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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was having issues with a 2 Pole (220v) GFCI breaker nuisance tripping And quickly discovered why. Ants have taken up residence INSIDE the breaker!

I sprayed a little bit of ant killer in the breaker and tried to blast the bug spray out with compressed air. When I hit the breaker with the compressed air, ants came pouring out, and most of them were not dead! It would be nice to find a way to kill the ants and get them out without ruining the breaker.

I'm thinking I'm going to need to spend the $120 on a new breaker, but you guys often come up with ingenious ideas I didn't think of, so I'm hoping you come up with something for this.
 

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I was having issues with a 2 Pole (220v) GFCI breaker nuisance tripping And quickly discovered why. Ants have taken up residence INSIDE the breaker!

I sprayed a little bit of ant killer in the breaker and tried to blast the bug spray out with compressed air. When I hit the breaker with the compressed air, ants came pouring out, and most of them were not dead! It would be nice to find a way to kill the ants and get them out without ruining the breaker.

I'm thinking I'm going to need to spend the $120 on a new breaker, but you guys often come up with ingenious ideas I didn't think of, so I'm hoping you come up with something for this.
Usually once ants get into a breaker it won't last very long even if you kill them. Do you know which breakers are affected? I would pick up some extra breakers in case they start burning up. You won't have to replace the entire panel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There are only two breakers in this panel. Naturally, the ants decided to take up residence in the $120 breaker and not the $40 breaker. Since it’s a 2 pole breaker, it is roomier :)
 

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CAVEAT:
Talc may be a carcinogen like asbestos. That may be why it is so hard to find in the US.

When our kids were kids, one of their classmates won the state science fair for his discovery that talcum powder repels ants. Not the modern baby powder stuff made from cornstarch, but the powder made with real talc. My father left us some of his shaving talc, and we use it sparingly for ants around the outside of our house. A little goes a long way, and we were surprised at how effective it was.

When we finally started to run low, we ordered more from the UK.
 

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why do you have a 2 pole gfic? no shop equipment is required to have one
hot tub is the only place it would be required
like steve mentioned, it's probably toast, i wouldn't trust it anymore as a gfic breaker
you could try electric contact cleaner, once dry the test button should indicate the gfic working
i definitely wouldn't tape up the breaker, maybe the panel, it'd probably not work
 

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Buy a box of 20 Mule Team Borax washing powder in the laundry section of you grocery store.
Mix that 1/2 and 1/2 with powdered sugar. Mix really well. Put a dish of that in with the infected breaker.
 

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My suggestion would be to use a bit (not much) denatured alcohol. Put a teaspoon or so in the breaker 3 or 4 times a day for several days. The DNA will get them drunk and the denaturant (Methyl Alcohol) will kill them. If you have monthly pest service they can apply something and they'll be gone.

BTW - I would be far more concerned as to how the ants got in there in the first place. And even more important, why. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me unless there is a food source in the breaker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I don't know how or why the ants got in there. They were in the panel and guess the breaker looks like a nice sublet. I think they just go around looking for places to set up residence. Almost as if they gave nothing else to do.

it may have been that only two ants went in the all that came out were offspring !
 

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...how much bloody tech to you need to cram into a circuit breaker to justify it costing $120?! At that price i think id prefer electrocuting myself... Then again, with the wiring system in my house, i probably shouldnt make that joke, lest it comes true

Always, diatomaceous earth works way better than talc for keeping bugs out of areas, stuff is magic. Cheap too. Course, that wont be much help once the bugs are already inside, but its handy to know for the future. I do agree with steve, if there are bugs inside the mechanism the breaker probably shouldnt be trusted, be safest to bite the bullet and replace the breaker. Barring that, my next move would be to remove the breaker from the panel and dunk it in denatured alcohol for a few hours, followed by thoroughly drying it before reinstallation. DNA should drown the buggers without damaging the breaker
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
After thinking about this, I'm guessing that the ants are causing enough connectivity inside the breaker to simulate a fault to ground and that's why the breaker is tripping. Even if I manage to kill them all, they'll still be in there and nuisance tripping may continue to occur. I'm gonna have to bite the bullet...
 

