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Old 08-05-2010, 02:10 PM   #1
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Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

I think I know what the cause is of my issue, but I'm going to post my question anyways just to pick the brains of the more experienced here on this forum. I'll apologize in advance for the lengthy set up to my question, but its better to understand the method to my madness.

I wired my entire bus with 12 gauge stranded wire for 110 power. In the most simplistic way of describing it, the bus is wired as one big extension cord. I used a breaker box with a 15 amp breaker. My power into the box is an extension cord with a male end - I chopped the female end off and wired it directly into the breaker box with conduit of course. I use the bus for Ragbrai, so my shoreline power is generally plugging into someone's garage outlet or outside outlet on the house.

I run a heavy duty drop cord from the garage/house to the male end of the extension cord that then runs into my breaker box. From the breaker box I run directly into a GFI outlet which then protects the rest of the outlets in the run.

Heres my problem:
Everything works perfectly when Im plugged into a NON-GFI protected circuit. However, newer houses now are wired with GFI in the garages and outside outlets. So when I plug into the GFI I immediately trip the outlet. I believe the reason why this is happening is due to the GFI I have wired inside bus. In essence, I have two GFI outlets in the same circuit run and I think when I plug the long extension cord from bus into a GFI outlet inside the shoreline-garage the second GFI trips the first. Does this make sense as to why Im tripping the first GFI located on/in the house? I dont feel I have wired incorrectly inside the bus b/c Im not tripping the GIF inside the bus, when Im plugged into a NON-GFI protected circuit, nor am I tripping my breakers. As I mentioned above the GFI inside the garage trips immediately when I plug in, even when theres absolutely no draw on the circuit inside the bus.

Im planning on testing my theory this weekend or the next, but figured I would ask the board incase Im way off in my theory. Thoughts?

Thanks
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Old 08-05-2010, 03:00 PM   #2
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

10 gauge wire extension cord and probably 125-150 feet long and in good condition. I was told sometime extension cords can cause the GFI to trip. I used a 12 gauge shorter cord and it still tripped.
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Old 08-05-2010, 03:13 PM   #3
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

Thanks Mightybus. That's plausible, but it happened at two different residences. So I'm going to go with the odds in saying it's not. I ended up running the cord directly off the tripped outlet into the bus through the door and not plugging into bus that night. We ran fans that night and didn't have any problems.
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Old 08-11-2010, 06:00 PM   #4
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

I don't suspect wire size. From what you say, you are using 20-amp wire to power a 15-amp breaker. Also, wiring protected conventional outlets downstream of the protected side of the GFCI outlet works fine.

First question: Did you join the ground and neutral wires together in the bus panel? This is a no-no, as the 'host' is supposed to make this connection in only one place near the host's electric meter. This could be the cause of your problem, by sending some of the neutral current to the garage's ground instead of neutral. That would signal a fault that requires protective action. Make sure the hot, neutral, and ground go straight to the input side of the GFCI outlet, either re-wired direct or through a main bus breaker. If you remove the GFCI outlet from the bus, the host GFCI may still trip if you join the ground and neutral together in the bus panel feeding conventional outlets.

The other questions are more likely to trip the bus GFCI, not the host GFCI, but here goes:

Second question: Were you sure to put both the hot and neutral out of the protected side of the bus GFCI to all the downstream outlets, and not connect the feed to the downstream neutrals in common with the input neutral?

Third question: Are you using walkie-talkies or other radios near the wiring? I know a couple of vehicles where the RF energy from radio use would cause the GFCI circuitry to falsely detect a fault condition.

Check the neutral to ground isolation, and please report back. Inquiring minds want to know.
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Old 08-21-2010, 10:14 AM   #5
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets [Mythbsters]

MYTHBUSTERS:
Well, I wanted a real answer to this, and a while ago I thought about testing it out. Then I realized that I have had a GFCI outlet installed downstream of another one for about a year, with no trips at all, ever.

When my outdoor GFCI outlet kept going bad due to moisture, I had changed the indoor outlet that fed it to a GFCI, and had put a standard outlet with no circuitry into the "weather-resistant" box outside. The bedroom circuit in question has a bathroom on the end of the line, with a GFCI outlet already installed. The circuit is: crawlspace outlet (heat tape), two outlets in the bedroom , GFCI outlet, branch to outside, another bedroom outlet, ceiling light & fan; then bathroom light and fan, bathroom GFCI.

Obviously, the GFCI outlets have NOT been 'fighting' each other.

This morning, I tested the ground-to-neutral theory. I got a clip lead, and joined the neutral to the ground downstream at the bathroom light switch. CLICK! The GFCI in the bedroom disconnected ASAP.

So, the problem in Scratchy's bus must be a neutral to ground bond in the circuit breaker box ahead of the GFCI outlet.
Disconnect the bond (as per code) and life should be good.
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Old 08-23-2010, 12:38 PM   #6
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

Thanks everyone for the responses. Sorry I just haven't had time to fiddle with this yet. I definitely post an update when I get a chance - hopefully this weekend if the weather cooperates and other projects subside.

Redbear - Thanks for the info. In regards to the bond of the neutral and ground. Yes, I do have them touching each other in the break box on the bus panel. I put them both into the same screw slot. If I'm following your post correctly, this my problem. What am I supposed to do with the ground? Do I simply connect the two grounds together instead of connecting them to the bar on the panel? This would be the only way I know how to connect without having some type of bond to the neutral wire on the breaker box.

Thanks
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Old 08-23-2010, 09:18 PM   #7
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

The neutral bar is not electrically connected to the box or the bus (connected to ground at source, which would be at the generator when you use that). The ground is connected to the breaker box & the bus's chassis.

You might have to install a terminal strip for isolating the neutral bus from the box.
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Old 08-24-2010, 10:08 PM   #8
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

1. If you have no intentions of ever going beyond 15 amps, you might eliminate the breaker panel and wire the shoreline feed direct to the GFCI outlet's input, since it is both a circuit breaker and a ground fault interrupter.

2. Insulated buss bars for the neutrals are available for sub-feed boxes. In a building with a main panel and one or more sub-panels, only the main gets the bond.

3. Some panels are shipped with the buss bar(s) insulated, and if needed you make the bond by inserting an included long screw that threads into the box, or sometimes there is a copper tab that bends up to go under one of the screws. But if you start expanding the number of circuits, you will need a bus bar for the grounds and a second insulated one for the neutrals. With only one circuit, you could use a wire nut to tie the GFCI neutral to the shoreline neutral, and leave the panel buss connected to the ground leads.
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Old 08-31-2010, 12:34 AM   #9
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

Quote:
Originally Posted by pjespers
According to Mike Holmes, you can't have a GFCI downstream from another GFCI. They will "do battle" and constantly trip. I have a similar setup to yours and I had to remove the GFCI from my shore power hookup in the bus because the outlet on the house already had a GFCI.

this is the correct answer .. you can't GFCI a GFCI .. won't work ..

.. when GFCI's first came along I made a small fortune doing service calls to peoples houses when they added one onto and already GFCI-protected circuit (GFCI Brkr in their main panel) .. didn't charge them for any work, just the service call and the explanation as I removed the offending GFCI .. now I spend my days working at Lowe's Home Improvement explaining the same thing and don't get paid nearly as well .. lol ..
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Old 09-02-2010, 01:21 AM   #10
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Re: Electrical Issue GFI Outlets

this is very interesting because my bus does the same thing,very frustrating,and I have no GFCI in my bus.Works fine on a non gfci plug.So I must have a neutral to ground issue im thinkin thank you
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