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ibby
08-14-2008, 10:20 AM
I am now out of power for my lights. I have been running them from inside my garage with extension cords but now that little 15 amp breaker has just run out of juice. I was thinking of building a outdoor sub-panel just for outdoor lights running off my air condition breaker. The one time i did use a gfci outside it would open almost immediately.

The question is how successful are people with GFCI outside in the rain?

Thanks,

Ibby

Michael
08-14-2008, 11:12 AM
DISCLAIMER: I am not an electrician, but I pretend to play one for Christmas lights.
The recommendations I have heard is that you need to use them for any outdoor power. I believe in some places it is even required.
If you trip a GFCI, there is usually a reason it tripped. If it is raining and they trip, then try again tomorrow when it dries out. I have tripped several, and it was all for a good reason. I even blew one out, but that is because the box was sitting under water and I did not know when applying power.

- Michael

ben
08-14-2008, 02:14 PM
WARNING: I am not an electrician either, just a speculator and person who can ++ his post count with this advice ;)

GFCI or not, electricity and rain aren't good friends. I put in 2 4 gang boxes with each having its own 20A breaker and own GFCI. I put a cover over them to keep out the elements. I do turn the breakers off most of the season unless we need power for something. Any outlet regardless of type, when exposed to water will trip. GFCI's are a good idea and like michael noted required in sme jurisdictions.

Ben

daviddth
08-14-2008, 02:55 PM
Here in Australia we are lucky in that most of our outdoor lights are 24V, and thats far from a lethal voltage, and we dont use ELCB's (Same as your GFCI's) except on the 240V side supplying the transformers.

I react badly to people who are too casual about electricity - 110V will kill, so it is my belief that having any sort of earth leakage detection for outside lighting such as what we are doing is a must. If it trips, you have a grouind fault because of poor wiring, a short to earth because of defective insulation, a broken globe or simply water somewhere. Dont blame the GFCI, blame the lights and fix them :)

I'm not saying anyone in this thread is doing anything unsafe, but coming from an Electrical background where 240V will kill pretty easily, I have a respect for electricity and take whatever precautions I can so that I dont have to come in contact, nor anyone else come in contact with it.

ibby
08-14-2008, 03:11 PM
The thread is to talk about what people are doing. My whole neighborhood decorates for Christmas and I know 99% run their lights out of the garage where it is not protected by GFI. I just wanted to know if people have been successful running outdoor outlets without GFI for their light show. I will be installing GFI in my sub-panel.

Ibby

daviddth
08-14-2008, 03:19 PM
My 2 supplies for 240V outside have GFCI on them, but I will admit that the 240V that runs to the primaries of the transformers does not have any GFCI protection at all, just 16A circuit breakers and fuses on each of the transformers.

rstehle
08-14-2008, 03:21 PM
I have to admit that when I was running a static display, some of my outlets were not GFCI protected. But with the annimation of the display this year, all of my outlets will be protected by GFCI's. Can't afford to take a chance on someone (especially me) getting injured wandering around out in the lights.
Plus, I believe it is NEC code that all permanent outside outlets be protected by GFCI, regargless of where you live in the U.S.. :D

Wayne J
08-14-2008, 09:31 PM
This is a good read if you are having issues with GFCI's

http://www.doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2931

DJzrule
08-15-2008, 12:17 AM
Besides the fact I had enough spare plywood for mine, another reason I made my mini trees outta it. :D

coolspot
08-15-2008, 02:16 AM
what i say is get ya self a outdoor plug with th covers underneath also what i do to protect my lights is get a container with a lid cut a slot out so i can run my wires in and out

have a look at this http://www.bbdist.com/bbdistribution/Main/Products_FestivePowerSpike.htm

mrpackethead
08-15-2008, 02:53 AM
refer to section 7 of the contract, and then call legal for a more in depth opinion if you need to. My 5c worth is that we should commence proceedings on Monday. However you need to make that call.

Wayne J
08-15-2008, 01:36 PM
refer to section 7 of the contract, and then call legal for a more in depth opinion if you need to. My 5c worth is that we should commence proceedings on Monday. However you need to make that call.

:confused: huh?? :confused:

jeffathompson
08-15-2008, 08:10 PM
Yes, anything running outside should have GFCI's. The outlets in the garage can easily have a GFCI outlet installed in them by any qualified electrician or a homeowner who REALLY knows what they are doing. I have run them on all my outdoor, garage, bathroom and kitchen outlets for years and only had a few trips.