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There is a product called Terro, comes in many forms, basically the ants take it back to the nest and it kills them all.

I know that doesn't solve the breaker issue, but it does at least kill the ants... :)
 

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I was having issues with a 2 Pole (220v) GFCI breaker nuisance tripping And quickly discovered why. Ants have taken up residence INSIDE the breaker!

I sprayed a little bit of ant killer in the breaker and tried to blast the bug spray out with compressed air. When I hit the breaker with the compressed air, ants came pouring out, and most of them were not dead! It would be nice to find a way to kill the ants and get them out without ruining the breaker.

I'm thinking I'm going to need to spend the $120 on a new breaker, but you guys often come up with ingenious ideas I didn't think of, so I'm hoping you come up with something for this.
Post a pic of your breaker panel. Seeing the location and how the panel is connected will help in addressing the issue.
 

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Ants won't just get into something and stay there. They have to come and go. If you just use common ant and roach spray everywhere they can get in the ants will either die or go elsewhere.
 

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Ants won't just get into something and stay there. They have to come and go. If you just use common ant and roach spray everywhere they can get in the ants will either die or go elsewhere.
I disagree. Yearly I have to clean out electric boxes with gfci outlets at my work. They are outside at ground level. The ants enter through the underground conduit and fill the box with sand expanding their hive. That's why we need a picture of the panel. If it's connected to a conduit that would be their entry point. The correction would be to change the connector bushing to a water tight one or shoot silicone into the conduit end.
 

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I disagree. Yearly I have to clean out electric boxes with gfci outlets at my work. They are outside at ground level. The ants enter through the underground conduit and fill the box with sand expanding their hive. That's why we need a picture of the panel. If it's connected to a conduit that would be their entry point. The correction would be to change the connector bushing to a water tight one or shoot silicone into the conduit end.
My point was if where the conduit goes into the electrical box was sprayed with ant and roach spray you wouldn't have ants going through there. If a person has a severe ant problem it may be necessary to treat the electric box on a regular basis but it would work.
 

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Gotcha. I interpreted as ants won't nest in a electric box. You're right. The entry point needs sealed and environmental actions need to be taken.
 

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if you push the test button, and the breaker trips, it is still working as a gfci. nuisance tripping could not be caused by the ants, and that should be considered as well.

it could be caused by the ants forming a conductive path "short" inside. which shouldn't continue once the live ants are out. and it should not weaken the gfci as long as the test button is working.

if you know how, remove the breaker and take it outside and blow comressed air thought evry hole available. maybe place it in a zip lock bag with a spray of ant killer inside. re-install. maybe place a terro trap in thje bottom of the box.
 

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We rented a house with ants inside the walls. Despite our best efforts, all we could do was keep them at bay. They were incredibly adept at finding small bits of anything edible, and the time between "scouts" and "swarming everywhere" was short. This was before we learned the talcum powder trick, but I am not sure it would have helped in this house.

There has been one major change in our area over the decades: An invasive species of Argentine ants have displaced the indigenous ant species that I knew when I was growing up. With the ants we used to have, separate colonies would fight and compete for territories. With the Argentine ants, they cooperate. Two colonies see each other as "the same" and merge together to form a larger colony. The entire neighborhood is effectively one large colony.

Ants are a nuisance, and we defend the perimeter of our house as best we can to prevent the ants-in-the-walls issues. We know how hard it is to remove them once they are entrenched inside a house.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
The lot thickens… Apparently, Square D breakers are among the things affected by supply chain issues. I can’t find a replacement.

The problem with blowing the ants out with compressed air is that they can crawl out through the tiny passages, but the compressed air won’t necessarily blast them out through the same tiny passages if they’re dead. But, in the absence of a replacement, I’m going to have to give it a try and see what happens.
 
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