Does your circuit have bugs or does it have ants?

A bunch of years ago I installed electric outlets throughout my property and used quite a few GFCI outlets in the process. Well, they haven’t been holding up so well. Even though they’re all under cover, they’ve been failing at a steady rate. The same GFCI outlets installed about at the same time in our kitchen and bath have been fine. What’s the difference?

Well, for one, I didn’t know about “water protected” GFCI outlets. The thought that a GFCI outlet isn’t protected against moisture seems preposterous. Oh well. So yesterday I replaced yet another one with a WP variant and decided to open the broken one up to see what blows out. Well, I didn’t see any sign of moisture or corrosion anywhere, but I saw this:

Those are corpses of tiny argentine ants and the housing had another dozen or more. I’ve had quite some problems with mechanical pump pressure switches malfunctioning due to ants getting cremated between the contacts and had to wrap tape around every opening to keep’em out. So now I wonder whether what’s really going on is the ants killing the GFCIs ??? Well, what I really wonder is whether the Water Protected GFCIs are also Ant Protected!

Yes, I’d expect water protected devices to be ant resistant. I’ve also had ants use our outlets as sacrificial altars; it takes just one ant to fry its antenna and go nuts, spraying panic pheromone through the device, and the rest of them join the fun. We have centralised GFCI, as they are much quicker to test than distributing GFCI into each outlet, and less components to fail. MTBF. We keep each outlet switched on when nothing is plugged in, and this keeps the contacts closed so ants don’t coat them with whatever they have been walking in.

I’ve read some research papers into ant control in laboratory experimental setups; place 30V DC onto a vertically mounted pair of copper traces with about 1mm gap (depending on the type of ant), and they can’t climb past it. PTFE also helps; they can’t get a grip.

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