Fixing an oddly-wired GFCI outlet

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  #1  
Old 08-01-06, 08:32 AM
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Fixing an oddly-wired GFCI outlet

Hey folks. I'm a newbie when it comes to home electronics. The circuit I'm working on consists of a Jacuzzi tub pump, the wall-mounted timer switch for the tub, and an outlet. There is nothing else on the circuit.

The problem is that the outlet is not live. Please see my diagram of the old wiring here:

Diagram of Old Wiring

After meditating on this for quite some time, I think I see what is going on. I suspect the outlet was not intended for use (it's in a very odd location, in a closet) -- rather, it was added to the circuit to provide inexpensive and easy GFCI protection to the Jacuzzi pump. While I have not tested this hypothesis, I suspect the outlet will only be live when the Jacuzzi pump is running.

What I would like to do is to keep the Jacuzzi pump on a timer and protected by GFCI. I would ALSO like to have the outlet on the same circuit available for use independently of the Jacuzzi pump, and also protected by GFCI.

Some initial questions:

1) I've seen GFCI boxes (not outlets) that just have the test/reset buttons on the face, and nothing else. Could I simply use one of these to protect the Jacuzzi pump, and then keep the GFCI outlet on the same circuit?

2) The Jacuzzi pump has braided copper wire, whereas everything else is solid-core. In the original installation, the braided copper wires (5 and 6) were capped to a short length of solid-core; then, this solid-core wire fed into the outlet's terminals. I've omitted this from the drawing to keep it simple. Should I preserve this? I'm wondering if it's building code (I live in California)

Thanks so much for your help!
-Jeff
 
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  #2  
Old 08-01-06, 09:10 AM
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Run power first into the LINE terminals of the GFCI. Then run power through the timer and to the jacuzzi pump
 
  #3  
Old 08-01-06, 09:11 AM
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Jeff,

Your analysis is correct. The timer is controlling both the outlet and the pump.

1) Yes, you can use both a GFI receptacle and a "blank" GFI for the pump. The GFI receptacle would wire directly to the line power, while the "blank" GFI would go through the timer as well.

Have you considered wiring the GFI first, then through the timer to the pump? That would keep the pump GFI protected while leaving the receptacle always hot.

Wires 1&2 go to the LINE side of the GFI receptacle, wire 3 would connect to the hot LOAD side of the GFI, 4 connects to 6, and 5 connects to the neutral LOAD side of the GFI. Oh, and regardless, wire 4 should be marked as hot (with a piece of black electrical tape or a black marker - since it's actually a hot wire, and not neutral.

2) It's often a pain to get a good screw-connection to a stranded wire. I don't know of any code that requires it, but it seems like a good practice.


-Mike
 
  #4  
Old 08-01-06, 09:12 AM
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You just need to change your wiring a little. But looks like Zor has explained.
 
  #5  
Old 08-01-06, 03:32 PM
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Ahhh, I get it. Thanks! That makes perfect sense. Gee, I wonder why the builders didn't do it this way to begin with, that is most curious.

Thanks everybody for your help, I'll let you know how it goes!

-Jeff
 
  #6  
Old 08-01-06, 07:04 PM
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Hmm.. well, almost there...

I went to wire this as Zor explained it. I have one concern.

The source wires and the timer-switch wires are both 10 guage solid copper. Ugh, that explains why it was so difficult to twist it around the outlet's screw terminals, what a nightmare.

The jacuzzi pump, however, is twisted copper and appears to be about 14 guage. Now my understanding is that any reduction in guage is a potential fire hazard.

The way the jacuzzi pump was originally wired, its two twisted 14 awg copper wires were twist-crimped onto short lengths of 10 awg solid copper, and then these 10 awg solid coppers went into the LOAD of the outlet -- remember, I omitted this from my drawing to keep it simple. So one reduction from 10 awg solid to 14 awg twisted was occuring on wire 6, between the outlet's hot LOAD terminal to jacuzzi pump's HOT, and a second reduction on wire 5 between the outlet's neutral LOAD and the jacuzzi's neutral.

