Necessity of GFI on a hot tub?

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  #1  
Old 04-14-06, 11:43 PM
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Necessity of GFI on a hot tub?

I have a few questions. I'm going to attempt to install a 220 link from my junction box outside my house, under my deck (2nd level) and to my hot tub (sitting on my deck on the second level of my house). I just started learning about GFI's and hot tubs. The wiring I got is 40 amp. However the GFI boxes I found are all 60amp or 50 amp. Can i use these on my 40amp wiring (the hot tub calls for 40 amp). Also as of now i have not purchased a GFI unit at all, and am somewhat skeptical if i really need one (i know i'm going to get alot of ..hehe shock from that statement in the ensuing replies but i want to learn everything). I plan to run my outdoor wiring all in conduit piping, then from the end of the piping in water tight outdoor flexible tubing into the heater element of my tub. Assuming i run all this into a 40amp breaker in my breaker box (inside my house/basement) will i be alive in a year from now? What realistically can happen if it is all enclosed in conduit and set to a circuit breaker? I dont really want to cough up the additional$130 for the GFI unit if it isnt necessary, and i dont really care about code, but i do care about realistic safty (I have a 4 year old daughter who uses the hot tub with me). Also i have a LED light on the side of the tub (enclosed) and was reading that the lights are typically what cause electrocution, but...seeing how enclosed it is (i could reinforce it) i dont really see it as being a problem. Also the 220 wiring would go underneath the hot tub, and not run anywhere near anyone's feet, and with it being on a deck the water cannot pool anywhere on the deck itself. Also i was reading that hot tubs should technically be ok without the GFI if it is properly grounded (I'm not sure if "it" reffers to the ground on the heater element, or the breaker in my breaker box). Also on a final note my instructions show 4 wires going to the heater box, 2 related to power, and 1 being ground, and the other "neutral". However i see that the air tight flexible hosing i purchased has only 3 wires coming out...while the 100 feet of 220 wire i have has 4 wires (perhaps i should exchange this?, or unecessary?)


Here is a link to my hot tub specs and wiring diagram.
http://www.bajaspas.com/content/pdf/sportub.pdf
(page 9)

Any advice you may have would really help out this clueless idiot from frying himself and his family... Actually i am fairly handy and the fact that i even ask this question shows I am aware and slightly concerned, however if i can realistically get away from using the GFI and still remain relatively safe with proper grounding and insulation of the wires, then i would prefer to go that route. Either way I'm installing in the next 8 hours and plan to hop right in afterwards, and really look forward to anyone with some experience advice!

Thanks
Ryan

*oh i should add if it is "ok" to go with just excellent grounding, can anyone suggest how best to ground the heater box? I'm open to creative solutions, and keep in mind the box is sitting on the 2nd level of my house...
 
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  #2  
Old 04-15-06, 01:32 AM
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> The wiring I got is 40 amp.
How do you know?

> However the GFI boxes I found are all 60amp or 50 amp.
> Can i use these on my 40amp wiring (the hot tub calls for 40 amp)?

No.

> Assuming i run all this into a 40amp breaker in my breaker box (inside my house/basement)
> will i be alive in a year from now?

I wouldn't bet my life on it. But what about 2 years from now?


> What realistically can happen if it is all enclosed in conduit and set to a circuit breaker?

A GFCI protects you from any electricity that tries to get away, no matter how unrealistic the circumstances might be.

I suppose you've heard of freak accidents. Well, GFCI is nice to have in case of freak accidents.


> i dont really care about code
This is a bad sign. The purpose of the Code is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from electrical hazards.


> i do care about realistic safety
That's the purpose of the Code.


> (I have a 4 year old daughter who uses the hot tub with me).

Well, if you don't see the value of a GFCI and your genes don't get passed on, perhaps you can win a Darwin Award.


> the 220 wiring would go underneath the hot tub,

Actually, its name is 240 volts.


> and not run anywhere near anyone's feet

And since it has been scientifically proved that water and wood don't conduct electricity, you feel pretty safe.


> with it being on a deck the water cannot pool anywhere on the deck itself.

Oh, was that scientifically proved that water must be at least 0.34641016151377 centimeters deep in order to conduct a fatal electrical current?


> Also i was reading that hot tubs should technically be ok without the GFI

Is this the same place you read that water doesn't conduct electricity even if the pH isn't 7.00000?


> if it is properly grounded (I'm not sure if "it" refers to the ground on the
> heater element, or the breaker in my breaker box).

Well, no one grounds a breaker.

Where did you read this?


> my instructions show 4 wires going to the heater box,
> 2 related to power, and 1 being ground, and the other "neutral".
> However i see that the air tight flexible hosing

Air tight?


> i purchased has only 3 wires coming out...

Is this a whip?


> while the 100 feet of 220 wire i have has 4 wires (perhaps i should
> exchange this?, or unecessary?)

Well, if your heater requires a neutral and you have only three wires, you have a bit of a problem because you need four wires.



