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Thread: Pool lights tripping GFI

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    Pool lights tripping GFI

    When I turn on my pool lights, after about 15 minutes a ground fault plug next to my Jandy Aqualink panel trips.

    I believe the wiring goes: Breaker ---> GFI outlet -----> Pool light relay ----> pool lights (2)
    ...........................................................|
    ............................................................---> Spa light relay ----> spa light (1)

    (I had to put the dots in to make the drawing look right because spaces get stripped out)

    I can turn on just the spa light and it stays on forever. If I turn on the pool lights, the GFI outlet trips after 15-20 minutes.

    Since it was an easy and cheap test to try, I replaced the GFI outlet. This had no effect.

    Looks like one of my pool lights is bad, but why does it take 15 minutes for the GFI to trip?

    I'm not an electrician, but I'm pretty handy with electrical repairs. Is a pool light replacement something I can handle?
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Because one the pool fixtures has a little water in it, most likely. The water heats up, creates steam and a short. Find the fixture with condensation inside and that will be the likely culprit. Disconnect it's power at the deck box to confirm.

    Scott
    Owner of - PoolGuyNJ LLC
    Expert Pool and Spa Repairs, Renovations, and Augmentation. Helping people decide what is the right gear for meeting their needs. Expectations Set, Expectations Met, No Surprises.

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    OK, makes sense. Once I figure out which light is the problem, it sounds like this isn't really repairable (time to buy a whole new fixture)?
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    You should have a junction box where the cords from the underwater lights come up to above the water level.
    I would disconnect one at a time and see which one is the culprit.
    When you find out which one you need to remove, be sure to tie a strong string or wire to your old cord, to be able to pull your new cord back thru the conduit. The wire/conduit could be 50-100 feet long.
    It would be best to have a second person to help pull and feed the wire. If it is a long run, get some wire lube.
    Also be sure to check the bonding wire in the light niche and be careful not to accidentally pull it out.

    Best of luck,
    John
    "Experience is what you get, just after you needed it."

    Owner DIY build, steel/liner kit, 18x36 Deer Creek, sport depth, approx 17,500 gal,
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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Before pulling a new light what about trying some new gaskets first? Pull the light out of the niche, dry it out thoroughly, new seals, test.
    15,600 Gallon, 16' x 32' In-Ground Vinyl Pool
    Pentair VS 3050 pump, Quad DE 60 filter and SunTouch controller
    8 gallon Liquidator, Aquatherm EcoSun Solar Panels, 2 wheel ThePoolCleaner

  6. Back To Top    #6

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    I disconnected the pool lights one at a time to determine which light was the problem. When I took the light apart, there was in fact a couple of tablespoons of water in the fixture. I let the fixture dry out for a day, replaced the gasket, and reinstalled it.

    Believe it or not I still have exactly the same problem. After 15-20 minutes the GFI trips (BTW, before I knew what the real problem was, I replaced the GFI, so that's not the problem).

    The fixture is 7 years old, but looks brand new. It's an American Products 400w light.

    Could this be a weird bulb problem?
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    It might pay to go open any electrical boxes and look at the connections. If you have oxidation and/or loose wire nuts, you'll get resistance, then things heat up, causing more resistance, and then something trips. And it usually takes a few minutes for the heat to build up, which tallies with your description of the problem. When it cools off, the problem goes away.
    16K freeform gunite with spa; Pentair 4000 DE filter; Century Whisperflow 1 HP; Pentair Minimax heater.
    Troublefree does not mean Maintenancefree. It's like brushing your teeth: You can spend a couple minutes a day and pennies a week or go to the dentist once a year and spend several thousand dollars.
    A pool is like a pet - you have to feed it every day, even the days you don't want to play with it!

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Hi Richard,

    I got to look at the connections when I was determining which light was at fault. They looked fine. Plus the fact I disconnected and reconnected the connections, and I still get the same 15-20 minute delay before the GFI trips, makes me think they're OK.

    Could this be a problem with the bulb, where the resistance goes down after a certain amount of time? I've never encountered anything like that, but the fixture looks brand new, the connections are good, the GFI has been replaced, so what else does that leave?
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Richard320's Avatar
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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Quote Originally Posted by hsmyers
    Hi Richard,

    I got to look at the connections when I was determining which light was at fault. They looked fine. Plus the fact I disconnected and reconnected the connections, and I still get the same 15-20 minute delay before the GFI trips, makes me think they're OK.

    Could this be a problem with the bulb, where the resistance goes down after a certain amount of time? I've never encountered anything like that, but the fixture looks brand new, the connections are good, the GFI has been replaced, so what else does that leave?
    There are more connections to check! There will be the one where the pigtail emerges from the pool. Then maybe another by a switch or the relay, and another at the plug, and at the breaker itself. Wire nuts are really only meant for solid wire, but they get used on stranded wire a lot.

    Besides that, I'm out of ideas.
    16K freeform gunite with spa; Pentair 4000 DE filter; Century Whisperflow 1 HP; Pentair Minimax heater.
    Troublefree does not mean Maintenancefree. It's like brushing your teeth: You can spend a couple minutes a day and pennies a week or go to the dentist once a year and spend several thousand dollars.
    A pool is like a pet - you have to feed it every day, even the days you don't want to play with it!

