Underground Wire Cut

doyledhMay 17, 2009

I'm a homeowner, not an electrician. I had a lampost installed outside which goes from a GFI receptacle out to the lamp. I cut into it while digging by the post. I taped it as a temporary fix and be damned if it didn't work. Well, for a while. The GFI breaker now will not reset. I suppose it is just shorting out due to moisture. I know I need to splice this properly and that there is an underground kit. First, is this something I should have a pro do? Is it something a reasonably handy homeowner can handle? Which underground cable splice kit should I use?

Any tips will be greatly appreciated.

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Lowes and Home Depot along with any electrical supply house will carry the splice kits. Splicing the wire is pretty straight forward and just follow the directions for the heat shrink to be applied over the splice.

So long as you know how to cut and strip wire, use a screwdriver and apply heat shrink tape you should be able to handle the project. However, if you are not comfortable then call an electrician. This *should* be a service call out type charge provided it is a cut wire by the lamp that needs to be repaired only.

As far as other advice, just make sure you have the power OFF to the circuit prior to performing the repairs. Also, there is a chane that the existing wire will not be long enough once it is repaired - if that is the case you may need to replace the wire from the area that you cut it up into the lamppost itself.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2009 at 9:36PM
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Thanks. I remember now that I did not cut through the wire but cut off some of the insulation and that must have been why I thought I could tape it off. I should have enough slack.

If I did not cut through the wire, then is it enough to simply make sure no wires are touching, clean it up, and seal it off with the heat shrink cover? Or, do I need to go ahead and cut the wire, splice it using the kit parts, and then add the heat shrink?

I assume the reason the GFI will not reset is the constant moisture inside the wire at the cut? With that off, the power IS off, am I right?

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 7:12AM
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Ron Natalie

Get an underground splice kit. If there isn't enough slack, you'll need two kits and a short length of wire. If you're real near the post, another (better) solution would be to rerun the wire between the splice and the fixture.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 7:57AM
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Many thanks. I may take that latter route. I did take the tape off and it was pretty badly mangled along about 10 inches, which I cut off. Once cut with the wires separated, I tried the GFI and it did reset, so I know I've found the problem ... and the solution. I am getting a bit short of wire so I may just get the extra wire and run it up through the lamp. The lamp post is not set in concrete, so it shouldn't be difficult to do ... so says the intrepid DIYer!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 2:35PM
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I rewired the lamp post, imitating exactly the wiring I found w the old wire. I have installed the splice kit, all but sealing the heat shrink insulation. I tested the lamp: the GFI clicks on, but when I put my thumb over the photo cell, I get no light. I rechecked all the wiring, making sure all the wires in the splice kit were properly aligned and tight. I checked all the wires inside the lamp to be sure the wire nuts were tight and the wires making good connection. I have not replaced bulbs. The photo cell I assume is still functioning.
I welcome your advice.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 10:29AM
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Swap the bulb with a known working bulb from another fixture. This way you test the bulb and the lamp post fixture.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 1:47PM
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The GFI is detecting an imbalance in current. It compares current betweeen the outgoing line to the incomming line and trips if the imbalance is equal to, or greater than, about 5 milliamp. You probably have a leak to the soil. Splices that are buried in soil must be water tight. To accomplish this, the splice covering must bond with the wire insulation/overwrap.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 8:17PM
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The GFI is working now and allows me to reset it.
But there is still a wiring problem. There are three light bulbs, so I don't think all three are out. I am guessing the photo cell switch is ok too.
Is there a trick to connecting the splice kit? I have the black, white and ground inserted opposite one another in the copper connector. I have the screws tightened down on each. They appear to be firmly connected. I have not yet put the heat shrink cover in place and shrunk it. I need to get it working first. Any suggestions ... before I swallow my pride and call the electrician? :-)

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 7:22AM
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Ron Natalie

Are you sure the breaker feeding the circuit is alive?
Do you have something that can check for power? Make sure the uninsulated portions of the wiring/splice blocks aren't touching. Can you measure voltage across the black and white wires? Does something plugged into the GFCI receptacle work?

Hard to screw up the kit provided you did strip the insulation off the portion that is in the terminal (under the set screw).

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 7:30AM
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I am guessing the photo cell switch is ok too.

Check for power going into the GFCI and out.

Then check for power at the photo cell, in and out.

This is what the electrician would check and after all this work I would not want to skip this part.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 8:02AM
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You didn't mention how long you covered up the photoeye. Try putting electrical tape over eye and wait a few minutes.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 8:49AM
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That was my thought as well. Just putting your finger over some of the photocells will not work. As dave mentioned try taping it off and then waiting. Depending upon the unit it can take a few minutes to turn on.

Other than that you will need to use a meter to check for power.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 1:12PM
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The problem appears to be no power at the GFI receptacle. I tested at the splice and got no voltage. I tried tripping and resetting the GFI receptacle and tested that: no power. I went to the breaker switches and found none tripped. I tested at a junction box the electrician had labled "lamp post" and it had power. Is my GFI receptacle bad or am I not resetting it the right way?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 12:27PM
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My previous message may not be clear. There is power going TO the GFI receptacle, but none coming OUT. The test and reset buttons appear to work. Using the voltage meter and another appliance, it appears the receptacle is dead. Nothing is tripping the GFI.
It must be that the receptacle is dead and needs replacing. I think it may be time to call the electrician!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 1:42PM
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