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Thread: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

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    Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    Ok folks, I have been putting this off, but (according to wife and kids) I really need to get the light working again. Light worked fine from pool build completion (late 2013) until closing (mid October 2013). It hasn't worked since and trips the breaker every time you attempt to turn it on. If you put a regular breaker in (not GFCI) light works fine. Due to safety concerns, we refuse to leave the regular breaker in place. Based on troubleshooting attempts thus far, and talking to at least two electricians, we think the problem is with the wire between the light and the panel. I don't know how that could be the case, but in order to prove it one way or the other, I'm planning to pull the light and wire completely out. Problem is, when I pull the light out of the niche, in the back where the wire runs into the conduit the opening is "sealed" with something that is hard like mortar or cement. It is white in color.
    1) What is this?
    2) How do I get it out?
    3) Will I need to replace it when I put the light back in?

    HELP! Thanks!
    26,000 gal, IG, Vinyl, Sand, Hayward 1 HP Superpump, Hayward Goldline Aqua Plus SWG, Completed 7/2013

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    Quote Originally Posted by jmattdoss4 View Post
    Ok folks, I have been putting this off, but (according to wife and kids) I really need to get the light working again. Light worked fine from pool build completion (late 2013) until closing (mid October 2013). It hasn't worked since and trips the breaker every time you attempt to turn it on. If you put a regular breaker in (not GFCI) light works fine. Due to safety concerns, we refuse to leave the regular breaker in place. Based on troubleshooting attempts thus far, and talking to at least two electricians, we think the problem is with the wire between the light and the panel. I don't know how that could be the case, but in order to prove it one way or the other, I'm planning to pull the light and wire completely out. Problem is, when I pull the light out of the niche, in the back where the wire runs into the conduit the opening is "sealed" with something that is hard like mortar or cement. It is white in color.
    Good call on not using it without GFCI protection. It is possible that a wire was damaged during the install to the extent that it finally failed enough to allow some current leakage resulting in the GFCI doing it's job.
    Quote Originally Posted by jmattdoss4 View Post
    1) What is this?
    Wet niches generally do not need to be sealed as the conduit connecting to them should be sealed to above the water line where they connect to a deck box. It is some sort of an epoxy potting compound to seal the conduit to keep water out/prevent leakage.
    Quote Originally Posted by jmattdoss4 View Post
    2) How do I get it out?
    Most likely you will need to chip it away carefully so as not to damage the wire.
    Quote Originally Posted by jmattdoss4 View Post
    3) Will I need to replace it when I put the light back in?
    Hard to say. If the conduit was installed properly and is water tight you should not need it

    Quote Originally Posted by jmattdoss4 View Post
    HELP! Thanks!
    Unknown make 18' above ground (bought used in 1999) Sparco sand filter. Hayward 100,000 BTu heater. 2 speed pump

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    Do you have a junction box near the pool, or does the light cord run all the way to the panel?
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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    Wire for light runs all the way to panel.
    26,000 gal, IG, Vinyl, Sand, Hayward 1 HP Superpump, Hayward Goldline Aqua Plus SWG, Completed 7/2013

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    I'm guessing what Danpik said above is true - something was damaged during install that is now rearing its ugly head. Assuming that is the case, and assuming the wire is wet all the way back to the panel, do you think I can cut/splice the wire using silicone splice kit? (Trying to prevent having to buy new light kit.)
    Also, I don't want to drain the pool down 18" or so to get this done, so I'll be working under water to get the light out. Is there any specific advice on how to "carefully chip away" the white stuff while holding my breath underwater and trying not to float back up?
    26,000 gal, IG, Vinyl, Sand, Hayward 1 HP Superpump, Hayward Goldline Aqua Plus SWG, Completed 7/2013

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    So, based on what you said, the pool light cable assembly terminates in the panel box? Do you use the breaker to turn it off and on? It is a bit unusual that there is no deck box for a connection or a light switch.

    As for chipping it out, a hammer and screwdriver and carefully work it out. As for floating, have someone you trust hold you down. Definitely not the significant other after a good argument.
    Unknown make 18' above ground (bought used in 1999) Sparco sand filter. Hayward 100,000 BTu heater. 2 speed pump

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    Hi Matt. No, you CANT splice the wire. The conduit is sealed with something like epoxy putty. It's probably there because someone thinks the conduit was leaking. Pool/spa light conduits are never pressure tested under new construction, well, not usually. You can chip it out then replace it. I would check for water in the light, it is the most common cause of GFI tripping that I encounter. Ifs that the case, replace the light for the sake of safety.

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    @danpik - Our salt water chlorine generator panel, which is where we control the filter/pump, has a button to turn the light on and off.

    @oldpoolman - I pulled the light out last year and I didn't see any water in the light itself. That's why we think the problem is between the light and the panel. To give a complete history, I know that after construction, the conduit was damaged during backfill. We think the excavator nicked the pipe while pushing dirt back up around the pool. Builder came back and fixed the pipe and everything seemed fine. Now, given the problem at hand, I think maybe both the conduit and the wire were damaged by excavator. So I was hoping to be able to pull it out, patch it somehow, and put it back in.
    26,000 gal, IG, Vinyl, Sand, Hayward 1 HP Superpump, Hayward Goldline Aqua Plus SWG, Completed 7/2013

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    Ahhh, so the plot thickens. If that cable was damaged and repaired I would suspect that is the source of the problem. The sealant is there to prevent water leakage out of the pool due to the damaged conduit. There is no code approved way to repair that cable assembly. I suspect someone tried a repair and now you are stuck with the result. Hopefully, you can pull the damaged cable out. If you can, tie a string to the wire before you pull it thru so it will make installing the new light easier.
    Unknown make 18' above ground (bought used in 1999) Sparco sand filter. Hayward 100,000 BTu heater. 2 speed pump

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    You might contact your builder to see if it's covered under warranty. Manufacturers will give a 3 year warranty to the equipment when you purchase 3 major pieces of their equip. At least Pentair does.

    Product Warranties | PENTAIR

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    Re: Light is tripping GFCI breaker

    I have had a CGFI breaker go bad before. You could try to replace that first. Mine was only $30 from Lowes
    25,000 Gal, Plaster, IG, Auto CL, Waterfall, IntelFlo VS Pump, Dolphin DX6 Robot, TF 100 test kit, Merlin Safety Cover Lots of Trees!, South Eastern Pa

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