> Here is a link to my hot tub specs and wiring diagram.
But you don't think the manufacturer requires a GFCI?


> Any advice you may have would really help out this clueless idiot from
> frying himself and his family...
Use a GFCI to avoid electrocution.


> if i can realistically get away from using the GFI and still remain relatively
> safe with proper grounding and insulation of the wires
I don't see how that is possible.


> can anyone suggest how best to ground the heater box?
That's what the green wire does.

Keep in mind that grounding it will not prevent you from being shocked through the water.
Contrary to what you've read, water does conduct electricity and wood needs only to be damp - no puddles are required.
 
  #3  
Old 04-15-06, 06:04 AM
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If you do not install a GFCI you are an idiot.

First, and most important from a legal point of view, it is required. That means if something happens and someone dies as a result of your stupidity in not installing a GFCI you will be charged with manslaughter. I dare say that since you know you need a GFCI that it should be murder, or at least voluntary manslaughter.

Now having said that, I will echo bolide's comments. Proper grounding will not prevent electrocution. Under the right conditions it will cause the breaker to trip, but under the wrong conditions your daughter might be what completes the circuit and causes the breaker to trip, and she will be dead before it does trip.

I urge you to pay attention to code. Pools and spas (which means hot tubs) have very strict code requirements. They have them for a reason. People die because they are improperly connected.

You have no choice but to use conduit. Using UF cable is not allowed. Your tub must be bonded. The electrical connection must be properly grounded. And on and on.

Please, at the very least, have this inspected when you are done. An inspection will at least provide some measure of safety checking to this situation.
 
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Old 04-15-06, 06:32 AM
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I echo the comments of bolide and racraft. The code is there to protect you from yourself, and it is realistic. Definitely have it inspected after installation just to make sure all the bases were covered and safety prevails. And remember you may not live there forever, so if you aren't worried about your family's safety, worry about the poor guy who buys it not knowing about your failure to comply to the code. You will be responsible.
I owned a 100 year old retrofitted farm house many years ago. Never had to do anything in the 7 years we lived there. Recently it burned to the ground. Fire inspectors found a 30 amp breaker feeding 14 gauge wire. Apparently the previous owner was overloading the 15 amp provided circuit and just kept upping the breaker size until his wire became his fuse. I am just thankful it didn't happen while I was there.
 
  #5  
Old 04-15-06, 07:07 AM
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I am going to refer you to a post that I made just yesterday:

http://forum.doityourself.com/showpo...8&postcount=15

This is not a job for you to just dive in without pre-planning.

This is not a job where you can just blindly say 'I will ignore the NEC.'

This is a job that can be done 'DIY', but which requires some experience, a willingness to review all of the detailed codes associated with spa wiring, and a willingness to take more than '8 hours and dive right in'.

If you are not willing to take the time to do this correctly, then you'd better be willing to pay a professional to do this correctly. If you are not willing to take the time yourself, and not willing to pay a professional, then return the spa. That simple.

On your specific questions:

GFCI protection is _required_, and an external disconnect is required. Usually these are combined, but as you've noticed the common ones in the big box store are 50A rated with a 50A GFCI breaker. You can buy these with 40A breakers, or substitute a 40A GFCI breaker. You could also use a non-GFCI disconnect, and add a GFCI breaker to your main panel.

If the breaker that _feeds_ the wire to this disconnect is a 40A breaker, and the wire is rated for 40A, and the _connected loads_ are suitably served by a 40A feeder, then most inspectors will permit you to use a 50A disconnect with a 50A breaker as the external GFCI disconnect. (In this case, the wire is properly protected, the load is properly fed, but you have a 'coordination issue' which means that the upstream breaker will trip before the downstream breaker.)

For the part of the run outside of your house, you _must_ use insulated wire in conduit, _not_ any forms of cable.

Your spa requires a four wire feeder, with separate hot(s), neutral, and ground. There are no 'creative' grounding solutions here. You run a proper wire in the conduit with the other wires back to your panel.

I repeat: do this right, pay someone to do it right, or return the spa. If bolide sounds insulting, it is because your questions and attitudes set off _all_ of the 'gonna get him(her)self killed' warning flags.

-Jon
 
  #6  
Old 04-15-06, 04:23 PM
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I'm semi-comfortable with electrical things but I paid a pro to wire my hot tub. Its too important for maybes... Its your family and yourself. Pay to have it done right.
 
  #7  
Old 04-15-06, 09:10 PM
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i did all the wiring today, and bought a GFI box, and put it 5 feet from the tub. I'll take pictures and post a link tommorow after i hook it all up. So far everything looks extremely professional, conduit throughout from start to finish, nothing exposed. The real test will be hooking it up to the breaker box. I bought a 50amp GFI breaker, but the guy at the store said the wire was rated at 40amp, so this is the only problem i can foresee at this point, when i asked him again today, he said it should be fine. 125 feet of cable is ALOT of work! Hopefully i dont get fried tommorow when i run live current. Keep yah posted..hopefully.
 
