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Thread: How to isolate an earth leakage problem

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    How to isolate an earth leakage problem

    Step 1 : switch off the main switch, earth leakage unit and all the circuit breakers, unplug everything and switch off isolators (stoves, pool, geyser, etc)

    Step 2 : switch on the earth leakage unit first then switch on the main switch, if the earth leakage trips chances are you have a neutral fault, you need to call an electrician. If the earth leakage unit stays up/on go to step 3

    Step 3 : Switch on one circuit breaker at a time and wait a second or 2 as you switch them on, if the earth leakage trips as you switch on a circuit breaker, leave the circuit breaker down/off and move to the next circuit breaker, if the rest of the circuit breakers are reset without tripping the earth leakage unit then you have identified the circuit then you can start plugging appliance back in and switching on isolators, you will find some appliance don't work, you will need to get an electrician to trace the fault. If all the circuit breakers reset without tripping the earth leakage unit, then go to step 4

    Step 4 : Start plugging in appliances and switch on isolators one at a time until the cable/ appliance trips the earth leakage, unplug the appliance which trips the earth leakage and leave it unplugged, you have identified the problem, you don't need to call an electrician, just replace the appliance, if you switch on the pool isolator and it trips the earth leakage you know it is the pool causing the problem.

    Note!!!!
    This is a very basic explanation of what might be causing the earth leakage unit trip and if in doubt call your local electrician.
    Finding an "electrician" capable of tracing faults could be just as tricky as the fault itself

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    How to reset a tripped earth leakage unit

    We get many calls where "the earth leakage unit won't reset". In trying to talk a client through identifying the problem, we also cover this issue:

    With some earth leakage units, resetting a tripped earth leakage unit is as simple as flicking up the switch.

    However, with some earth leakage units, you must first flip the switch down completely before flipping the switch back up.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    Eish, you got no idea how many times I rode out to a site because they did not listen when I explained that over the phone

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparks View Post
    Eish, you got no idea how many times I rode out to a site because they did not listen when I explained that over the phone
    Easy money...
    To make a mistake is human, to learn from that mistake is knowledge and knowledge is strength.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ians View Post
    Step 1 : switch off the main switch, earth leakage unit and all the circuit breakers, unplug everything and switch off isolators (stoves, pool, geyser, etc)

    Step 2 : switch on the earth leakage unit first then switch on the main switch, if the earth leakage trips chances are you have a neutral fault, you need to call an electrician. If the earth leakage unit stays up/on go to step 3

    Step 3 : Switch on one circuit breaker at a time and wait a second or 2 as you switch them on, if the earth leakage trips as you switch on a circuit breaker, leave the circuit breaker down/off and move to the next circuit breaker, if the rest of the circuit breakers are reset without tripping the earth leakage unit then you have identified the circuit then you can start plugging appliance back in and switching on isolators, you will find some appliance don't work, you will need to get an electrician to trace the fault. If all the circuit breakers reset without tripping the earth leakage unit, then go to step 4

    Step 4 : Start plugging in appliances and switch on isolators one at a time until the cable/ appliance trips the earth leakage, unplug the appliance which trips the earth leakage and leave it unplugged, you have identified the problem, you don't need to call an electrician, just replace the appliance, if you switch on the pool isolator and it trips the earth leakage you know it is the pool causing the problem.

    Note!!!!
    This is a very basic explanation of what might be causing the earth leakage unit trip and if in doubt call your local electrician.
    Finding an "electrician" capable of tracing faults could be just as tricky as the fault itself
    Something I found helpful, as I work alone, is to turn on the TV loud when doing step 4. As you are plugging in the appliances you will hear the TV go of when you plug in the faulty appliance.
    To make a mistake is human, to learn from that mistake is knowledge and knowledge is strength.

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    A little bit off topic

    Do lighting circuits need to be fed through the earth leakage breaker?

    I noticed that all my lighting breakers were fed directly from the mains breaker, thus bypassing the earth leakage breaker. Out of interest I moved it from the mains to the earth leakage breaker to see what happens. There is now one of the lighting circuits that trip the earth leakage. I know which rooms the affected circuit supply power to, but how do I pinpoint the exact light, do I take the bulb out, or disconnect the wiring one room after another until the tripping stops?

    Thank you

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    Gold Member Sparks's Avatar
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    If one of those fittings is an outside light, you can start by checking for water ingress. if there are no outside lights on that circuit or they are all watertight, the next most probable cause would be a fluorescent, you would need to disconnect both live and neutral wires from the fitting to eliminate it. After that you can disconnect any ceiling fans. If that does not solve the problem you need to systematically disconnect all the fittings one by one unless work has been done to the circuit in which case you can start there after checking the first three most probable causes.Lights are not required by law to be wired through the earth leakage unit unless there is a ceiling fan on the circuit. that is because all motors must have earth leakage protection as they are prone to earth faults. One drop of water is enough to trip an earth leakage unit.

