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Discussion Starter #1
Well, the 2009 season is upon us. It's usually around July that I start thinking about the big day, and this year is no different.

This is a problem, though, that has been plaguing me since H'ween 2008. Last year was our first year in the current house, and we ran into a problem. I'm hoping that someone here will have a relatively simple fix to the challenge at hand.

It seems that all of our outdoor outlets (the garage, the front porch, and the deck in the back yard) are all on the same circuit. Where it gets interesting is if you go to the basement and check out the breaker box - the circuit comes off the box and goes directly into a GCFI, then splits off to the various external outlets.

The result? You guessed it. I can run 4 flood lights and a fogger before tripping the GCFI, and leaving the entire haunt in the dark. This year I've got three 400W foggers, and I have decided that I definitely need more lighting - preferably more task oriented fixtures to focus on individual props.

Does anyone have any creative ideas on how to remedy my dilemma? I don't particularly want to bring an electrician in to wire a dedicated Halloween circuit, but I'm a visual geek and I need my lighting!

Thanks!
 

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Bête noire
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I'm assuming that the circuit breaker is a 15A, so yes, you'll be popping it with three foggers and a few lights. I have a similar problem - only two outlets in proximity to the display.
It seems odd that a GFCI would trip on an current demand overload. They're designed to trip on ground faults - inconsistencies in the ground line vs. the "hot" line, such as what happens when you drop the toaster in the bathtub. The actual circuit breaker is supposed to trip when the current demand exceeds it's rating. Are you certain that one of your lights doesn't have a short somewhere in the wiring? The inrush current demand from a fogger when the heater turns on can also cause spiking problems.
You may want to invest $20-$30 in a Kill-A-Watt meter so you can check the wattage draw of your devices. Changing over to LED spot/flood lights will reduce the demand, as well. You can also try using battery-powered LED spots for individual prop lighting.
 

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You Rang?
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You can always run some extension cords from different inside rooms out the windows.

Its an electrical code thing that all exterior outlets are required to be on a ground fault as well as those in bathrooms and on the kitchen counter depending on when the house was built.

You may want to change out the GFCI outlet as some times they can go bad or are over sensitive. Of course only do this if you feel comfortable and turn of the breaker in the box. Un hook one wire at a time and hook it to the corresponding location on the new GFCI
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks, guys!

Yeah, I figured it was code to have the outdoor outlets behind a ground fault. Another thought I had was to maybe look at some wired landscape lights for task lighting. (I can't imagine solar would have enough kick to really have any effect...if someone knows more than me, please let me know!)

If that proves to be not very cost effective, I may just resort to the leads coming off different circuits. It's not what I WANT to do, but since it's only for a couple weeks per year, that might make the most sense.

Thanks again as always!
 

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Bête noire
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The two outlets that I use for the display are on individual GFCI outlets. In fact, all the GFCI's in my house are at the actual point of use - none are at the breaker box. I've never seen multiple outlets ganged to a single interrupter. It may be moot, but it seems a shame to kill power to non-faulting outlets.
Perhaps you could have an electrician remove the multi-GFCI from the circuit and replace the outlets with individual GFCI's, but I don't know if that would gain you anything since you would still have three outlets going to a single breaker. The alternative is to cut in new breakers, of course.
 

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Hauntless
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You can always run some extension cords from different inside rooms out the windows.
Just wanted to underscore this idea. I had en extension cord dropped out of the upstairs window and another from the hearth room out the back door. Really helps distribute the load. Plus, get a Kill-A-Watt meter. That will help you add up the wattages of the stuff you are using.
 

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Blaberus craniifer
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It seems that all of our outdoor outlets (the garage, the front porch, and the deck in the back yard) are all on the same circuit. Where it gets interesting is if you go to the basement and check out the breaker box - the circuit comes off the box and goes directly into a GCFI, then splits off to the various external outlets.
When you say splits off, do you mean the the other outlets are coming from the second set of screws on the GCFI? If that is the case, you could try connecting the other outlets to the GCFI main screws. If the other outlets are requiring GCFI protection, then you need to replace the other outlets with GCFI ones. That way, not all the loads would be going through one GCFI. That should reduce the issue of the one tripping.

Also like everyone has said, try using LED spots to cut down on the wattage being used. Or run entension cords from other circuits.
 

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I can't imagine that the load (4 flood lights and a fogger) is causing your problem. Either there's something else connected to that breaker or there's something wrong with the breaker/circuit. Four 100W light bulbs and a 400W fogger will draw < 8A of current.

I would also recommend going to LED flood/spot lights. I use eight LED flood lights in my display and they draw < 1A of current total.

I also run an extension cord from the inside of my house to a dedicated circuit breaker to run my 1200W VEI V-950 fogger. You should be able to run all three foggers off of one circuit.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Do the LED floods provide ample light? I've always stayed away from them because it just seemed impossible that such tiny lights (even in clusters such as floods) would be bright enough!
 

