Confused about GFCI

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  #1  
Old 08-24-06, 07:04 PM
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Confused about GFCI

I have a hot tub in McLean,Virginia that has its own GFCI plug. My house has a GFCI receptacle on the outside wall that is showing an open ground and for the life of me I can't locate the open ground. If I disconnect the ground wire to the receptacle and label it accordingly and rely on the GFCI plug and the GFCI receptacle to prevent electrocution, am I safe.

Also, if a GFCI receptacle will trip regardless of whether it is grounded, what purpose does the ground serve?
 
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  #2  
Old 08-24-06, 07:40 PM
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It is very important that you find that open ground.

The ground wire you are referencing is more appropriately called the equipment ground. It provides a fault path for short circuit current to return to the main panel and therefore allows the circuit breaker to trip on overcurrent. This is massive current flow like when a hot wire comes loose and touches the metal box the gfci receptacle or other receptacle is installed in. Since the equipment ground is attached to the box and the receptacle metal yoke and continues uninterupted all the way back to the panel neutral bar. Any short to any bonded metal or the equipment ground wire itself will travel on the equipment ground and make possible the tripping out of the breaker. Without the equipment ground intact a breaker will not trip and the metal will become energized at line voltage.

A gfci does not need ground because it is not meant to protect you from all ground faults particularily short circuits. Short circuits 9 times out of ten will not trip the gfci. Rather the gfci protects you from current leakages in the small milliamp range usually in the neighborhood of 5 milliamps for a typical residential class gfci. Moisture related leakages of current to ground or neutral are the primary reason for gfci's around pools and spas. These leakages are not enough to trip the circuit breaker in the main panel or sub-panel but enough to kill you in the right circumstances. The gfci detects these leaks of current and trips out before you are injured.

Is that a clear enough explaination?

Roger
 
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Old 08-24-06, 07:47 PM
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Confused about GFCI

Thanks. Clear enough to get a pro in on the job.
 
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Old 08-29-06, 09:35 PM
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Confused about GFCI

Well today was not a good experience. The electrician spent four hours trying to find the open ground and could not. His alternative was to run a new circuit to the hot tub outside the house but said a separate breaker box for outside was not necessary and since the tub draws only 15 amps, a 50 amp breaker box was wasted money. He used what he says is outdoor approved wire, not Romex, no PVC or conduit. Three hours to run the new line.The entire bill was almost $1200. A final indignation is there is no outside cover for the GFCI receptacle that will hold the plug on the tub that has its own GFCI (too big for box) so I am not comfortable that this set up is code for a continuous use electrical device outdoors. I used a local licensed electrical firm of long standing but I think I got raped.

Should I be concerned by the fact the outdoor wire is just stapled to the house, no conduit.
 
  #5  
Old 08-30-06, 04:23 AM
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I think you have reason to be concerned.

Outdoor rated cable, UF, is designed to be buried. It is not allowed to be simply stapled to the house. Not only does this look bad, but it is subject to damage.

Further, the NEC now requires that outdoor receptacles (for the most part) have an in-use covers, so that the plug and the receptacle are protected from the elements.

Further $1200 for three hours work and aminimal amount of materials is steep.
 
  #6  
Old 08-30-06, 06:26 AM
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Hello

In your original post there were a lot of questions we could have asked, however you indicated that a explaination of the gfci was all that was required. When you stated you were going to bring in an electrician then we of course didnt pursue that course with you. Finding an open ground can be a task on a branch circuit if the open isnt in an electrical box with access. It may take considerable time. A good electrician should have bee able to isolate where the ground was broken in the branch circuit.

You have a cord and plug hot tub, but what is confusing to me is you say there is a gfci receptacle on the hot tub itself that you can plug something into...?? Are you sure this isnt what is called a dead front gfci that will not accept cord and plug equipment. These built in gfci's are usually with tubs that are generally refered to as package type hot tubs. Anyway I'm thinking you have a built in gfci that protects the circulation equipment and other accessory items of the tub. However if the tub is cord and plug and outside then you wouldnt have much choice but to have a gfci receptacle on the house to plug the tub into. Gfci protection is required in these locations. So you have a bit of redundancy in gfci protection.
I'm also confused on why outdoor UF even enters the picture if this is a cord and plug hot tub. Did the electrician run uf from the main panel and new circuit breaker to a new outside receptacle and your plugging the hot tub into this ? Did he do this because he had to go outside the house to get to the receptacle location due to too much "finished out" areas inside the house ?
I certainly wouldnt be overjoyed with this type of installation however and I'm seeing a few code violations in what he did if I'm understand things correctly.
I think what I would do is have the appropriate code enforcement department come out and take a look see at this installation and see if it is up to standards for a hot tub branch circuit.

The other concern is what about the branch circuit that has the open ground? Did the electrician take it out of service?

If possible could you post some pictures to an internet storage site like photo bucket then post the link on this thread? We will have to copy and paste it but then we will be able to see what you have there.

