The holidays are a great time of year, but they're not stress-free by any measure. So when it's time for family and friends to come visit, you'd probably like your Christmas lights to stay in working order.
Unfortunately, your lights may have other plans. And if you have GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlets outside your home, your elaborate display of holiday lights could trip them.
However, there is good news. Just because a GFCI is tripped doesn't necessarily mean that you've done something wrong. It may just be an environmental factor or a minor overload that you can fix. In these situations, the hardest thing you'll have to do is determine what is causing the problem.
That's where we come in. At Mr. Electric, we have decades of experience helping people like you overcome common electrical issues. In this article, we'll explain a little bit about what GFCI outlets are, why they trip, and how to prevent trips from happening:
- Why Do GFCI Outlets Trip?
- GFCI Outlets Tripping Due to Overload
- Outlets Tripping Due to Environmental Causes
What are GFCI Outlets and Why Do They Trip?
GFCI outlets are a type of electrical outlet that can shut off its own power supply in order to reduce the risk of shock. They do this by constantly monitoring the variation between how much electricity enters and leaves the circuit. When the discrepancy between these two readings is significant enough, the outlet trips and shuts down the power supply.
In the case of Christmas lights, GFCI outlets can shut down for two reasons. The first is an overload, which is what happens when you trip a circuit breaker in your home. And the second is an environmental factor, such as some water getting into the outlet, lights, or cord.
Thankfully, you can take steps to prevent your GFCI outlets from tripping and putting a damper on your holiday.
How to Prevent GFCI Outlets Tripping Due to Overload
Like any other outlet, GFCIs can be overloaded by strenuous power demands. When it comes to holiday lights, this can easily happen. Generally, Christmas lights don't demand too much power, but as you string more and more lights together, the power demands can quickly add up.
To avoid tripping your GFCI because of an overload, the solution is fairly simple. Just make sure you are placing a reasonable number of lights onto any single outlet. If you find yourself adding power strips or extension cords too frequently, chances are you have too many lights for your outlet to support. And remember that even though there are two plugs on most outlets, those plugs are still on the same circuit.
How to Prevent Outlets Tripping Due to Environmental Causes
Because of the way GFCI outlets work, they are extremely sensitive to environmental changes. And if you live in a rainy, snowy, or extremely cold area, then you shouldn't be too surprised if your outdoor outlets trip at some point during the holiday season.
Here are a few tips that can help you avoid a frustrating GFCI trip during your Christmas celebrations:
- Install an outlet cover – One of the most reliable ways to keep your outlets clear of the elements is to add an outlet cover. These handy covers protect from the elements (and bugs) while still allowing cords to be plugged in and threaded through the bottom of the cover.
- Set timers for lights – The longer lights are on, the more likely they'll trip the GFCI. Set your Christmas lights on a timer. This will reduce the chances of a GFCI trip and will also help save you money on your power bills. If you can't set them on a timer, make sure to turn them off regularly.
- Pay attention to staples – Many people staple their Christmas lights to their home. This is completely fine, but it does increase the chance that you'll damage the lights themselves. If your outlets have been tripping inexplicably, comb through your lights. If a cord has been punctured by a staple, that might allow moisture in and trip the GFCI. This is also a good chance to find bad bulbs.
- Avoid sprinkler interference – In most places, sprinklers aren't something you have to worry about during the winter months. But those of you who live in warmer climates may still be running sprinklers around the holidays. If that's the case, make sure that your sprinklers aren't spraying your outlets or light connections. You should also avoid having your sprinklers and lights on at the same time.
Call Mr. Electric to Get the Outlets You Need for a Perfect Holiday Light Display
At Mr. Electric, we know how much having the perfect holiday décor can mean for you. If you keep running into trouble even after implementing these tips, there may be something else at play. Call us at (844) 866-1367 and we'll come perform an inspection to see what the problem is and take care of it. We can even install new outlets if it turns out your GFCI is faulty.
Schedule an appointment today and get your holiday plans on track!