Tricks: First, the ends off all your cords should be up off the ground. I use small stakes to hold them up AND I also put a drip loop about 6" to 1' from the plugs. If you don't know what a drip loop is go out and look at overhead power wires going into a building. The wires make a small loop before terminating.

Second. SSR, outlet boxes, timers or anything else that would let water in should be up off the ground AND covered with a plastic bag. I like 1 gallon freezer bags with a zip tie closing them. Oh, and it may seem obvious, but point the opening down.

Third: Forget the idea of any type of enclosure being water tight. In rain or snow water will find it's way in. It will find it's way in easier than it will find it's way out. So, at the lowest point, a 1/8 hole is in order to let any water that gets in, out.

Fourth: 75% load is a rule of thumb for a GFCI. If you try to run 20 amp circuts above 15 amps you probably will trip GFCI's in even the slightest dampness. They sense very small amounts of current going to ground and if they are at near capacity the will trip very easily.

Last: If you wonder if it is safe, it is probably not. You can now buy extension cords with a GFCI built right in. You can save yourself a lot of trouble and just plug them into the "regular" garage outlets. (I would however recomend you have GFCI's installed in the garage anyway)

If you take care, you will not have any trouble. I have not tripped a GFCI outdoors for years.

ben
08-15-2008, 11:21 PM
Besides the fact I had enough spare plywood for mine, another reason I made my mini trees outta it. :D

Did this stand up to the weather? I thought about painting some plywood I have to make some stuff.

Ben

Macrosill
08-17-2008, 06:03 PM
My advice to anyone and everyone is that GFCI is a requirement when utilizing electricity outdoors, except under a few special circumstances. Not only is it a legal requirement as stated in the NEC, it is also a moral requirement.

The official stance of DIYC is GFCI protection is always required when utilizing electricity outdoors. Period, the end. No exceptions, buts or what if's.

Christmas In Shirley utilizes GFCI protection on ALL outdoor circuits.

Santacarl
08-17-2008, 11:04 PM
Here's a silly question.....If you have outside outlets on the house (you know..the ones with the little covers over the outlets.....and the red and black buttons that click off/on..) is that a GFCI or just an different form of outlet with a breaker integrated into it?

omzig
08-17-2008, 11:09 PM
Here's a silly question.....If you have outside outlets on the house (you know..the ones with the little covers over the outlets.....and the red and black buttons that click off/on..) is that a GFCI or just an different form of outlet with a breaker integrated into it?Yeah, that's a GFCI outlet. The buttons are actually "Test" and "Reset".

ben
08-18-2008, 09:46 AM
My advice to anyone and everyone is that GFCI is a requirement when utilizing electricity outdoors, except under a few special circumstances. Not only is it a legal requirement as stated in the NEC, it is also a moral requirement.

The official stance of DIYC is GFCI protection is always required when utilizing electricity outdoors. Period, the end. No exceptions, buts or what if's.

Christmas In Shirley utilizes GFCI protection on ALL outdoor circuits.

So does this mean you will be issued a violation if you do not use GFCI's because you are a DIYC member? Maybe I missed something in your post.

Ben

Photovor
08-18-2008, 10:53 AM
In short, if you're running any kind of electric outside, it should be protected by GFCI. Occasionally, GFCI can trip if it senses any rapid change in capacitance or current.

This past year, I had a few lights that sat in the grass, not to mention all the extension cords etc. When it would rain, or get really wet from snow, I know I would get trace voltages going directly to ground, however it wasn't enough to actually cause a short to trip a normal breaker. When plugging the same stuff into my GFCI's, they'd always trip (again, because of the sensitivity).

I'd recommend using GFCI on everything outdoor, but to also make sure you weather protect everything really well, and not have anything that could potentially sit in a puddle of water, to keep from tripping the GFCI's more frequently.

Matt
08-20-2008, 01:30 PM
To reiterate it one more time: If it's outside (or anywhere else like basements or bathrooms where it could get wet), use a GFCI. Always.

One thing you may want to keep in mind is that one GFCI outlet can protect downstream outlets. These outlets may be marked in some way to indicate that they are GFCI protected, they may not. The outlet on our back porch is protected by a GFCI in the garage. In one of our previous houses, the garage outlets were protected with a GFCI in a 2nd floor bathroom (that was on the opposite corner of the house, no less, don't know what they were thinking there :)). There are also GFCI's built into some special circuit breakers. Before you invest in GFCI outlets, you may want to test to make sure the outlets you have aren't already GFCI protected. (Hit the "test" button on the GFCI. If the GFCI is working properly, the power at that outlet and any downstream outlets will go out).

-Matt