them or look for broken bulbs.

Sometimes I have to leave a few items unplugged and run rest of the show.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Michael B

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Ihave started using press and seal wrap.I sandwich the plugs and wires between two sheets press it together around everything, then roll it up and twist tie it in place. So far it works flawlessly. A can of ‘dust-off’ or a small compressor (for blowing out computer keyboards etc) works well for blowing water out of connections when things do get wet. In COLD climates the dust-off can sometimes stop working if the can gets too cold. Just make sure your power is off when you’re messing with the wet plugs! Pleas remember that electricity takes ALL PATHS to ground not just the easiest. GFCI’s are great safety gadgets, but they’re not perfect. Have a safe and wonderful Christmas.

Jim

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Hay randiI thought about thatalotwhenI bought my lights, Iwent for commercial grade LED all the connection screw together with covers so water cant get in so far now one blow gfi from the LED's but i have had to undo my fencing a couple of times as it is still the old stil mini's and with the weather we have had up hear over the last month i was glad to have paid the extra. hope all is well were you are and you power is back. i think i may have up set a couple of Neighbors when the power was out. we had our house build with a generator back up instaled so we had power and christmas light for the 2 days our neighbors did not

happy holidays

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Because of all the rain we've had the last 2 months my husband went ahead and wrapped all connections in plastic baggies, securing it all with electrical tape. Since more rain is expected for Christmas Eve and we definitely want the lights to stay on that night we'll be out tomorrow, making sure all plugs are wrapped properly and are sitting high enough off the ground.

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Way too many for me to wrap up. LAst year I tried that trick - If you wrap the plugs, it creates moister that never dries.

I have close to 100 plugs, if not more, I will be experimenting in '2007.

So John, what did you do? Did your display this year, ever NOT run because of rain? I am fed up to my eye balls in my show not working because of the rain - what have you done - if you haven't wrapped the plugs.

Randi

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Last night was the third night I had to shut dowm the display due to rain. I went around on Sunday anc bagged all my connections, I thought that was the problem. Well, I was wrong. All the connections are bone dry. The problem appears to be a cummulative effect when most of the display is on. There is not any single item that trips the GFCI. The GFCI trips after I turn on a bunch of channels together. It appears as though my mini trees and real trees that have the trunks wrapped are causing the problems. Everything else was on static all night with no problems. But once I started to add a few mini trees and someof the real trees the GFCI would trip every time. I felt really bad as there were people lining up tio see the show. I think it just is something I have to deal with when it is pouring out. Maybe it has to do with the uncoated metal frames of the mini trees leaking voltage to the ground. Maybe the real trees bark is so wet that there is a voltage leak there too. I am at a loss here.

I feel your pain Randi,

Brian

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It is a cumulative effect, big time that causes most of our GFCIs to trip. It's usually more than one string of lights causing it.

Also, be sure you don't have any burnt out bulbs, those often cause noise in the line which can trigger GFCIs as well. So go around and replace all your burnt out lights.

Try not to let lights stay on the wet ground, or where water drains into them.

Remember, GFCIs will trip with only a 40-50 mA difference between the hot side and the neutral side. This leaves us with very little margin, and any minor issues in a large dynmaic system, especially one with a switching LOR controller, can cause failures real quick.

So you'll often see as I do on my setup, that you can cover all your connections until the cows come home, but it's the cumulative affects of water seeping into all areas of your system likethe bulbs that trips it.

Last night my LOR controllers were were causing my GFCIs to trip. It tried unplugiing one of the 16 circuits at a time trying to isolate, but that did not isolate, so I eventually tried doing groups of 4, which I finally root caused to be channels 9,11, and 12. So it's the effects of mulitple channels causing the interreupt to trip.

Now I know to check the LED snow flakes on the roof, probably have 2 power connection hubsof extension cables up there that can be covered up. It can't be the LED rope light snowflakes themselves, they are sealed.

Also, both my palm trees LED net lights are causing it too channel 11 and channel12, so I'll try to tape them up where each net connects to the next up the trees.

Of course if it still trips the GFCI, then we know it's seeping into the ligtht sockets, ever so minute, not enough to blow a light string fuse, but enough to change the current load to trip the overly sensitive GFCI.

Wish there was a way to cut that sensitivity in half.