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Ok , first off , if you use a convertor calculator you will see that the 3 foggers alone will suck up 10 amps byt themselves .
Power Calculators for quick conversions.
And thats JUST the heaters , thats NOT the little pump that pumps the juice to the heater element . Also , that rating is for AFTER the heater is running . Now , if you were to put an inline meter there , you will find that those 3 foggers alone , when the heaters have to heat at the same time , will be over your 15 amp breakers capacity .
Your best bet is to use the link above to figure your power consumption per piece of equipment ( fogger, fog lamp , motors or whatever ) per breaker, that way , you won't have any issues with the breakers popping during the show/dsiplay .
Sometimes , you have to do things that get costly , like , have additional lines run or , stronger breaker box put in . The guys over on DIYC go and have 200 amp mains put in , so that they can run MORE and MORE lights for their Christmas lights display . And THAT gets VERY costly .
Again , your best bet is use the calculator and figure what power your using . It might be a better idea to run some extension cords , then risk burning down your house . ( circuit breakers DO occasionaly fail regretfully )
If you figure 10 amps per 15 amp breaker , you will be in good shape .
 

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Keeper of Spider Hill
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If you are not looking to bring in a professional, and you are not up to changing around any of your home's current wiring or breakers, then using an extension cord from another circuit sounds like it might be your best bet. My only suggestion is to spend the money up front and buy the longest, heaviest gauge cord you can find. There are contractor grade cords that are made with 14 or even 12 gauge wire. The 12 gauge will safely handle your needs over the distance of the cord. Pulling a 15-20 amp load through 50 or 100 feet of cable will cause your extension to heat up quite a bit if it is undersized. :)
 

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Insert Witty Comment Here
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Do you have 200 amp service....if not, get it

Do you have extra slots available on your breaker panel, if not, replace the panel or install a subpanel for outdoor lighting.

I upped my house to 200 Amps last year and had a new panel installed. It wasn't cheap, but it's well worth it. And if you decide to sell your house, you'll recoup that investment.

After the new panel was installed, I installed four switches behind my front door that ran to four seperate boxes that I installed under the eaves. One on the side of the house, on in the back and two in the front. Each box has four outlets....it works great for Halloween and Christmas. No running around plugging things in or remembering to unplug things at the end of the night...just a flip of the switch. And the switches offer a year round benefit, as I was able to light up my little patio out front and around my deck out back.

There's ways to cut the power you use, but we're talking Halloween here and that's all about going overboard
 

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man, this is something I am looking into this year as well...I had to dot he "run and extension cord around the house and into the back door" thing because EVERYTHING outside and in the garage, as well as the basement, are on the same freakin' circuit! So as soon as my air compressor would kick on, POP! there goes the haunt. Luckily there were no issues on Halloween night, but I do not intend to tempt fate this year!!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
It's funny - two years ago I would've said "Okay, we need a dedicated circuit". But my wife was pregnant last H'ween, and we've got the baby this year, so while I may HAVE the money to do stuff like that, it isn't necessarily the best USE of it! LOL

I may look at the LED option a little bit. A lot of you seem to have reported success with them, so I'll do some more reading.

Thanks again!
 

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Keeper of Spider Hill
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It's funny - two years ago I would've said "Okay, we need a dedicated circuit". But my wife was pregnant last H'ween, and we've got the baby this year, so while I may HAVE the money to do stuff like that, it isn't necessarily the best USE of it! LOL

I may look at the LED option a little bit. A lot of you seem to have reported success with them, so I'll do some more reading.

Thanks again!
Last Christmas at Walgreens, they had colored CFL spots. They were not very expensive either. I wanted to snag a couple to test them out, but I never got back there to get any of them...:mad:
 

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The LED lights ARE a great dop of power consumption , but ... what about things like :
1) air compressor
2) foggers
3)audio ( yes , the more speaker watts output , the more house current /power the item(s) use

Regretfully , the BIGGEST suckers of power for a Halloween display are :
a) fog machines
b) flood lamps if used
c) air compressors , if used

Now , if you could do away with the three above items , then , you would be in GREAT shape ..:(
But , to have a good haunt ... that would almost be impossible .
 

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Do the LED floods provide ample light? I've always stayed away from them because it just seemed impossible that such tiny lights (even in clusters such as floods) would be bright enough!
I bought several green and blue LED flood lights from Minions Web a few years ago. They are very bright and run cool to the touch.
 

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Bête noire
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I may look at the LED option a little bit. A lot of you seem to have reported success with them, so I'll do some more reading.
For individual prop lighting I use small LED spotlights that I make myself. They use anywhere from 3-5 ultrabrights per spot, and run on 9 volt batteries. There's a number of how-to's on making these. I really like the portability and that they don't need any AC cords. The batteries have lasted for two seasons with no noticeable dimming (~ 40 hrs).
 

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Discussion Starter #20
For individual prop lighting I use small LED spotlights that I make myself. They use anywhere from 3-5 ultrabrights per spot, and run on 9 volt batteries. There's a number of how-to's on making these. I really like the portability and that they don't need any AC cords. The batteries have lasted for two seasons with no noticeable dimming (~ 40 hrs)
Yeah, that's the route I'm leaning for task lighting, and then just use corded floods for the main wash.

To answer a previous question - 100A vs 200A service - I checked my breaker box and the main has a 150A breaker. Does this indicate 150A service, which I've never heard of? The only ratings I've ever heard of were 100A, 200A or in some cases 400A. (And boy, wouldn't 400A service be nice? LOL)
 
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