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Toymakr000

GFI Thoughts and Ideas

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I just had a thought about GFI's and computer control.

I wonder if GFI's trip with the controllers plugged in and running but they're not controlling the lights?

Also if the GFI's don't trip in this condition. Then you could actually have a second set of sequences for rainy weather to limit the number of lights on and then limit the leakage /trip current.

So for those of you who are having trouble with GFI's tripping in bad weather. you could make a second set of sequences by just clearing out a little of the lights that are on!

I'm just thinking and don't know if it would actually work.

I know for a fact that in wet conditions the more lights you have connected to a GFI the more likely it is to trip. Now if you could monitor this leakage current, you could have the computer activate this low leak set of sequences!!!!

What do you think?

Tony Furst.............What do you think?

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Gary,

It could work but it really depends on knowing what display elements are actually causing the current leakage. Generally what I have found is that wire frames and ground mounted items are the worsy offenders. If you can eliminate those type items from your show during the rain you may be able to keep things running.

I'm wondering if you isolated your high trip probable items to specific controllers and then just disconnected those controllers rather than having multiple sequences may be another option.

Tony

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Tony,

My whole thought is why disconnect them. Can't you just leave them off, or do you think there is enough leakage through the triacs when their off?

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Last Sunday night while doing my final test run (in the rain) before opening on Monday, I had a GFCI that kept tripping even with the controller turned off, so I don't think a seperate sequence would work. It was on a Happy Holidays sign on chicken wire mounted on 14' high scaffolding, cord plugged into controller, ok, plug in sign, trip, replace controller to sign cable, ok, plug in sign, ok, go figure. Guess I need to do the Tony "cord in a bucket test" on that cable. Only have had one other GFCI trip and it was an up faceing connector in one of my pine trees that had slipped down in the tree.

Jerry

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My sugestion is buy those GFCI already in the cord type, so you can find what channel is causing the problem. Then troubleshoot from there. Of course, you may have to plug the controller into a non GFCI outlet first.

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Adventures in the study of GFCI trips on Christmas light displays during wet weather.

I have fought the battle for 3 years and can say that I have now run trip free during 2 rain storms in 7 days.

Some background: My trips were 98% associated with mini lights in bushes (indian hawthorn) in Louisiana where the leaves remain green all year. I run 2 banks of 3600 minis (1200 each of clear, red & green) The channel split is 2 channels of red, 2 of green and 8 of clear. There are also 2 foam type snow machines which depending on run time, wind and humidity conditions may leave foam on the tops of the bushes (homemade solution with mr bubbles is very conductive). Trips occurred on a regular basis during 90%-100% humidity even without rain due to the foam. Having a 3 year old who loves to touch the "snow" completely ruled out using a non GFCI protected circuit for those channels. It was a temptation, but I have been shocked by various broken bulbs and frayed or broken wires through the years and believe in the devices.

As most folks know, the trip is caused by the collective current flow to ground on the circuit. In my case I can reliably run about 300-400 lights on these bushes in the rain. Any more and a trip occurs. And of course this varies depending on how many lights are contacting the leaves sufficiently to conduct.

My first observation was that the clear lights were not as big a challenge as the red and green. On closer inspection I realized that the clears which were very old (still 4" spacing) seemed more water resistant having a tighter fit where the bulb fits into the holder. They also have sockets that have molded bottoms at the bottom where the wires enter i.e. no open space as most current strings.

So I started trying to take the clear strings from water resistant to more waterproof. My weapon of choice was a high solids content commercial floor wax. A bit messy to apply but dried with promising results. When I tried to use this technique on the red & green lights is when I discovered how drastic the design difference is in the molding. The current red and green lights not only had open bottoms which in the bushes would often have the bottom facing up but they also appear to have slight standoffs inside the sleeves that the bulbs fit into allowing water to freely run into the sleeve to touch the exposed copper wires where they exit the glass. This of course is another path for current to travel via the film of water on the wet glass. The problem is also made a moving target as the current traveling the film of water generates a bit of heat which can start to dry up the water.

My idea next was to plug up the bottoms using liquid electrical tape using a hobby glue applicator (a syringe with a long plastic curved tip); then go through the floor wax idea in hopes that the wax would sufficiently clog up the stand off area on the bulb.

