Question for the electricions out there, coop electrical problem.


10 Years
Jun 5, 2009
Aurora, MO
The outside receptacles on the outside of the house are tied into a GFCI receptacle just inside the back door. When I plug an extension cord into the outside receptacles and then plug it into the cord on the coop, the GFCI outlet pops and you cannot reset it with the extension cord plugged in. The GFCI outlet is a 20 amp one and I replaced it with a brand new 20 amp one with no change. When I plug in the extension cord into the receptacle that the washer is plugged into, all of the electrical stuff in the coop works and it does not trip the 20 amp breaker in the breaker box.

Last year I had an extension cord plugged into the outside house receptacle and ran two heat lamps and a heated dog bowl with no problems in my old coop. The old coop was not wired for electricity though.

I opened the light box, wall switch, wall receptacle, and outside light and checked all of the wiring in the new coop and did not see anything that looked suspicious. No wires were touching or looked like it was grounded out. Can anyone explain to me why the GFCI receptacle keeps popping when plugging in power to the cord on the coop? What else should I check in the coop?

I have also used my Skil saw and drill using an extension cord out of the outside receptacles with out popping the GFCI. Thanks for any ideas.

You have choices...

1) the GFCI is bad and pops when you use a different extension cord with coop power on.
2) The extension cord has problem if you change out cords and the GFCI does not pop.
3) If you are plugging the original ext cord into a standard wall outlet (assuming this is the "washer" outlet) and it works, you could still have a problem that the GFCI detects but a standard circuit breaker does not. It takes more to pop a standard circuit breaker than a GFCI.

Every home should have one of can progressively check the circuit beginning at the GFCI and work outward.
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1. I just put in a brand new 20 amp GFCI and it does the same thing as the old one.
2. I have tried different extension cords and one of them is fairly new and heavy duty and it still pops.
3. I used different extension cords in the regular(washer) receptacle and they both work. What kind of problem should I look at in the wiring of the coop itself that could cause the instant pop of the GFCI? The coop wiring is set up that with electricity plugged into it, the inside receptacle is always hot but the lights are not until you turn on the wall switch. The GFCI pops with the light switch in the off position as well as with it in the on position. Nothing in the receptacle wiring looks out of place unless there is an issue within the receptacle itself. I can't imagine that just powering a wall receptacle and then two lights would cause a GFCI to pop but again I don't know how much power these things draw. Electrical stuff is not my area of expertise. Thanks.

I am NOT a liscensed electrician understand that first seems you MAY have a closed circuit somewhere hence why it pops when plugged in whether on or not...could be an exposed wire somewhere (literally at any point along the line) it may be possible using an ohmmeter to trace it dead checking for continuity it may also be that somehow you have load and common crossed ? hard to say from here but it may be a start for you?
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None of the wires in the coop looked crossed when I took everything apart the other day. NO exposed wiring that I can see anywhere. There may be a problem in the house itself or maybe the outside receptacle is corroded even though it has covers on it. The GFCI has popped before with other things plugged into it in the past but there doesn't seem to be any ryme or reason for what sets it off. It acts like something is grounded when the coop is plugged in but I can't find anything that looks like it is grounded. I'll keep checking things. Thanks.

so if I am understanding your post correctly you are not plugging the extension cord into the GFI'd plug, but into another one on the same circuit. But when you plug into a different circuit everything works. That would indicate to me that the problem isnt with the extension cord or the wiring in the coop, but something wrong with the outlet or another outlet on that circuit. Have you tried anything else plugged in there (specifically make sure whatever else tested is a grounded 3 prong device as your extension cord should be too, but since its in question don't try anything expensive or fragile).
I am sooo not an electrician, but would be inclined to replace the outside receptacle and see if that fixed the problem.

If it didn't, I would probably be wanting an Actual Electrician to come and check out that portion of the house wiring. It is possible this is telling you about something that you Really Ought To Know About.

Good luck, have fun,

GFCIs work by measuring the difference in amperage between the hot (usually black wire) and return path to ground through the nuteral (white).

You plug in a load and the current flows from the hot, through the "tool" (or whatever) back through the nuteral to complete the circuit and power your tool. If, the load is not the same on both the hot and nuteral, the circuit is interupted. This protects you from getting a shock, should you have a defect in your tool, that would allow amperage to escape and flow through the user to ground, instead of back through the nuteral. Somewhere in your wiring, you have a "leak" of electrical current to a grounding source, other than the return path to ground, back through the nuteral wire. The GFCI senses the imbalance and shuts down, to keep you from getting fried.

Most likely it is a nuteral and ground wire in your coop that are touching, which would allow some current to flow to ground, other than through the nuteral wire. This would explain why the breaker does not trip when you plug the cord into the washer circuit, because it's not a GFCI circuit, doesn't care how the current finds its way to ground to complete the circuit and power the load.

Hope this helps explain what problem you should be looking for.
My husband is a master electrician...if he stops moving for long enough
I'll have him read this thread and tell you what he says.
One thing you could do, IF you've got a multimeter that can read Ohm's, would be to unplug the extension cord to the coop from the wall and put the meter's probes on the two prongs of the AC cord (again, unplugged from AC current/power) and put the meter on the 'Ohms' setting and see if you read 0, infinity or something close to zero? If it reads zero or very close to zero then you've got a short. However, with a bulb plugged in, you're going to read some resistance from it so you could remove the bulb too to get a better reading... My hunch is that you won't see a complete short but perhaps a wire somewhere is touching ground just a little bit -- enough to trip the GFCI but not the main breaker..

You should also get some inputs from Orchid's husband since he's an electrician and I'm not..

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