BTW, if you drive by neighborhoods with their Christmas lights still on, it's because they live in older houses built before the GFCI electrical codes took effect, or they are doing it illegally.

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jeffostroff wrote:

BTW, if you drive by neighborhoods with their Christmas lights still on, it's because they live in older houses built before the GFCI electrical codes took effect, or they are doing it illegally.

I don't think you can justify a blanket statement like that. It is not necessarily the case. At my parent's house my Dad used several (indoor type) power strips, did not cover any connections, and everything is still running (through GFCIs) after 2 days of rain. The only thing that acted up was one of those remote control on/off switches. He couldn't get it to work so I plugged that cord directly into the (GFCI) outlet and everything worked. The GFCIs never tripped. BTW, this house was built prior to GFCIs being required on the outdoor outletsbut they have been replaced with GFCI outlets.

Now let me float a theory out there for everyone to kick around. Maybe if a circuit is loaded past a particular point it is more likely that the GFCIs will trip. For example maybe if a circuit is loaded to more than 15%of it's capacity then the GFCI will trip more easily. I'm just thinking this could be it since my Dad does not have his loaded very heavily.

TED

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Randi wrote:

So John, what did you do? Did your display this year, ever NOT run because of rain? I am fed up to my eye balls in my show not working because of the rain - what have you done - if you haven't wrapped the plugs.

Randi

Do like telephone, cable, and electric companies do, they have had hundred years of experience keeping water out of electrical connections.

NEVER seal tight, but for connections, lift up above splash back and "hood" it with something acting like an umbrella but dont close up plastic or whatever you use to hood the connections. I dont think hoods, umbrellas, buckets are really needed as long as you set up connections so that water runs "away" from connections. 99% of the time, if you have your connections with gravity pulling water away from connections,your problems will be primarily with faults in the lights, light sockets or broken bulbs. The connections viaedison cords are very rarely the problem. OK in my display I have 1000 edisonplugs, but also 100,000 light bulb sockets. The odds are in the light bulbs being at fault. Every 100 string of lights hasonly 2 edison sockets at each end but 100 sockets as well. Usually strings strunk horizontally will be a non-issue if they are suspended properly above the ground. A suspended string COULD have a electrical leak but if water drips off and doesntcomplete a circuit to the earth, it wont trip thebreaker. Lights suspended vertically are another story, these are often a problem, specially verticallywrapped around tree trunks because water runs down the cord into edison connection, or water streams running down the bark of the tree floods over individual sockets and the tree itself provides an earth ground.

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Joseph:

Also with GFCI, your problem is not a case of shorting from your light strings to ground, the problem is the current fromone conductor of your light string making circuit to the other conductor, like when water gets inside the bulb sockets and forms a conductive path. The GFCI's purpose is to detect the incidence of possible current flowing through a human who is standing in the rain touching a powered up electrical appliance.

In a normal electrical circuit, the hot side and neutral side form a current loop, which means current must be the same through all parts in a loop according to Kirkoff's Law. So what would change the current in a loop member? A human standing there providing another path to ground, which interrupts that current, meaning the same current no longer flows from hot to neutral. This is the job of a GFCI to trip and prevent any more current flowing. Some GFCIs are sensitive to arcing from light bulbs, and in severe cases, interference from certain cell phones and 2 way radios.

Your fuse box’s job is not to care about difference of current in the loop, it cares about too much current in general, and trips open to prevent wires inside your walls from overheating like an oven coil and starting a fire.

This happens in the rain for example, say you have the end of your light string hanging down so water does not enter the plug holes. Only problem is now water gets in the other side of the plug on light string side, where the 2 green wires enter the connector. The water can cause a low resistance short from HOT to NEUTRAL, not from hot to ground. This then triggers the GFCI, as it is looking for a difference in current flow from the hot side wire to the neutral wire. GFCIs are not looking for hard shorts, those are covered by the fuse box.

Ted's dad probably got lucky because his GFCIs are not as sensitive as mine are. I could swear all you have to do is sneeze and the GFCIs at my house trip. In fact, tonight was dry and chilly and windy, 10 hours after the last rain and all looked dry, yet the GFCI was still tripping, could be a bad GFCI, who knows. I finally got sick of dealing with it and ran an extension cable from my garage non GFCI outlet out to my controllers. Works perfect. Now if something big happens, the fuse for that outlet in the garage trips.