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    I'm out of ideas too. The connections I checked were the pigtail connections. With only pool light #1 connected, no problem. With only pool light #2 connected, GFI trips after 15 minutes. I don't believe this can be the connection at the relay or the breaker or the GFI because those connections are all for both lights. It either has to be the fixture or the light bulb. Just because it's a lot cheaper, I think I'll try replacing the bulb, even though I don't think this could be the problem. Thanks for taking the time to help me with this.
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Sounds like you have it isolated to one area at least... Good luck and let us know what happens with the new bulb
    15,600 Gallon, 16' x 32' In-Ground Vinyl Pool
    Pentair VS 3050 pump, Quad DE 60 filter and SunTouch controller
    8 gallon Liquidator, Aquatherm EcoSun Solar Panels, 2 wheel ThePoolCleaner

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    Ohm_Boy's Avatar
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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Sounds like something is heating up, expanding, and opening up a conductor to water. It seems that you know which line it is on. Don't rule out the possibility of a crack or split in the insulation on the wire in the conduit, especially where is is under water.
    I don't expect a GFCI trip for an ordinary high-resistance connection. Breaker, maybe, but not a ground fault.
    [center:1kpalu48]Helpful Links: Pool School | CYA/Chlorine Chart | Pool Calculator[/center:1kpalu48]

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    I'm not sure from your schematic what to think. It appears that you have a separate breaker for the lights and then this goes into a GFCI outlet, and then one or both pool light fixtures are connected to the GFCI outlet via separate relays (I'm assuming these relays are controlled by your automation system. So, is this correct? Both light circuits are wired into the GFCI outlet via standard 3-pronged plugs? Are both pool and spa bulbs at 400W? What is the total load being drawn through the GFCI outlet and what is the rating of it and its breaker? Since this appears to happen only when both lights are connected, it would seem to be an over current issue. Would it be possible to wire it up with two independent GFCI outlets, one dedicated to each light circuit?
    38K in ground pool with attached spa. Current equipment: Easytouch 8 (521150) with IC-60 SWCG with web control by Autelis, 1x Pentair IntelliFlo 011018 pump (for filter), 1x Pentair 2HP WhisperFlo pump (for waterfall), 2X Pentair IntelliBrite 5G 12V lights, Pentair MiniMax400 NG Heater, Pentair SMBW2060 DE filter. Zodiac Barracuda MX8 cleaner on dedicated cleaner line. Lighting/home automation controlled by Insteon/ISY-99i.

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    I finally got back to this problem. I have determined that the water is getting into the light from the back (where the cord goes into the fixture) rather than from the front.

    I'd like to try to seal this opening with caulk before I give up and buy a new light. Has anybody had any luck fixing this kind of problem?
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

  15. Back To Top    #15

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Success! I found a product called 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive Sealant ($8 at HD). I sealed all around where the cord goes into the back of the fixture, let it cure for 24 hours, and reinstalled the light. It's been on for a couple of hours now with no GFI trip.
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    I do hope it works but am concerned for the safety of your bathers. Heaven forbid a swimmer with a pace maker or an undiagnosed heart condition is in the pool when and if it fails. IMHO, this is short sightedness.

    Scott
    Owner of - PoolGuyNJ LLC
    Expert Pool and Spa Repairs, Renovations, and Augmentation. Helping people decide what is the right gear for meeting their needs. Expectations Set, Expectations Met, No Surprises.

  17. Back To Top    #17

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    What in the world are you talking about? I didn't bypass the GFI. It's no longer tripping because I solved the problem of water leaking into my light. Why is this any different than replacing the front seal?
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    When that caulk fails, you can't rely on the GFCI. Its neither fast nor reliable enough. Water leaks in the back side of a fixture indicate the fixture should be swapped or disconnected. I maintain no exceptions to this. The risks are too high.

    I never implied you removed it.

    Changing a gasket is part of a bulb change. The two go hand in hand, even if it's only a week old, in my book.

    Am I being overly cautious? I don't think so. Will others disagree? Likely but I won't hear the 4 words I hear enough from my wife, "I told you so."

    Scott
    Owner of - PoolGuyNJ LLC
    Expert Pool and Spa Repairs, Renovations, and Augmentation. Helping people decide what is the right gear for meeting their needs. Expectations Set, Expectations Met, No Surprises.

  19. Back To Top    #19

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    Scott,

    You're a pool professional and know a lot more than I do. I'm just a pool owner. I'm trying to fix my pool light problem without paying $450 to have my pool light replaced (my pool professional quoted me $410 to $500 depending on the labor).

    I fixed the problem by sealing the leak with 3M 5200 Marine sealant. This is the sealant of choice for boat owners for through-hull applications. If this sealant can stand up to the stress of a boat hull on water, I really feel that it will last the life of the light fixture. That's why I picked it.

    Your point was "when that caulk fails" I can't rely on the GFI to trip. You're right, things fail. Grommets crack over time, cords crack over time, front seals crack over time. Lights don't last forever. Eventually, water will leak into the light, and cause a problem.

    Since you say I shouldn't count on the GFI or circuit breaker to catch these problems, does that mean I should automatically replace all of my lights every so many years? My pool light failed after 5 years. I have 3 pool lights. Should I be spending $1200-$1500 every 5 years to replace my lights? How about the circuit breakers and GFIs? Shouldn't they be replaced to?

    Seriously, if my fix isn't safe, I'd like to hear about it. I'll give up and pay to have the light replaced.
    22k gallon in ground pebbletec, 2 hp WhisperFlo pump, Aqualink RS-6, Aquarite SWG, DE

  20. Back To Top    #20

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    Re: Pool lights tripping GFI

    I would only change the failed fixture, not all of them.

    It is unusual for one to fail this early.

    Testing the GFCI periodically is a good idea too.

    Scott
    Owner of - PoolGuyNJ LLC
    Expert Pool and Spa Repairs, Renovations, and Augmentation. Helping people decide what is the right gear for meeting their needs. Expectations Set, Expectations Met, No Surprises.

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