Dallas Christmas Lights: Tips–GFCI

  • November 15, 2010

By Maria Bargellini, of DFW Christmas Lights

I have been an electrician for over a dozen years and the thing most home owners have issues with are their outdoor GFCI outlets. GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter, in the business we say GFI for short. Those fancy letters are just a way of saying cut off device. If you overload your circuit, get a surge or short from weather, the ground fault in the device will trip, much like a breaker, and shut off the power to your device. It does so as to not ¬†allow the surge to return to your breaker. It’s meant to protect the breaker and or electrical panel.

How to know if your device has tripped

  • There’s usually one or two buttons on your device that will “pop” when there is a problem. This is something you can usually hear happening.
  • Some devices will have a light that is either lit or not lit with it’s regular operation. The presence of the light or lack there of signal that the device is tripped.
  • No power at the outlet is a clear sign that the device may have tripped

Reasons for tripping

  • Moisture: Water or moisture entering the device will cause it to trip.
  • Overloading your circuit. GFCIs typically come in 15 or 20 amp capacity. If you are trying to operate a 20 amp device on a 15 amp circuit the GFI will trip immediately and will continue to do so even if it holds for a little while.
  • Shorts: Not Bermuda but electrical shorts. GFCIs are usually connected to other outlets. If there is a problem with a satellite outlet that’s connected to your GFI it will trip at the GFCI.

Problem Solvers Quick Fixes

  • The wright covers: I know it’s ugly but those big bubble covers you see on the outlets are the best thing to use. They are called “In Use Covers” and they are made to shield the outlet from the elements. They have cut out so that your cords can be inserted into the holes and the cover will remain close.
  • Loops: Water goes down hill. If you leave a loop before your outlet the water will generally run off at the base of the loop and not straight into the outlet.
  • Changing the Device: The GFCIs are not meant to last forever. Years of tripping and weather can cause the device to malfunction. Simply replacing it is all you may need.
  • Upgrading the device: If your wire is sized correctly you may be able to replace your 15 amp device to 20 amps, giving you more power to work with.

The information in this article is written as a general guide only. You should consult an electrician for any repairs, questions, or problems you may have.

DWF Christmas Lights and The Outdoor Lighting Expert are owned and operated by Dallas Curb Appeal Inc., a full service Landscape Contractor.

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