  #8  
Old 04-15-06, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by hiii98
the guy at the store said the wire was rated at 40amp
40A and 50A wire are probably the same thing.
Are you talking about #8 copper?


> when i asked him again today, he said it should be fine.
That might be. You are 25% over the protection for the spa.
The spa might in fact be listed to work under the protection of a 50A breaker. I didn't notice that in the directions.

Anyway, that you installed GFCI is a big plus. May it never be needed.
 
  #9  
Old 04-16-06, 05:13 PM
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Yes i have #8 wire. And after rereading the spa manual, I believe it says that it will operate at LEAST on 40 amp, which i take to mean i can use a higher breaker and power supply (ie 50 amp should be ok, possibly 60 recommened, however likely not a good decision with the rating on the line i have?)
 
  #10  
Old 04-17-06, 07:51 AM
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>And since it has been scientifically proved that water and wood don't conduct electricity, you feel pretty safe.

Is it true that water does not conduct electricity?
 
  #11  
Old 04-17-06, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by lzhang
Is it true that water does not conduct electricity?
No, bolide was being sarcastic. Water does conduct electricity and can be deadly if it becomes charged.
 
  #12  
Old 04-18-06, 11:43 AM
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isnt water one of the best conductors of electricity?
 
  #13  
Old 04-18-06, 12:03 PM
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> isn't water one of the best conductors of electricity?

No, that would be gold or some other metal.

Dirt and water are actually poor conductors.

That's the big problem.

Water and earth are good enough conductors to carry enough electric current to kill someone (which requires perhaps only a tenth of an ampere), but not good enough conductors to carry enough electric current to trip the breaker (which could require hundreds of amperes).

Water enhances ionic separation of chemicals (salts) in the soil.
That is why it is more conductive.




(In fact, pure water does not conduct electricity by itself; it is chemicals dissolved in the water that make it conductive. So you could say that it is true that water does not conduct electricity. You can still get electrocuted.)
 
  #14  
Old 04-18-06, 04:42 PM
kjf
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You cant use a 50 amp breaker on a 40 amp rated wire
 
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Old 04-18-06, 06:30 PM
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Why? Have you ever seen "a 40 amp rated wire"?
 
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Old 04-18-06, 09:53 PM
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Well i just got done hooking it all up, the entire project took forever, and my fingers are bleeding from that giant guage wire constantly poking holes in me. Flipped the main breaker on , and nothing tripped. Went out to the spa and flipped the GFI breaker and the heater turned right on and stayed running. I then it the "test" button on the GFI breaker, and it all shut off and tripped the breaker. Is this a good test for me to feel somewhat safe inside the hot tub now? Also I agree with bolide, the 40 amp rated wire is #8 and it is like bending metal tubes rather than wire, it is impressively large (and heavy). Any other suggestions you can offer before I call this project complete? I found this one to be especially challenging compared to some others i have gotten myself into (and out of). Also roughly how much money did i save by doing this myself rather than hiring a electrician?

125 feet of cable running from basement breaker, outside house, up to deck, into GFI breaker box, then back to hot tub (5 feet away from breaker). Cost me about $220.00 in materials.

Thanks for everyones advice, glad i listened to it.

*** I guess while i'm at it , i might as well also ask if I can somehow hook up a 120v outllet by splicing into my 240GFI powered box? I want to put a regular outlet to hook up my rope lights and outdoor speakers to, without running this ugly extension cord around all around my deck. So can i tap into that GFI box...or not? :P
 

Last edited by hiii98; 04-18-06 at 10:03 PM.
  #17  
Old 04-18-06, 10:13 PM
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> Any other suggestions you can offer before I call this project complete?

You know it: pay for an inspection.


> I can somehow hook up a 120V outlet by splicing into my 240V GFI powered box?

You have to have a 15A breaker in between or one of those fuse and switch combos or some type of OCPD.


> this ugly extension cord around all around my deck.

Ugly is hardly the right word.
Of course, it's plugged unto a GFCI too.


> So can i tap into that GFI box...or not?

Could we see a photo of what you have now?
 
  #18  
Old 04-18-06, 10:39 PM
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I'll snap a picture tommorow, need more light out there, and want to clean up my mess of tools ...
 

Last edited by hiii98; 04-19-06 at 12:04 AM.
  #19  
Old 04-18-06, 11:34 PM
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I saw a thing once...

People put a power drill plugged into a regular outlet, and dropped into into a 5 gal bucket of water... it kept running.

THen they put a power drill plugged into a gfci into a 5 gal bucket of water and it shut of instantaneaously.

The fact of the matter is, it's not hype. I dunno what code is, but if you have a water source within 6 ft of an elctrical outlet, put gfci on it, plain and simple. if code calls for more distance, then follow it.
 
  #20  
Old 04-18-06, 11:44 PM
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> just going to snap a pic of the GFI unit and tub
Yes, the part that is 5' to 10' away.
 
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