Need help with GFI tripping problem


Animated Shows since 2012
Jan 12, 2013
Richmond, VA
Hi Greg.

I had similar issues with GFCI trips last year with 4 LOR controllers (120VAC) and 9500 lights. I was good with 3 plugged in, but once I plugged in #4, it would trip every time. It wasn't a current problem as I have all LED lights, totaling less than 6A when everything is on. I ended up replacing the GFCI outlet in my outdoor receptacle with a standard outlet, then built 4 weatherproof GFCI standalone boxes, 1 for each controller (picture attached). Out of the back of each GFCI box was a 6' pigtail with a standard 120V plug. I used splitters on the standard outlet and plugged all 4 GFCI boxes into that.

Basically, I was protected past the GFCIs but had no protection from the wall to the GFCI box. So out of hundreds of connections, I only had 4 connections in my entire display that were not ground fault protected. This would not meet code I imagine, but it was the only way I could keep my light show running and still maintain a high level of protection. I suppose the correct thing to do would be to run a daisy chain of independently powered outdoor GFCI outlets along the exterior wall, which I may consider for next year.

GFCIs trip at only 5-6 mA of unbalanced current. GFCIs do not like long runs of wire, anything over 50 feet. If you have hundreds or even thousands of feet of wire running throughout your display, each wire can act like an antenna, picking up all kinds of RF interference. I believe this is the main cause of "nuisance" GFCI trips in light show displays.

I installed GFCI circuit breakers to an outdoor gazebo for some friends. The wire run was about 100 feet long. With no faults and nothing plugged in to any outlets, the GFCI was tripping instantaneously after flipping the breaker to "on". There was no current flowing on the line…just 3 wires in a cable jacket 100 feet long. My guess is RF inducing current on the lines, enough to pass the 5 mA threshold and trip the GFCI. I then replaced the GFCI breaker with a standard circuit breaker and moved the GFCI to the first outlet in the Gazebo. No issues after that.