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AssuredElectrical
AssuredElectrical, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4241
Experience:  Contractor-42+ Years in the ElectricalTrade
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I having a problem with my outdoor light. Its on a 3 way switch.

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I having a problem with my outdoor light. Its on a 3 way switch. There is a gfci outlet on the circuit. All my other lights outlets and garage door opener work fine until I flip one of the 3 way switches on then the gfci trips. I have tried everything. I can wire the outdoor light with a single switch and everthing works fine.

AssuredElectrical :

Welcome. My name is XXXXX XXXXX would be glad to assist.

AssuredElectrical :

Have you removed both 3 ways from the wall and inspected for wires that may be nicked or cut? Possible ground wire touching a screw?

AssuredElectrical :

Did this just start suddenly?

Customer:

Yes I have checked. No I bought the house a year ago. And the outdoor fixture was missing so I never knew I had this problem

AssuredElectrical :

What are the wire colors on the 3 ways? Call them #1 and #2?

Customer:

2 black wires and 1 white

AssuredElectrical :

On both?

Customer:

Yes

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, need to see what other wires are in the boxes, that is an odd combination and may be crossed up wiring.'

Customer:

Could there be a short in the traveling wires?

AssuredElectrical :

Is this an outside light in the yard?

AssuredElectrical :

or on the house?

Customer:

Would it cause any other problems if I just capped of the one switch and the traveling wires and made it a single switch?

Customer:

It is on my house

Customer:

The house was built in 1977

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, was trying to understand why the light is on a GFCI when it is on the house?

AssuredElectrical :

GFCI is not required when the light is attached to the house, especially in 1977

Customer:

The gfci is in the garage and that is where the second switch is.

AssuredElectrical :

It is not a problem with how you got it working, by capping the traveler wires. That is fine if that is the way you want it to work.

AssuredElectrical :

The garage receptacle needs to be GFCI, but not the switches.

Customer:

I put a regular outlet in place of the gfci and everything worked fine

AssuredElectrical :

Maybe someone just connected the lights on the LOAD side of the GFCI. They can go to the LINE side if there are no other receptacles connected.

AssuredElectrical :

you can keep the GFCI in the garage, just connect all the wires to the LINE side of the GFCI. Then the light will not be on the GFCI

AssuredElectrical :

But , make sure there are no other receptacles, if there are more, then you cannot do it because the receptacles must be GFCI in the garage or outside

Customer:

I chased the wires through the crawl space and its the white wire that is on the same circuit of the gfci

AssuredElectrical :

There isnt a cable?

AssuredElectrical :

just a wire?

Customer:

No its a cable

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, and the cable has a black and white wire inside connected to the GFCI, correct?

Customer:

Yes

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, is there anything else on that cable besides the light?

AssuredElectrical :

If you disconnect that cable, what all goes off?

Customer:

Garage door opener an outlet on the back wall

AssuredElectrical :

Ok, Then the wires have to stay on the LOAD terminals on the GFCI since there is another receptacle on the back wall.

AssuredElectrical :

Apparently one of the traveler wires is touching somehow and making the GFCI trip. It only takes about 6 milli anps to trip one

AssuredElectrical :

milli amps, sorry

AssuredElectrical :

You could put another GFCI on the back wall, then connect that cable to the LINE side and eliminate the problem

AssuredElectrical :

In other words, connect that cable to the LINE side terminals. Then go to the back wall receptacle and change it out to a GFCI. Then all would be safe and the light should not trip the GFCI.

AssuredElectrical :

GFCI has 2 sets of terminals, LINE and LOAD

AssuredElectrical :

Full Size Image

AssuredElectrical :

Well that one shows power in the wrong spot. Not sure why, need to correct it.

Customer:

So two gfci in a row would solve tis problem?

AssuredElectrical :

Here is the correct one, sorry.

Full Size Image

AssuredElectrical :

They would not be in a row

AssuredElectrical :

First one will have all wires on the LINE side and only protects the receptacle plugs on the front.

AssuredElectrical :

Second one would wire with the wires on the LINE terminals also and protect the plugs on the front also

AssuredElectrical :

The way it is now, the first GFCI protects everything, receptacles, l;ights and all

AssuredElectrical :

The lights will no longer be on a GFCI

Customer:

Ok I understand now.

AssuredElectrical :

ok, sometimes it is hard to explain on GFCI because of how they are wired is how they operate alone or also other items

Customer:

Would this bypass the problem with the traveling wires if there is one?

AssuredElectrical :

You stated earlier, that you changed the GFCI to a regular receptacle and all worked fine, is that not correct?

Customer:

Or can traveling wires cause the gfci to pop for no reason?

AssuredElectrical :

Must be small leakage of some sort. It doesnt trip the breaker, so there is not a diret short.

Customer:

Yes that is correct

Customer:

The main breaker never trips

AssuredElectrical :

I understand, that is why it worked fine with the regular receptacle

AssuredElectrical :

GFCI is to protect people with tools and such that may have problems or get close to water etc. ONLY takes a split second of power leakage to trip it

Customer:

So this leakage I don't need to worry about causing a fire in my wall?

Customer:

Im confident in my connection skills. its just the things behind the walls that freak me out.

AssuredElectrical :

If it was not on the GFCI now, you would not know it. It could be a loose wire nut in the circuit, that is all it takes, a loose connection that is not making good contact. If it were a big problem, it would trip the breaker

AssuredElectrical :

If you go through the entire circuit and check all connections and wire nuts, you will probably find the problem.

AssuredElectrical :

If the light starts to flicker later, then you know it is a loose connection.

Customer:

Ok sounds good. Thank you so much. I will get to work on these outlets

AssuredElectrical :

.

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