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I agree. I found that my LEDs (which are all sealed, non replaceable forever bright type) never tripped a GFCI.

I think the major issue, at least from what I have encountered is the water getting into the mini bulb sockets, specifically the first one after the plug (the one with 3 wires).

Water in the other sockets should not be an issue, as you haveseries circuit at that point.

The first socket however can give you the hot-neutral leakage that could trip the GFCI.

Greg

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I always thought a GFCI pretty much looks for any occurances where there are not as many electrons returning in the neutral as being sent out thru the hots. I had an electrical engineer who stated a good GFCI is one that will trip when as few as 5 electrons are lost. In my experiece, ANY flow of electrons thru the ground (not neutral) will alsotrip GFCI's.

Some compact Flouresentlights have sometimes a capacitance (spelling?) and are known to trip GFCI's upon turning the CPF light off in bathrooms. It does it in mine. Change the bulb to a incandescent light and it never trips the GFCI, put in certain triphosphorus brands of CPF and it trips the GFCI everytime we turn the light off because somehow the CPF retains a few electrons upon turning off or releases surplus electrons. I have heard of LED capacitance as well and some brands have been giving GFCI users problems as well.

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Joseph Ayo wrote:

I always thought a GFCI pretty much looks for any occurances where there are not as many electrons returning in the neutral as being sent out thru the hots. I had an electrical engineer who stated a good GFCI is one that will trip when as few as 5 electrons are lost. In my experiece, ANY flow of electrons thru the ground (not neutral) will alsotrip GFCI's.

I was taught (I am by no means an electrician, as my knowledge is primarily electronics in nature) that modern GFCIs look for any hot-neutral, neutral-ground, or hot-ground current flow changes. An increase flow in any one of these (I know there should be normally a hot-neutral flow) should trip the GFCI.

I was not aware that a decrease in flow would trigger it, outside of the fact that the decrease in flow would be due to an increase in flow in one of the other 2 legs that should serve to trip the unit.

Any electrically savvy folksout there care to comment?

Greg

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Greg Young wrote:

Joseph Ayo wrote:

I was taught (I am by no means an electrician, as my knowledge is primarily electronics in nature) that modern GFCIs look for any hot-neutral, neutral-ground, or hot-ground current flow changes. An increase flow in any one of these (I know there should be normally a hot-neutral flow) should trip the GFCI.

I was not aware that a decrease in flow would trigger it, outside of the fact that the decrease in flow would be due to an increase in flow in one of the other 2 legs that should serve to trip the unit.

Any electrically savvy folksout there care to comment?

Greg

It might do that as well or the GFCI wants to see the flow balanced as well. If there are not as many electrons flowing back in the neutral as sent in the hot, then some someone might be getting shocked out in the yard. The primary thing we want the GFCI to do is detect if current is flowing from light strings thru a human body on the way to the earth ground. This type of current flow is what is tripping our GFCI's 90% of the time. (Your tree in the yard is getting a 5 amp shock for example).

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jeffostroff wrote:

My Megatree with 6300 LED lights was tripping the GFCI after an hour of rain. What everyone forgets is that yes the bulbs are sealed, but the water leaks in on the back side of the bulb socket, where the wires enter it.

What brand of LEDs are you using?

Greg

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You have a very nice display Jeff!

To give you an idea I use 64 strings of C6 style LEDs on my megatree (on 64 LOR channels), which have now finishedtheir 2nd full season of use. They are strung tapering down from the top of the tree, around a pvc hoop that makes up the base, across the bottom of the hoop back into the center (to give it a tree shape). So some are socket bottom up as far as exposure to the rain, etc.

Living near Buffalo we get plenty of rain, ice, sleet and snow. I have certainly hadparts of ourdisplay trip GFCIs (primarily with rain and sleet), but never involving the LEDs.

I use forever bright (holiday creations) exclusively for my LEDs. Maybe I am just lucky. Itend to think it is the way these are designed and sealed, but that is just my opinion, as I have not tested other brands as of yet.

Greg

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greg:

Sounds like you are using Darryl's Design from the PVC kit? That is what we have. I drap the end of the string over the hooks at the top so that the end outlet is face down toward the ground. Perhaps a little moisture is leaking in the back of the connector through the cord entry.

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