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The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Why is My Landscape Lighting Not Working? Water and Tripped GFCI

Is your landscape lighting not working after heavy rainfall? The solution to fixing your lights might be simpler than you'd think: When there is water, check your GFCI.

We all know that water is the enemy when it comes to electrical systems. Fail safes are built into electrical systems to keep water from causing more serious problems. Sometimes these fail safes can make it appear that your lighting system is damaged, when in reality it simply needs to be reset. 

While it doesn't happen often, when we do receive calls from clients experiencing issues with their lighting system, the issues usually come right after a heavy rain storm. After a large rain storm has blown through, their lights will appear to have lost power. Nine times out of 10 the issue isn't with the lighting system. The problem they're seeing is simply the fail safe doing its job. 


What is a GFCI outlet?

The problem we see most often is with the GFCI outlet the landscape lighting transformer (the box that powers your landscape lights) is plugged into. 

GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Simply put, the GFCI is a fail safe that protects against electrical shock. If a GFCI comes into contact with water, it will automatically trip in order to prevent the risk of electric shock. 

A GFCI will be used in place of a normal outlet in places where the outlet might come into contact with water. In your home's bathroom for instance, I'm sure you've noticed that the outlet next to the sink looks different. It has a reset button that will need to be pressed if it trips. 

often times when a client calls us about their entire lighting system not working, its as simple a fix as simply resetting their GFCI.

Breaker Panel

Check your breaker panel as well. Before you go searching for your GFCI, inspect your breaker panel to see if any of the breakers have tripped.

Where is the GFCI located?GFI-outlet-landscape-lighting-1

Part of the issue with resetting a GFCI can be locating it. The tripped GFCI isn't always located on the exterior of the home. Sometimes the GFCI connected to the exterior outlet will be located somewhere inside the home.

This can make remedying a reset difficult if you don't know where the GFCI is located inside your home. Sometimes it will be in the garage, other times it could be in the basement. 

Once (after hours of searching) we found a client's GFCI located at the back of their coat closet.

Locating the GFCI is usually the most difficult part when it comes to getting your landscape lights to start working again after the GFCI has tripped. 

TIP: add a bubble cover to your GFCI outlet

A GFCI is meant to trip. It's there to protect you and your home. But if it continues to trip after every rain storm, then if could mean it needs to be protected from water better. 

A great solution is to add a bubble cover over your outlet or GFCI. A bubble cover is simply a plastic cover that deflects water away from the power source. This will drastically reduce the moisture issues your outlet will experience. 


Is it time to replace your old GFCI?

 Sometimes a GFCI simply needs to be replaced. Old worn out GFCIs are more sensitive and will trip more easily. Replacing an old GFCI with a new one can solve a lot of issues if your GFCI trips often. 

Identify moisture source

Where is the moisture coming from? Rain isn't always the cause of a tripped GFCI. Could it be your irrigation? I once saw a sprinkler head splashing water directly onto a bubble cover. A bubble cover can only deflect so much moisture. A rogue sprinkler head can introduce a lot of moisture. Identify what is causing the GFCI to trip repeatedly can help you come up with a more permanent solution. 

Before you call the repair guy, check your GFCI


If your outdoor lighting system has ceased working, consider what the weather has been like over the last couple days. Has there been a lot of rain recently? Has warmer weather caused lots of snow/ice melt? 

Resetting your GFCI is easy! The trouble sometimes is locating it. Before you pay someone to come fix your lights for you, check to see if a simple reset is all your lights need.

Do you live in Utah and have a landscape lighting system that's still not working? We can help.

Call us at (801) 440-7647 for more information, or schedule a free maintenance consultation on our website.