GFCI Confusion

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Old 02-20-06, 05:42 AM
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GFCI Confusion

I've seen a lot of info on GFCI's but I'm a little confused on when you should use a GFCI breaker vs a receptacle, and what the difference is. I have two GFCI receptacles in my kitchen controlling all of the countertop receptacles, which are wired alternating (can't remember the correct term - wired in series?). But the bathroom has a GFCI breaker in the panel, but no GFCI receptacles. The house is only five years old and it was built by an electrician turned general contractor, who quite possibly did the work himself. Is there a significant difference between the two methods? I'm sure there's a good reason for doing it one way or the other, I just don't understand what it is.
 
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Old 02-20-06, 06:09 AM
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Both a GFCI breaker and a GFCI receptacle provide ground fault protection. The difference is where they provide it, and what they provide it to.

A GFCI receptacle provides ground fault protection for anything plugged into the receptacle. It also provides GFCI protection for any portions of the circuit after the receptacle that are connected to the LOAD terminals of the receptacle. This would include the cable or wires, any junction boxes, and receptacles, etc. Anything connected to the LOAD terminals of the GFCI receptacle.

A GFCI breaker provides GFCI protection to an entire circuit. Whatever is connected to the breaker is protected.

There are good reasons for using one verses the other.

A GFCI receptacle provides GFCI protection at the point of use and can be wired to only provide protection at this point of use. This means a GFCI trip wonít shut down the rest of the circuit, if all connections are wired to the LINE terminals. You also wonít have to go far to reset the GFCI. This is especially useful if you have say one circuit serving two bathroom receptacles, one in each of two bathrooms. You can place a GFCI receptacle in each bathroom and have them function independently of each other.

A GFCI breaker protects the entire circuit. Often a GFCI breaker will be used for a circuit that must be GFCI protected and that leaves the house. Examples are for a pool or hot tub circuit, or for a circuit that feeds a shed or other out building. Another use is for a multi wire circuit. A 240 volt GFCI breaker is necessary if you want GFCI protection on the multi wire circuit.

I cannot explain why the builder used a GFCI breaker for the bathroom in your case. Perhaps itís personal preference, or perhaps itís because the circuit serves more than one bathroom?
 
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Old 02-20-06, 07:10 AM
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That makes sense. So either way is legal, i.e. meets code, for kitchen and bathroom circuits?
 
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Old 02-20-06, 07:19 AM
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Racraft, have you heard any rumors about the breakers being more susceptable to tripping when lightning is in the area? One of the master electricians that I learned the trade with hates them because he says they trip far more often due to storms. I only really use them for temp panels at construction sites, though my decision is usually based on the cost between the two.
 
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Old 02-20-06, 08:10 AM
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Yes, using GFCI breakers or using GFCI receptacles is legal for bathrooms, garages, kitchen counter tops, etc., as long as all required receptacles are protected.

I have not heard of GFCI breakers tripping due to lightning.

I have a GFCI breaker feeding my swimming pool circuit (120 volt, 20 amp). It has never tripped (except when I test it, which I try to do monthly during the months the pool is used).

I have GFCI receptacles elsewhere (kitchen, basement, garage, bathrooms), and don't have tripping issues.
 
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Old 02-20-06, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by MAC702
have you heard any rumors about the breakers being more susceptible to tripping when lightning is in the area?
I've heard that. It is possible that this rumor is true - and perhaps more true with older GFCIs.


One of the master electricians that I learned the trade with hates them because he says they trip far more often due to storms.
However, this has not been my experience.

It can happen if you have a surge protector that illegally dumps energy to the ground (EGC).

If the surge protector clamps only from hot to neutral (i.e., well-behaved), then there should be no problem. It's not the fault of the GFCI if it the surge protector strip is miswired.

(Of course it is the duty of the main bonding jumper to remove any harmful potential difference between ground and neutral.)
 
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Old 02-20-06, 10:08 AM
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One more question please and then I'll shut up. Concerning GFCI breakers being required for runs outside the house...I have both a pool and hot tub. There are actually two circuits for the pool, one for the pump and one for the lighting. None of them have a GFCI breaker although all were added by electricians. Is this a matter of local code or something I should be concerned about?
 
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Old 02-20-06, 10:37 AM
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This is definitely something you should be concerned about. Electricity and water do not mix well. Current code (and even code five years ago) requires that pools and hot tubs be GFCI protected.
 
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Old 02-20-06, 10:38 AM
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> There are actually two circuits for the pool, one for the pump and one for the lighting.
> None of them has a GFCI breaker although all were added by electricians.
> Is this a matter of local code
Maybe. What year NEC was in effect at the time of installation/update?
Some jurisdictions are behind.
See 2002/2005 NEC 680.20-23. GFCI protection is required on just about everything pertaining to the pool electrical system.