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    To be honest I'd say that when looking for an earth leakage fault there's no substitute for using test equipment. The elimination method can be inaccurate and misleading.

    Example if you have a circuit with 2 appliances plugged in. Appliance 1 has 29mA of leakage, Appliance 2 has 3mA of leakage. If both appliances are plugged in together your 30mA eatrh leakage will trip. If either appliance is unplugged the earth leakage breaker should hold. Clearly one of the appliances is faulty but by unplugging things randomly you're not guaranteed to localise the fault.

    It's worth remembering the earth on a circuit is dual purpose, it's functional as well as protective. Many electronic appliances use the earth to sink surge voltages using surge protectors. These surge protector networks are connected to the earth and the often have an acceptable amount of standing leakage. If you have ten or more PC's plugged in it's possible for the leakage current to exceed 30mA even when there isn't a fault.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyD View Post
    To be honest I'd say that when looking for an earth leakage fault there's no substitute for using test equipment. The elimination method can be inaccurate and misleading.

    Example if you have a circuit with 2 appliances plugged in. Appliance 1 has 29mA of leakage, Appliance 2 has 3mA of leakage. If both appliances are plugged in together your 30mA eatrh leakage will trip. If either appliance is unplugged the earth leakage breaker should hold. Clearly one of the appliances is faulty but by unplugging things randomly you're not guaranteed to localise the fault.

    It's worth remembering the earth on a circuit is dual purpose, it's functional as well as protective. Many electronic appliances use the earth to sink surge voltages using surge protectors. These surge protector networks are connected to the earth and the often have an acceptable amount of standing leakage. If you have ten or more PC's plugged in it's possible for the leakage current to exceed 30mA even when there isn't a fault.
    I have had an earth leakage problem for years, it trips for no apparent reason randomly, there is no fixed pattern.
    At night with every one asleep, or in the daytime, winter or summer, makes no difference.
    A month can pass without any tripping, then all of a sudden four or five times in one day.
    I have found that fluorescent tubes seems a culprit, sometimes when I hit a light switch not full on (like not fast enough so that it makes an arching sound, hope u understand what I mean!) it will trip the EL. Another thing, I have an old house, like built in 1967. The DB board looks like a crow's nest, I doubt it will pass the test if I sell in future.
    I have found that in recent years, during hot summer days, a greenish sticky substance is coming out of some of the light switches. I also added 400 W outside sodium tube flood lights and I think all my 10Amp light circuit breakers might be too small? All my plug circuit breakers are 30Amp
    I also have next to my DB board, one of those devices (DECABIT) connected to the local municipality that I suspect regulates my usage during certain periods, I am not sure?
    I have an electrician friend and he said it can be a nightmare isolating the problem. Any comments or suggestions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by fundi View Post
    I have had an earth leakage problem for years, it trips for no apparent reason randomly, there is no fixed pattern.
    At night with every one asleep, or in the daytime, winter or summer, makes no difference.
    A month can pass without any tripping, then all of a sudden four or five times in one day.
    I have found that fluorescent tubes seems a culprit, sometimes when I hit a light switch not full on (like not fast enough so that it makes an arching sound, hope u understand what I mean!) it will trip the EL. Another thing, I have an old house, like built in 1967. The DB board looks like a crow's nest, I doubt it will pass the test if I sell in future.
    I have found that in recent years, during hot summer days, a greenish sticky substance is coming out of some of the light switches. I also added 400 W outside sodium tube flood lights and I think all my 10Amp light circuit breakers might be too small? All my plug circuit breakers are 30Amp
    I also have next to my DB board, one of those devices (DECABIT) connected to the local municipality that I suspect regulates my usage during certain periods, I am not sure?
    I have an electrician friend and he said it can be a nightmare isolating the problem. Any comments or suggestions?
    I am going to swallow my pride and answer this one.
    I am a highly qualified electrician. However........
    I had the exact same problem in my kitchen light switch for years, and I mean about 5 years, you know the story about the mechanics car?
    Well this tripping problem had me stuffed, exactly the same symptoms; wouldn't trip for weeks then almost every time you used the switch, even changing the switch didn't work. It also tripped under different circumstances too.
    Then I made a contact with a guy who was selling "industrial type" din rail mount earth leakages and i bought a batch.
    They are CHINT, but the originals not the fakes.
    So one day I removed the behemoth, 20Ma monster that was mounted upon my board and replaced it with one of these new 30ma types.
    Voila! Problem gone!
    The earth leakage trips at 27 Ma every time just like its supposed to and hasn't had one false trip in the last 3 years.
    Just a thought?
    To make a mistake is human, to learn from that mistake is knowledge and knowledge is strength.

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