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Old 05-18-2017, 01:29 PM   #1
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Electrical GFI issue

(not a real technical guy)

I have a Flagstaff Forest River popup. First trip this season.

Get there and plug in. Start running sink a little while later to get some hot water, wife notices water leaking out bottom of trailer. Discover the drain hose from the sink has split open. Fair amount of water underneath sink and seeping out onto floor. Okay, don't use water this weekend.

Later, we notice the exterior light wont work. Interior lights work fine. Plugs are dead, furnace wont kick on, vent fan doesn't work.

Hit the GFI about 20 times and it does nothing. Check fuses, breakers, all okay. Getting power from the hookup because the blue lights are on.

No furnace, power all weekend.

Take to repair shop. Fix hose and told me that they just reset the GFI and that fixed everything.

Couple of questions.
1. Why couldn't I reset GFI out there?
2. Why was the furnace not kicking on off of the battery?
3. Jr. Electrician at work tells me that to reset the GFI I needed to unplug from the site power first. Any truth to that?

Thoughts are appreciated.

JON
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:00 PM   #2
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Many things - breakers, GFCI breakers, and so on need to first be turned off then back on. On a common breaker panel, if the breaker trips, it many not appear to be tripped. But the switch toggle will be slightly out of the full on position (BUT NOT IN THE OFF POSITION). It may also rattle a bit if you wiggle it but not appear to be off. Turn the breaker off then back on to reset.

The same is true of many GFCI outlets. If they have tripped, you must first push the "test" or off button, then push the "reset" or on button. I don't know all the "whys" of this, but one that makes sense is that the designers want you to make a very deliberate choice to reset the tripped breaker.

As for the total electrical "meltdown" you experienced, if you were connected to shore power, the tripped GFCI MAY (guessing) have had some say on other items running, but the furnace is 12 volt, so I'm not sure how. The dealer may also have changed a fuse or reset a panel on the breaker. The good news is that everything is working.

As for your drain. I'm not sure how your drain functions, but I have a high-wall with a conventional double-bowl sink and faucet. Underneath, it's plumbed like your kitchen sink with a conventional "J-trap" with hard plastic plumbing. https://fthmb.tqn.com/M3yn3UW446YOhy...b7d0e810bb.jpg The pipes are held together with threaded plastic collars (nuts) that you can get away with hand tightening in a home. But the vibrations of towing my camper made them rattle apart...on two occasions. I used a water-pump pliers to gently snug the nuts beyond hand tight. then I used Gorilla tape (super duct tape) to wrap the pipe and nut to keep them from rattling apart. Water-pump pliers: https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&ke...sl_67sssuvt3_e

You need a tool kit in your camper: A "4-way" screw driver, regular slip joint pliers, the water-pump pliers, and a small adjustable wrench. Things rattle loose frequently on the road...especially if you travel any distance on washboard gravel roads. Part of your setup routine should be to check the sink drain, tighten loose stuff, look for acorn nuts that fell off their bolts, and so on. And that Gorilla tape belongs in the camper, too.

By the way, my HW-277 has an outdoor kitchen. The drain from that is quite different...a length of flex hose held on with a hose clamp. If that came apart, I'd chalk it up to sloppy assembly. If they use spring type hose clamps as they do in cars, it may have been slightly out of position. If they use the screw type hose clamps, the installer may have failed to tighten the screw.
Spring Hose Clamp: https://www.amazon.com/Outlaw-Racing...ing+hose+clamp
Screw Hose Clamp: https://www.amazon.com/PrePrecision-...rew+hose+clamp

