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AssuredElectrical
AssuredElectrical, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 2936
Experience:  Contractor-40 Years in the ElectricalTrade
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i have two garage coach lights that are on a dusk/dawn sensor

Resolved Question:

i have two garage coach lights that are on a dusk/dawn sensor and are on 1 switch. and everytime the dusk/dawn sensor gives the signal to turn the lights on, the breaker trips. however i have troubleshooted different scenarios, if i take the bulbs out and turn the switch on, the breaker does not trip. if i turn off all other lights in my house that are on this same circuit and turn my coach lights on, the breaker does not trip, what could be my issue, my circut breaker is one of those Cutler Hammer 15A with the pig tail and a test button.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  AssuredElectrical replied 2 years ago.

AssuredElectrical :

Hi, Welcome to Just Answer. My name is XXXXX XXXXX would be glad to assist.

AssuredElectrical :

Where is the photocell sensor located that is controlling the coach lights?

Customer:

about two feet away from the coach lights away from the rain

AssuredElectrical :

ok

AssuredElectrical :

so it is mounted in a box?

Customer:

yes sir

AssuredElectrical :

and the 2 lights use standard bulbs?

Customer:

yes sir


 


 

AssuredElectrical :

the breaker, what color button does it have?

Customer:

black with 15 written on it

Customer:

its a Cutler Hammer with a white ground

AssuredElectrical :

the test button is black?

AssuredElectrical :

yellow?

Customer:

yellow

Customer:

yes sir

AssuredElectrical :

is it a square one or a small dot type?

Customer:

small dot type

AssuredElectrical :

Does the breaker have a gray/beige color handle for turning on and off?

Customer:

no sir it's a black switch

AssuredElectrical :

ok, so solid black

Customer:

yes sir

Customer:

i wish i had the breaker with me but i'm at work right now

AssuredElectrical :

no, thats ok

AssuredElectrical :

I asked questions to identify

Customer:

i'm trying to find the breaker on google under cutler hammer

Customer:

ok

AssuredElectrical :

I know what it is now

Customer:

ok

AssuredElectrical :

Full Size Image

Customer:

thats the one

AssuredElectrical :

Ok

AssuredElectrical :

That is an AFCI breaker

Customer:

yes sir, arc flash

AssuredElectrical :

special arc fault detection system

Customer:

yes sir

AssuredElectrical :

Have you tried installing one bulb ata time on the coach lights?

Customer:

yes sir, this was the weird part

Customer:

i installed it on the west one first, this is the original light that i though that was giving me the trouble and it tripped

Customer:

i took the bulb out and installed it on the east light and it worked

Customer:

now i installed another bulb on the west light and it stayed on this time

AssuredElectrical :

ok

Customer:

i turned the switch off and back on and the lights did not trip the breaker

Customer:

however when i did some more trouble shooting, i turned off the laundry room lights and the kitchen lights and the coach lights worked fine

Customer:

but than i left my laundry room lights on and kitchen lights on and turned my coach lights on and it tripped the breaker

Customer:

i checked the coach lights for moisture, there was none

Customer:

two months ago an electrician replaced the breaker because i was having the same issue

Customer:

what's your opinion

AssuredElectrical :

with AFCI breakers, normally if you disconnect them from the circuit and they do not trip, then the breaker is fine

AssuredElectrical :

They are very sensitive

AssuredElectrical :

Sometimes too much so

Customer:

the gentlemen at lowe's said the same thing

AssuredElectrical :

I have seen them trip on circuits and take me 30 minutes or so get it reset and never trip again

Customer:

he recommended i change to flourescent bulbs but that didn't work

AssuredElectrical :

One thing to look at: Find every light and outlet on that breaker

AssuredElectrical :

make a little list

Customer:

is it possible that for some reason the breaker is not able to handle the surge when the sensor gives the signal to turn on

AssuredElectrical :

Arc faults can be sensitive to a lot of plug in items

Customer:

thats the thing there is no electronics plugged in

AssuredElectrical :

No outlets are on that breaker?

Customer:

the electronics that are plugged in continue to work when the breaker trips, so that's how i know that they are not on the breaker

AssuredElectrical :

ok

Customer:

yes sir, their probably is but there is nothing connected to them

AssuredElectrical :

ok

Customer:

i have even thought of replacing the coach lights with new ones

Customer:

too see if maybe it's one of the coach lights

Customer:

but the house is only two years old

AssuredElectrical :

There could be a loose connection in the photo cell

AssuredElectrical :

That appears to be a common item in the scenario

Customer:

what is a photo cell

AssuredElectrical :

the dusk to dawn

Customer:

oh ok, i thought about replacing that also

Customer:

so i disconnected it also to see if the lights would work

Customer:

but i guess there is some kind of wiring that would not allow the lights to come on

Customer:

so i just put it back together and left it alone for now

AssuredElectrical :

Arc faults measure the difference between the black and white wires, if it sees too much difference, it trips

AssuredElectrical :

the difference is very small

AssuredElectrical :

but that is their design

AssuredElectrical :

Arc Fault Info

AssuredElectrical :

Good reading above

AssuredElectrical :

I suspect something in the photo cell wiring. That is where I would start.