> or something I should be concerned about?[/QUOTE]
Yes, definitely.

If you aren't 100% GFCI protected, the risk of tragedy is much higher.
 

Last edited by bolide; 02-20-06 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 02-23-06, 07:25 PM
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WHITH out a doubt, with out a code, GFCI All you can!!!!!!!!!!!!(and if they trip, you have an issue)
Then enjoy the pool!!!!
 
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Old 02-24-06, 10:50 AM
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I went back to verify what I stated previously. Turns out the breaker going to the hot tub is GFCI
(50 amp) so I'm ok there. There's also some sort of junction box on the back of the house where the cable comes out. It contains some type of device that can be pulled out which kills the power going to the hot tub. I don't know what it's called.

But the pool has two circuits, both breakers are 20 amp, neither is GFCI. One cable goes directly to the pump, which I estimate is about 20 feet from the closest edge of the pool, and controls nothing other than the pump. The other cable goes first to a GFCI receptacle on the back of the house and then continues to the pool lights. Is this legal or should I still be concerned?

There was a permit and at least one interim inspection and the final inspection were conducted.
 
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Old 02-24-06, 11:32 AM
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But the pool has two circuits, both breakers are 20 amp, neither is GFCI.
They should be for your own safety.


> One cable goes directly to the pump, which I estimate is about 20 feet from
> the closest edge of the pool, and controls nothing other than the pump.

Last I heard, electricity is still dangerous even starting from 30 feet away.
You don't see it coming, and even if you could, you can't outrun it.
That's why we use a machine to control it.
The GFCI jerks the wild dog's chain if it tries to stray too far.


> The other cable goes first to a GFCI receptacle on the back of the house
> and then continues to the pool lights.
This could be fine. Verify that the pool lights go out when you press TEST.


An inspection proves only that money changed hands.
An inspection does not mean that an unsafe condition cannot exist.
 
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Old 02-24-06, 03:33 PM
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30 ft' or 1" or what ever! code twelve years ago, code today, Whatever!

Make it safe, make it right!!!... The life you save may be your OWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
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Old 02-24-06, 04:03 PM
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I don't know what the code is. That's why I'm asking these questions. Replacing the breaker is an easy matter if that's the way it should be done. But the point I was trying to make is that if a city inspector came out and approved the work, which was performed by a licensed electrician, then it should meet code. Frankly, most of us homeowners not in the electrical or construction business don't know code; we tend to trust the people we hire to do it right.

I may be reading into the comments something that isn't intended, but it seems to be implied either that the inspector was bribed (over a $25 circuit breaker?) or both the inspector and electrician were incompetent. This was only four years ago; I doubt the code has changed. Should I contact the city to express my concern, or at least to ask if it meets local code, even though the consensus here is apparently that it's not the safest and best way?

Regardless of code, I'll replace the breaker before I open the pool again this summer. It's a very small price to pay for safety and peace of mind. But if I've been cheated or taken advantage of by someone, I'd like to know that as well so maybe I can prevent it from happening to others.
 
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Old 02-24-06, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by KenC
But the point I was trying to make is that if a city inspector came out and approved the work, which was performed by a licensed electrician, then it should meet code.
I don't know where your house is or what is code there.


> I may be reading into the comments something that isn't intended,
Not intended. An inspection can't cover everything any way.


> but it seems to be implied either that the inspector was bribed
> or both the inspector and electrician were incompetent. This was only four years ago;
> I doubt the code has changed.

Depends of the locality. Where I am four years ago we had no applicable code for pools.
All that mattered was your insurance agent.



> Should I contact the city to express my concern, or at least to ask if it meets local code

Yes, you can ask. Take it from there.


> even though the consensus here is apparently that it's not the safest and best way?

Correct. As you say, it costs so little to provide so much protection.
If you can afford a pool, you can afford GFCI protection for it.
 
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Old 02-24-06, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by bolide
An inspection proves only that money changed hands.
I LOVED that line. And I didn't take it to mean bribery for a code violation. Inspectors aren't perfect, even when they actually try to find everything, which is not all the time. But you PAID for the permit fee, which includes the inspection and the signed papers. Money changed hands, and you have a permitted structure, whether it is perfectly safe or not.
 
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Old 02-24-06, 07:21 PM
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OK. Thanks for the advice guys. The pool breakers are shut down for the winter but I'll make it right before I use them again.

I've only been doing my own electrical work for the last couple of years, mostly picking up stuff by reading books, but I've probably learned more on this site in the last couple of weeks than all of that previous time. I really appreciate all of you giving your time to help those of us trying to learn what's common knowledge to you.
 
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