Trying to haphazardly make something water tight often backfires because you end up trapping water in the space you started out trying to protect. My motive was to prevent the current leaks to ground. If moisture got trapped in the socket and conducted current across the leads it was the same as the filament burning out and the shunt taking the load. But it wouldn't be going to ground. This theory of course make this a solution only for minis. This failed miserably! The wax wasn't enough.

Next idea (the winner so far) - dielectric grease.

I knew this could only work in a hobby setting - you have to want it - and have the time and patience for it.

I took 1000 reds and removed them from the sockets. Then removed the bulbs from the sleeves. Let me say upfront, YES this is insane. Using the hobby glue applicator I put small amount of grease in the bottom of the sleeve. Then, put the bulb back in and bent the leads back over. This does take toll on the strength of the leads but I found that you can do it once and still have a solid connection. Next, using the applicator tip that comes with a tube of silicone sealer I placed a blob of grease in the empty sockets (the grease tube has the same size threads as a typical tube of sealer). The bulbs with sleeves were then placed back into the sockets.

Last year I had already divided the load so that there were only 1200 red or green bush lights on any one GFCI. That is why my first test was 1000. I have now tested up to 2400 greased lit bulbs on one GFI using direct hose spray for several minutes before causing a trip (YES, I was well insulated during the hose down just in case the GFI failed). I attribute the trip to inconsistent amounts of grease in the first 8-10 strings I was experimenting on. In some random submerging tests I saw unmeasurable conductivity between the wire and the water on the remaining strings 95% of the time.

I used about 8 3oz tubes of Permatex Tune-up grease from AutoZone (about $6 ea). I chose it because it is designed for spark plugs. The thought was being designed for high heat, that once in place in wouldn't move around and be a big mess either in the display or in the attic storage. It was still a mess - but workable. I wouldn't try to use it indoors and would work in a well covered area with disposal drop clothes/paper.

It was alot of work - but to see the display run it high humidity/rain was worth it. I just hope posting this doesn't jinx me.

Ken

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You would have to have been at one of my presentations to fully appreciate the guy (me) talking about electricity and throwing extension cords (not energized) into a bucket of water. Yes it is a testing tool and it does work.

Tony

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ToyMaker,

To address your first thought about the idea of eliminating the things from a set of sequences which trip in the rain... I have some thoughts, experiences and suggestions.

The first thing has to do with shutting down the channels that trip. As long as your intent is to keep those channels that you have associated to a tripping problem, turned completely off... It would work just fine. My experience in this has to do with the fouled up way I wired up my shared neutrals on my icicle lights. Two separate GFCI protected circuits for each bank of 8 channels on a CTB16D. What I meant to do was run a #14 wire the length of the gutter, and use #18 for each set of 100ct mini icicles for 8 sets of clear, and an exact copy of this for 8 sets of multi. What I did was place a shared neutral for 4 clears and 4 multis, and an exact copy of this for the other 8 sets. When I had everything connected and powered up it was fine. The moment I turned any channel on a GFCI tripped. Because the neutral current was splitting between the two sides of the board. The high difference caused the trip. I then unwrapped 35' of 3/4" electrical tape and started over. The point here is, if the channel is off... there's no current flow for the GFCI to compare so it's not going to trip.

The second thing stems from 1) someone here suggesting you use the GFCI dongle so you can determine wht is causing the trip. 2) Hand made Mini Trees (Gremlers) have a way of leaking current away from the normal path it should take. In large numbers on a single protected circuit, any single item that has metal in close proximity to mini lights that gets wet and is planted on wet earth will trip GFCI. It's just the nature of the beast. My point here is, I have seen quite a few experiments used to eliminate the nuisance tripping. One gentleman used rubber excercise mats to set the mini trees on. It worked like a charm. Another fellow applied the rubber solution used to insulate tools, to the frame of the mini. I wrapped them with stretch wrap. another made PVC stakes to elevate them from the ground. All of these things were effective. Testing different ideas in my display, I found the one thing I think worked best for me. When I had 15 minis on a single protected circuit, it would trip. Remove any single tree and it wouldn't. 15 was the magic number (and the reason I always think of Mr. Murphy) So I split the board in half and added another GFCI... no more trips. Same circuit, half the leakage.