Customer:

so you recommend replacing it

AssuredElectrical :

Possibly remove it for a short while and see if the lights work off the switch without any problems

AssuredElectrical :

That would help narrow down the problem

Customer:

how do i get the lights to work w/out the photo cell

AssuredElectrical :

You have a wall switch too? or not?

AssuredElectrical :

should be somewhere?

Customer:

yes sir

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, you just change the wires where the photocell is located.

Customer:

ok on the photo cell there was a black on black

Customer:

three whites put together

Customer:

and a red cable that was tied to a lighter black wire, i think

Customer:

i disconnected all of those wires....

AssuredElectrical :

Yes , take the black connected to the photocell black and move it to the black that is connected to the red on the phot cell.

AssuredElectrical :

this bypasses the photo cell

AssuredElectrical :

So the switch will contraol the lights

Customer:

oh ok, got ya

Customer:

ok

Customer:

i've been wathcing youtube videos for troubleshooting info, is it possible that the switch can be bad

AssuredElectrical :

Look at the wires in the box with the photo cell while you are there and be sure all looks well and no water or anything

Customer:

yes sir everything was nice and tight and dry

AssuredElectrical :

thats good

Customer:

the photo cell looks down towards the ground

AssuredElectrical :

did the phot0c ell have a white wire?

Customer:

yes sir, a white, a red and a black

Customer:

the photo cell white was connected to TWO other white wires coming from the house

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, remove the photo cell wire from the the whites also and leave the other whites connected together

Customer:

i guess from the two coach lights

AssuredElectrical :

All the whites are together

Customer:

they were

AssuredElectrical :

In and out plus the photo cell

AssuredElectrical :

just remove the 1 photo cell white from the group

Customer:

and i put them back that way

Customer:

ok, remove white photo cell wire

AssuredElectrical :

correct

Customer:

remove red and black photo cell and connect both black wires that come from the house

AssuredElectrical :

Correct. this will take it out of the loop for testing the Arc Fault breaker

Customer:

now everthing should be connected leaving the photo cell out, correct

Customer:

gotcha

AssuredElectrical :

correct

Customer:

what if that test trips the breaker

AssuredElectrical :

If no problems, we will know it is the issue

Customer:

that would mean that there is nothing wrong with the photo cell

AssuredElectrical :

I would look hard at the coach lights to start

AssuredElectrical :

it becomes an issue of what item is next

AssuredElectrical :

thats the hard part of troubleshooting AFCI breakers

AssuredElectrical :

Each connection must be looked at

Customer:

is it possible that their is too much load on the breaker, or their is no such thing

AssuredElectrical :

I dont htink it is tripping on too much current

AssuredElectrical :

15 amps is a lot

Customer:

ok, so i can rule that out

Customer:

i definetely don't need to replace the 15 w/ a 20

AssuredElectrical :

That is approx 1800 watts

AssuredElectrical :

thats a lot of bulbs to be on

AssuredElectrical :

Cant change breakers to higher ones, that is illegal

AssuredElectrical :

breakers are based on the wire size

Customer:

ok

AssuredElectrical :

Thats what the electrician should have done when he replaced the breaker

AssuredElectrical :

look at everything

Customer:

so if it's for 1800watts, that means it can handle 30 -- 60watt bulbs correct

AssuredElectrical :

yep

AssuredElectrical :

give or take depending on what the voltage actually is on the house

AssuredElectrical :

very close

Customer:

he kind of did, but he only looked at the coach lights and the photo cell

AssuredElectrical :

Thats where to start. Never know wher it leads

Customer:

he did find water from a heavy rainstorm on the east coach light

AssuredElectrical :

Moisture will do it alone

Customer:

so when he dried it out and checked everything else, he replaced the breaker and called it good

Customer:

but now i'm in the same spot two months later but with no moisture in the coach lights

AssuredElectrical :

i do understand

AssuredElectrical :

start with the photo cell test, if have to, next is the coach lights

Customer:

ok so lets say it was the sensor......i replace it and everything works fine

AssuredElectrical :

ok

Customer:

that's were i was going, how do i troubleshoot the coach lights

Customer:

do i disconnect them completely

AssuredElectrical :

you have to remove them and look at the wiring. make sure all is dry and looks good

AssuredElectrical :

I would disconnect them 1 at a time for testing, just like the photocell

Customer:

ok i did do that today before i came to work and the wires looked good except the ground wire, it looked a little dirty, almost rusty color