Roger
 
  #7  
Old 08-30-06, 06:57 AM
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I think from Sblumenthal's comment that "there is no outside cover for the GFCI receptacle that will hold the plug on the tub that has its own GFCI (too big for box)" makes me think that the hot tub's plug has a molded-on GFCI (like is common to see on hair dryers). A normal weatherproof in-use enclosure probably wouldn't accept this oversized plug. Might be hard to find a listed enclosure that's big enough.

UF cable cannot be run where subject to physical damage. NEC 340.12. I'm guessing the electrician didn't pull a permit, because I can't see that passing inspection. I also hope he used UF cable rated for sunlight exposure. Jeez, you can't run solid #8 for a grounding electrode conductor without putting it in conduit on the outside of a house, and that wire isn't energized! A weed whacker or careless lawnmower could easily expose the conductors inside. At least it's a pretty easy fix to add some PVC conduit to the UF cable.

I can't believe the electrician looked for three hours and couldn't find the open ground. Fixing the open ground is one thing, but to locate it all you have to do is shut off everything but that circuit, trace the wiring with an AC probe to see which outlets are on that circuit, then test each outlet and fixture until you find the last one with a good ground. Your open ground is right downstream of that. Now, if that open ground is stuck in the middle of a wall, yeah, THAT could take three hours to fix (nicely that is... doesn't take long to hack apart drywall....).
 
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Old 08-30-06, 07:57 AM
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Yes of course Arnie you are correct. After rereading and seeing that this tub is only 15 amp, it would indeed be a gfci plug he is talking about.
 
  #9  
Old 08-30-06, 09:03 AM
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Arrow

Correct me if I am wrong, and I am sure one of you will but, if the hot tub has it's own GFCI then one could conceivably install an outdoor receptacle that is not GFCI protected. This could be done by installing a "twistlock" receptacle. While the receptacle is within reach of the ground, the exception would allow for a "specific use".
By installing a twistlock receptacle and a twistlock cord cap, you could keep the cord and plug connection and use a standard 15 amp circuit.
You would still have to conform to the code as far as the cover but, I think this can be accomplished with a twistlock configuration.
 
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Old 08-30-06, 09:15 AM
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Professor,

Sblumenthal is indicating that the GFCI is built into the cord. Your idea would only work if the GFCI were far enough down the cord so that the plug could be removed and a twist-lock one installed. Being as Sblumenthal has indicated that the plug won't fit with a traditional in-use cover in place, I don't think that is the case.

Your idea also raises issues about voiding the tub warranty, whih may or may not be relevant here.

I also think that the AHJ would need to rule on this. While a twist-lock receptacle does prevent most instances of general use, the recptacle is still a 120 volt receptacle and still could be used if someone wanted to, and it would not be GFCI protected. Unplugging the hot tub is fairly easy, whereas moving an appliance (such as a refrigerator in a garage) to access a dedicated receptacle is not.
 
  #11  
Old 08-30-06, 09:52 AM
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Cool

Racraft,
While I accept the fact that the GFCI is built in to the cord, I don't agree with your interpretation regarding dedicated use.

There is an exception the GFCI rule for a sump pump in a basement. Now you can even more easily plug an appliance into that outlet. It does not necessarily have dedicated space coinciding with the receptacle.

By installing a twistlock receptacle, you have met the intent of the code and that is to protect persons from electrocution hazard. This would be a dedicated circuit with a twistlock receptacle. Name the last time you saw a weedeater with a twistlock, or a vacuum cleaner or a radio or anything that the average homeowner would employ.

The concept of the code regarding GFCI's is to make persons safe from electrocution. If you can't use the receptacle for everyday items then I am fairly positive that you have satisfied this intent and I feel pretty confident that the AHJ would agree with me. I myself have done installations using this method in the past and the AHJ was more than happy with it.

You state that even though it's a twistlock receptacle it is still 120 volts and someone could still use it if they wanted to. If you continue with this type of logic someone could remove a GFCI receptacle and direct wire in if they wanted to.

Stupidity knows no bounds, it can defeat the best laid plans and intentions.
 
  #12  
Old 08-30-06, 11:09 AM
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The exceptions for GFCI protection in basements and garages doesn't apply outdoors, presumably because while basements and garages can get damp occasionally, the outdoors can really get wet, and provide an excellent path for electricity to a wet person on wet ground. True, the spirit of the NEC is kept alive, since the hot tub does have protection - one could argue for an exception to 210.8(A)(8) when you have an integral gfci in the unit being plugged in, and the receptacle does not permit other things to be plugged in. However, as the code stands, no such exception exists.

It will all depend on the AHJ's strictness. If they follow the letter of the code, any outdoor receptacle must have GFCI protection, period. Doesn't matter what it serves, how it's locked out, it's gotta be protected. I wonder if the tub has the option to be hard-wired instead of plugged-in? That would have to be a listed and approved option of course... you can always hard wire it if you wanted to!
 