Now, there is only one reduction, which occurs where the timer switch's 10 awg HOT wire is twist-crimped onto the jacuzzi pump's 14 awg HOT wire (wire 4 connecting to wire 6). I didn't use a short length of 10 awg solid between the the jacuzzi's 14 awg twisted into the outlet's LOAD neutral as the original installation did ... I just went direclty in.

Ugh. If that's confusing, I can submit a new drawing!

Is this anything to worry about? Keep in mind the original configuration was the one that the house was built with. Seems to me that it's no worse than it was, and I doubt the jacuzzi pump is 20 amps anyway.

Thanks,
-Jeff
 
  #7  
Old 08-02-06, 04:18 AM
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Most 15 and 20 amp receptacles and switches are not designed to accept wires larger than 12 gage. In instances where the wire is larger, such as your 10 gage, it is necessary to make pigtails from smaller wire that is the proper gage for the circuit.

I suspect that the wire to the pump that you say is twisted 14 gage may be a cord that originally had a plug on the end, and that the plug was supposed to be plugged in. However, someone did not want the device plugged in and instead hard wired it. What type of "cable" or cord is the "cable" that contains the twisted 14 gage wire?
 
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Old 08-02-06, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jishaq
The source wires and the timer-switch wires are both 10 guage solid copper....
Presuming the breaker is sized at 15A (equivalent to the smallest wire in the circuit), you should be fine. You may want to mark the 10ga cable in some way so someone in the future doesn't try to upgrade it to a 20 or 30A circuit. But in any case, the 15A breaker will trip before the 14ga wire is overloaded.

-Mike
 
  #9  
Old 08-02-06, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Zorfdt
Presuming the breaker is sized at 15A (equivalent to the smallest wire in the circuit), you should be fine. You may want to mark the 10ga cable in some way so someone in the future doesn't try to upgrade it to a 20 or 30A circuit. But in any case, the 15A breaker will trip before the 14ga wire is overloaded.

-Mike
Hi, thanks for your ideas. But, it's a 20A breaker! Doh!

The jacuzzi pump's wiring does in fact look like a normal electric plug that has its plug cut off for hardwiring. The cord is pliable and made from a rubber/plastic compound, like a lamp cable.

I don't know much about jacuzzi bathtub installs, but I can't imagine many of these pumps were designed to be plugged into a socket (??). Also, the house was built ~15 years ago with the jacuzzi tub, so it's not an aftermarket install. Finally, the GFCI outlet was clearly wired up expressly for protecting the jacuzzi pump, so if it did originally have a plug on it, I don't see why they didn't just wire up the outlet to be controlled by the wall timer, and then plug the jacuzzi pump into the outlet and save the trouble of cutting the plug off. Geez, it's hard to tell what they were thinking though.

One thing I thought of -- maybe if I can look closely enough at the jacuzzi pump, I can see what its amperage is, perhaps this is enough information to determine if there is indeed an issue or not. I'm guessing there is no issue, since it came with the house and thus must have passed some kind of inspection.

Thanks,
-Jeff
 
  #10  
Old 08-02-06, 06:59 PM
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In some places, local codes require that certain devices be hard wired. This requires removing the plug, and connecting as you have discovered.

If the documentation for the tub specifies a 15 amp circuit then you need to change the breaker. However, it is unlikely this is the case.

In my opinion you are fine with the circuit being 20 amps.
 
  #11  
Old 08-03-06, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by racraft
In some places, local codes require that certain devices be hard wired. This requires removing the plug, and connecting as you have discovered.

If the documentation for the tub specifies a 15 amp circuit then you need to change the breaker. However, it is unlikely this is the case.

In my opinion you are fine with the circuit being 20 amps.
Thanks for all your help! I think I'll just leave it. We never use the jacuzzi tub anyway, I really just wanted the outlet to work!

-Jeff
 
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