Hell, if your camper kitchen was assembled first thing on Monday morning or late Friday afternoon, there might not have been a hose clamp at all.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:03 PM   #3
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PS. Junior electrician at work is incorrect. If that were the case, you'd have to unplug your house from the grid (or turn of the main breaker) to reset a GFCI. But never fear, someday he'll grow up to be a "real" electrician.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:18 PM   #4
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Some of the larger RV's have more than one GFCI. It is possible that the one you tried to reset did not trip and the dealer reset the other one. If you have an outdoor kitchen, check there. Note that the GFCI's are wired such that on master protects several downstream outlets.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:19 PM   #5
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A GFCI will not reset without power to it first. I had the same problem when I pressured washed the vinyl siding on my house. Water got into the outdoor outlet protected by a GFI breaker. Had to pull off the cover, dry it out with a blow dryer and reseal it.
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Old 05-18-2017, 05:48 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmoore13 View Post
PS. Junior electrician at work is incorrect. If that were the case, you'd have to unplug your house from the grid (or turn of the main breaker) to reset a GFCI. But never fear, someday he'll grow up to be a "real" electrician.
X2 on the electrician. I've learned that there are two types, a licensed electrician, and a "qualified" electrician. Just a note here, but if the water from your leak seeped into an outlet controlled by your GFCI, that would cause a ground fault.
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Old 05-18-2017, 06:30 PM   #7
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More than you wanted to know - and hope for Junior Electrician

There is one situation where Junior Electrician may have a point. Your water leak (dump) tripped the 120 volt GFCI, but your furnace also failed to function. The furnace is 12 volt, but the Converter supplies the 12 volts when connected to shore power. It's not out of the question that the entire converter went into a protection mode. If they overheat, they will simply shut down and then restart after a cool-down period. They may also have some sort of automated protection circuit if they detect a ground fault type of current leakage in the 12 volt circuit. I don't know of one, but anything's possible.

This is the online manual for a 2015 PUP. This section covers the converter.
Forest River Manuals
It doesn't quite say that pulling the plug from shore power is a remedy, but if water somehow followed the 12 volt wire to the furnace or the thermostat, "something" may have tripped in the converter and since you then pulled the plug to take it home, whatever tripped may have reset after pulling the plug.

That's a whole lot of imaginative, magical thinking regarding the 12-volt circuits in the camper, but it's not entirely out of the question.

As for the GFCI's, FlyBob is right that there may be more than one in your camper, and in that case, either one could be "upstream" of the 120 Volt load(s) that stopped functioning. A GFCI outlet is first in line between the panel and additional outlets that are also protected by that GFCI. Often 2 or 3 more outlets can be downstream of the GFCI depending on the size of the wire and electrical code.

GFCIs confound lots of people.

It's kind of sad that the wires passing under the sink are not "dressed" and routed in a way to shed water. Assuming that the wire jackets are not damaged, water on the wire itself will not trip a GFCI. Instead, the water traces along the wire until it enters a device, like an outlet box, and then triggers the GFCI by contacting a screw or bare section of wire where it connects to the GFCI (or other) outlet. The water creates a kind of bad circuit with a trickle of current flowing between the hot (black) and bare (safety ground). In a valid circuit, current should only flow through the black and white wires. The third (bare) wire should have no current flowing through it.

I had a farm, and I literally ran extension cords from GFCIs through the water in a pond. So long as the jacket on the wire was intact, the GFCI would not trip. In fact, I could plug a submersible pump into the extension cord, tape up the connection really well, and submerge the plug!

The same should be true under your sink. You could address this by slightly adjusting the wire routing to be "uphill" as it moves "away" from the sink, or by adding a "dam" of some sort to the wire. The dam might be a rubber grommet clamped around the wire and then sealed with caulk. Water following the wire would hit the "dam" and drip off the wire rather than continue to follow it to a device. Of course, your sink shouldn't leak, and everything with water leaks now and again. But even household kitchen sinks have electrical connections to garbage disposals, and so on. Proper wire routing involves creating a "belly" in the wire so that water following the wire will reach the bottom of the belly and drip off, because it can't follow the wire as it turns "uphill."

Anyway, the precautions for ensuring your drain won't come apart again are step 1 in never having this experience again.
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