Lastly is my thought about using GFCI. It is without any doubt in my mind, the single most important thing in any electronic display. Safety is paramount. There is no stopping a couple things that are possible in a big shiney blinky flashy Christmas display. A theif from walking in and grabbing something... (poof, you're liable!) A child from spinning in his parent's hand and breaking away to run freely through all the wondrous lights... (poof you're liable, and famous!) ...and a big lug (if you're anything like me) to forget that something is turned on, pick it up and require immediate defibrulation... which probably isn't readily available... (poof, you're hospitalized... or dead!) I have listened to the naysayers over the years, but I am not swayed from my opinion about them. They are a necessary evil, and you must overcome the things that trip them and make you want to disable them.

An idea like having the display work in rain, by simply disabling the items that trip is just as good as pulling your hair out to figure out why the Gremlers have Gremlins. I have had animated lights for three years with 10ea 20Amp GFCI protected circuits with only a few trips due to theft, intentional damage by a vandal and rain on the Gremlers that I didn't assemble to avoid trips. My best explanation for the limited trips... don't trap the water, let it flow through elevated connections. Water doesn't run in a stream off of things... it drips. No stream, no path for current to leak, no trip!

Jeff

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I had success in preventing GFCI trips in the pouring rain, I am using LOR controllers with over 60,000 minis.

Last year I had 3 out of 16 GFCI tripping ,I was playing around with the hardware utility testing the controllers that were tripping , and discovered that they would trip at around the 90% intensity level.

I went into the configure button and set the max intensity to 86% and was able to continue the show.

It has rained several nights this year as well and so far no GFCI trips , For now I just leave the max intensity at 86% , the difference between 86 and 100% is barely noticeable.

Its certainly easy enough to try, I would be interested if this works for anyone else.

Stay Safe

Tim H.

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How about this one....Just forget about the GFI's. We're all using 2 stranded SP wire anyway, on 2 conductor mini plugs, so in my opinion, allowing super small amounts of moisture to ruin your show simply isn't worth it.

Remember, the 3 prong edison ground lug is there to provide a secondary safety measure to ground if you cut through the cable using a saw, drop a heatgun in the puddle you're standing in, etc. I don't use GFI outlets on my show at all, and I have never had an issue with rain or moisture. Most GFI's trip at a miniscule .005a, and even high load induction or the sight of rain will trip them...

Mike

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How about this one....Just forget about the GFI's. We're all using 2 stranded SP wire anyway, on 2 conductor mini plugs, so in my opinion, allowing super small amounts of moisture to ruin your show simply isn't worth it.

Remember, the 3 prong edison ground lug is there to provide a secondary safety measure to ground if you cut through the cable using a saw, drop a heatgun in the puddle you're standing in, etc. I don't use GFI outlets on my show at all, and I have never had an issue with rain or moisture. Most GFI's trip at a miniscule .005a, and even high load induction or the sight of rain will trip them...

Mike

Bad idea, that GFCI could save someone's life

Would you rather have a dead child ruining your show??

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Please use those GFI's............they are very important.......That previous post really really scares me!!!!! That 5-mil amp trip level is a life safety threshold not to be considered a nuisance.

The

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5 mA is 1/10 the amount of current that can kill you. A 15 Amp breaker trips at 18amps. Thats 360 times the amount of current that can kill you. Use the GFCI...

Jeff

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How about this one....Just forget about the GFI's. We're all using 2 stranded SP wire anyway, on 2 conductor mini plugs, so in my opinion, allowing super small amounts of moisture to ruin your show simply isn't worth it.

Remember, the 3 prong edison ground lug is there to provide a secondary safety measure to ground if you cut through the cable using a saw, drop a heatgun in the puddle you're standing in, etc. I don't use GFI outlets on my show at all, and I have never had an issue with rain or moisture. Most GFI's trip at a miniscule .005a, and even high load induction or the sight of rain will trip them...

Mike

Mike,

A GFCI works regardless of whether you use grounded or ungrounded cords, the device works by measuring the differential in current between the hot and neutral leads. If the hot current draw is higher than the neutral return current the device will trip because it assumes this current is going somewhere it was not intended.

Tony

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