AssuredElectrical :

Look in the sockets too, where the bulb screws in

AssuredElectrical :

many times there is corrosion

Customer:

i did that also, i got a toothbrush and cleaned out all the dead bugs

Customer:

i'll put a small wire brush on them tomorrow

AssuredElectrical :

it is time consuming

AssuredElectrical :

but, only way

Customer:

i just want to get it done correctly and be done with this headache, kind of fun though

AssuredElectrical :

you will master it quickly I am sure

Customer:

w/out paying an electrician 90.00 to just come out and 100.00/hr

AssuredElectrical :

yep

Customer:

:)

Customer:

what if it's not the lights and it's not the sensor

AssuredElectrical :

Then you have to pick from the list on whats on the breaker

AssuredElectrical :

1 by 1

Customer:

i guess that's when i'll call the electrician

AssuredElectrical :

I think you may find the photo cell or one of the lights

AssuredElectrical :

give them a good test, not just they work and move on... Couple days etc

Customer:

i really think it has to be between the switch to the sensor to the coach lights, gut feeling

Customer:

what does it really mean when people say "make sure the wires are not touching"


 


 

AssuredElectrical :

Well, when they are insulated and wire nuts, they really cant be touching

AssuredElectrical :

mostly in switches and outlets

AssuredElectrical :

where the ground can touch a hot wire

Customer:

ok, that's what i thought...

Customer:

if the wires are taped or wrapped they can touch correct

AssuredElectrical :

correct

AssuredElectrical :

insulated between each other

Customer:

do you think it's possible that it could be the breaker

AssuredElectrical :

NO

Customer:

cool

Customer:

question

Customer:

when the electrician checked on the photo cell he went into the attic and looked at the are were the photo cell hangs, what was he looking at/for

AssuredElectrical :

I dont know on that, have to see it all in person to figure that out

AssuredElectrical :

sometimes it is difficult to envision

Customer:

should there or could there be any wiring connected up there or is all the connections gonna be in the box where photo cell sits

Customer:

c'mon, it says that you are an expert

Customer:

:)

AssuredElectrical :

I would not suspect any connections up there. Check the lights in the attic when you have the breaker off to be sure

AssuredElectrical :

:))

Customer:

well, i can't think of anymore questions, is there something i'm missing or not asking?

Customer:

wait

AssuredElectrical :

no, I think you have the tools now to start troubleshooting

AssuredElectrical :

ok

Customer:

what would cause the lights to dimm low and than back to normal and than dim again and so on

AssuredElectrical :

Thats a loose connection normally somewhere in the circuit

Customer:

coach light connection maybe

Customer:

or something more in depth

AssuredElectrical :

No, that would only affect the coach light

AssuredElectrical :

Much more in depth

Customer:

affect the individual coach light or both coach lights since they are on the same circuit

AssuredElectrical :

What is dimming?

AssuredElectrical :

a single light will not dim another light

Customer:

the coach lights

AssuredElectrical :

if they are the only ones, then the problem will be in the connections at the lights or photo cell or at the switch

Customer:

so the night the breaker tripped, i reset the breakere and knew for a fact the coach lights tripped the breaker so i kind of tapped on both coach lights and they stayed on for a while but they were dimming....

Customer:

i thought it could be a bulb but when i changed it out....

Customer:

thats when the breaker tripped again and have not come back on since until i've been troubleshooting here and there

AssuredElectrical :

Look hard at those lights, they sound like the problem

Customer:

ok

AssuredElectrical :

sockets :)

Customer:

yeah

Customer:

what causes the lights in a house to dim when the A/C kicks on or a vacuum is turned on

AssuredElectrical :

usually a voltage drain. May to check that sometime

Customer:

i guess that's a whole new different 15.00 dollars, :)

AssuredElectrical :

yep

AssuredElectrical :

but remember what the electrician charged,lol

Customer:

well i appreciate it, you have been a big help and it has been a good learning experience for me, I'm only 26 and don't have a lot of knowledge

AssuredElectrical :

You are very welcome. Been a pleasure.

Customer:

is there any way that you take tips, or how does this thing work

AssuredElectrical :

yes, it will ask later if you accept for my time

Customer:

ok, just real quick, it will tell me how much i will pay for your services

Customer:

correct

AssuredElectrical :

yes

AssuredElectrical :

it is half of the total i believe

Customer:

ok, well i appreciate everything, how do i log off, just hit the accept button or what

AssuredElectrical :

yes, thats it

Customer:

ok, have a good night

AssuredElectrical :

u2

AssuredElectrical, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 2936
Experience: Contractor-40 Years in the ElectricalTrade
AssuredElectrical and 2 other Electrical Specialists are ready to help you

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