Water tripping GFI circuit without penetration

• DaveC426913
In summary, it is possible that simply getting an outdoor electrical cord wet, it can somehow trip a GFI circuit.
DaveC426913
Gold Member
Is it possible that simply getting an outdoor electrical cord wet, it can somehow trip a GFI circuit?

I have a pool pump with its own waterproof cord (i.e. not an extension cord) and, as far as I can tell if the cord finds even a couple of feet of itself in a puddle of water, this will trip the GFI (which is about 20 yards away).

I don't mean during rain, I mean if the pool splashes and some water pools on the ground where the cord is, it will trip the breaker. If I lift the cord out of the water, I can reset the breaker and everything's fine.

I don't think there are any breaks in the cord. If there are, they must be too small to see (and I would think that simply lifting the cord would drain the water out - the water woulds stay stuck in any small crack.)

I'm wondering if the proximity of water to the wires (as opposed to air) thrugh the rubber casing can cause shiort through the rubber. (Kind of like electricity can jump an insulating gap of any size if the potential is great enough.)

Lifting the cord out of the water is eliminating the external path to ground, not draining the water out. My first guess is that the cord is bad. You can tell by unplugging it from the power outlet, and measuring the resistance to the puddle water with the cord first out of the puddle and then with it in. Measure each of the Hot and Neutral prongs to the puddle to see if you DVM comes down off of Overload with the contact.

If the cord is good, then that's a very strange effect. There shouldn't be enough differential displacement current from the conductors out to earth/puddle ground to trip the breaker, unless maybe the breaker is extra-sensitive and needs to be replaced. Do you have another GFCI outlet somewhere where you could make another ground puddle and see if the other outlet trips as well?

berkeman said:
Lifting the cord out of the water is eliminating the external path to ground, not draining the water out.
<strike>Sorry, that wasn't very clear. I was suggesting that, if it were a crack in the cord, and water was getting into the wires, then simply lifting it out of the puddle would not fix it, since enough wet would remain in the cord to cause the short. If water were actually getting into the wires, it would need to dry out in there before it would run again.</strike>

Oh I see what you're getting at! I was assuming the short was wire to wire. You're suggesting the short is wire to ground. Thus, wet or no, lifting it out of the puddle breaks the short to ground. Got it!

berkeman said:
My first guess is that the cord is bad. You can tell by unplugging it from the power outlet, and measuring the resistance to the puddle water with the cord first out of the puddle and then with it in. Measure each of the Hot and Neutral prongs to the puddle to see if you DVM comes down off of Overload with the contact.

If the cord is good, then that's a very strange effect. There shouldn't be enough differential displacement current from the conductors out to earth/puddle ground to trip the breaker, unless maybe the breaker is extra-sensitive and needs to be replaced. Do you have another GFCI outlet somewhere where you could make another ground puddle and see if the other outlet trips as well?
I installed this breaker and all the outdoor lines myself just recently. It does trip more frequently than it ought ('course, better safe than sorry). But if I fix this cord, that might eliminate the bulk of the problem.

Today, it tripped while I was in the pool . (I made a big wave that swamped the cord, and off it went.)

Thanks!

DaveC426913 said:
I installed this breaker and all the outdoor lines myself
Well then, that explains it.

Danger said:
Well then, that explains it.
Ouch!

.

The cord is surely electrically leaky. You need to get a better cord.

Try getting hospital grade cableing. i.e. with low leakage current insulation.

Regards

1. What does it mean to "trip" a GFI circuit?

Tripping a GFI (ground fault interrupter) circuit means that the circuit has detected a ground fault, or a leakage of electric current to the ground. In order to prevent electrical shocks, the GFI circuit will automatically shut off the power to that circuit, thus "tripping" or cutting off the flow of electricity.

2. How does water cause a GFI circuit to trip without penetration?

Water can act as a conductor of electricity, and even a small amount of water in the wrong place can create a path for electric current to flow and trigger a ground fault. In the case of a GFI circuit, the water may not necessarily penetrate the wiring or insulation, but simply come into contact with the metal housing of an electrical outlet or appliance, causing it to trip.

3. Can a GFI circuit be tripped by other liquids besides water?

Yes, any liquid that is conductive can potentially cause a GFI circuit to trip. This includes solutions with high water content, such as juice or milk, as well as more corrosive liquids like bleach or cleaning products. It is important to keep all liquids away from electrical outlets and appliances to prevent tripping the GFI circuit.

4. Why is it important to reset a tripped GFI circuit?

Resetting a tripped GFI circuit is important for safety reasons. If the GFI circuit remains tripped, it means that there is still a ground fault present and electricity is not flowing to that circuit. This could indicate a potential hazard that needs to be addressed, such as a damaged appliance or faulty wiring. Resetting the GFI circuit allows you to identify and fix the issue before restoring power.

5. How can I prevent my GFI circuit from tripping due to water without penetration?

To prevent your GFI circuit from tripping due to water without penetration, make sure to keep all liquids away from electrical outlets and appliances. This includes using caution when using electronics near sinks, bathtubs, or other areas where water is present. It is also important to regularly check for any damage or wear on electrical cords and promptly replace them if necessary.

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