  #13  
Old 08-30-06, 04:47 PM
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Confused about GFCI

Thanks for the interest. Let me clarify. This hot tub is a "portable" meaning it is several hundred pounds but not sunk in the ground. It receives power through an electrical cord that plugs into the standard 20 amp GCFI T slot receptacle. The plug itself has a GCFI on it, I am not referring to any internal GFCI near the pump or heater etc. The entire plug is about four inches deep and five inches long. It was probably designed to provide GFCI protection when the hot tub was used indoors and plugged into a standard, non GFCI outlet. It does not fit in the plastic or metal covered boxes available at Home Depot for outside outlets, I have tried.

The electrician did not get any permit, and simply ran the wire from the outdoor outlet along the back wall of the house, into the house through a hole in the wall and connected it to the panel. The total time of the bill was seven hours, three to look for the open ground, four to wire the new circuit. At 138/hour and parts, you get almost 1200.

How would you suggest I proceed. Call them and say I do not believe the exposed wire is code (the electrician said this is wire that is impervious to the elements.)

Until I know otherwise I am going to treat this company as professionals. What is the professional way to say to them that I am concerned and want this done properly.
 
  #14  
Old 08-30-06, 05:31 PM
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Confused about GFCI

"I think what I would do is have the appropriate code enforcement department come out and take a look see at this installation and see if it is up to standards for a hot tub branch circuit."

Of course this is an option, but before I "call the cops" on the guy, I would like to see if they will correct any problem. If you were the one being called on, how would you like to hear it?
 
  #15  
Old 08-30-06, 06:10 PM
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Smile

I sympathize with what your saying. Two things though... what was done about the open ground on that one branch circuit?

I believe you have a issue with code compliancy with the cable ran exposed on the outside of your home and that cable not having an insulated ground once it left the inside of the house. UF cable has a "covered ground".

I also believe that a permit was required when running a branch circuit to supply a hot tub.

I agree that you shouldnt "call the cops" but you should also get what you paid for ....maybe so maybe no.

What I dont believe is that you were raped but boy they are well paid....

I also dont believe he intentionally balked at doing things right due to time constrant or needing to get on to the next call.

So I would call the codes department and ask if a permit is required for your situation. If they say a permit should be pulled then you have that much answered. Next I would ask if they have the information on-line or documents, brochures etc that outline the requirements for installing the electrical to a portable hot tub. They most likely do have something that addresses hot tubs. I would get that info and check to see if the install is along those standards. If not then I would call the company and ask if you could discuss any issue you think isnt in compliance. If no cooperation then I would ask codes to send someone by to inspect the wiring.


Roger
 
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Old 08-30-06, 08:28 PM
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confused about GFCI

I had the the white,black and ground wires for the circuit with the open ground disconnected at the panel. The electrician left the now free wires inside the panel box.When I asked him why he was doing that, he said:"what else should I do with them?" Seemed reasonable but I had thought he would cut them at the point they entered the panel but I am a lawyer not an electrician.

I do not understand your point about "covered ground." The new circuit was run from an unused breaker in the panel inside the house to the outside and ultimately to the outdoor GFCI receptacle,which is grounded as is the metal box that houses it. When tested it is showing that it is grounded. What is the problem you see?

Thank you for the advice, I will follow it and inform the board.
 
  #17  
Old 08-30-06, 09:01 PM
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Ok the electrician did the correct thing with the branch circuit that was showing open ground.

Depending on what your local code requires and most likely they follow the NEC to the letter on hot tubs. A ground wire must be an insulated ground wire like you see on your hot wires and neutrals (blacks and whites) only it should be green insulation. In uf cable and nm cable the ground wire is bare and "covered" with a paper wrapping and outer jacket that covers the wires. Cables or wires feeding hot tubs, spas and pools must have an insulated ground if they leave the inside of the house. The cord on the hot tub has a green insulated ground wire and it cant be smaller than 12 awg and the cord must be 15 feet or less in length. This isnt an immediate get it taken care of issue. The uf also isnt listed for physical protection so running it exposed on the side of the house would be difficult to do and not be out of compliance in this respect. Nothing I would lose sleep over but it is not quite up to code. Other than these things I would say you shouldnt be terribly upset but I would want them resloved if they are out of compliance with the NEC and local codes. After all you did pay for a compliant installation....

Roger
 
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Old 08-31-06, 05:12 AM
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There are one or two issues, as I see it.

The UF cable (which is allowed outdoors) is in a location where it can be damaged. It also probably doesn't look nice stapled to the house. An inspector might not allow the cable unless it is protected by conduit.

As for the hot tub installation, that's a maybe. Is this a hot tub installation, or just an outside receptacle installation? As this is a portable hot tub, many of the rules for permanent hot tubs do not apply. However, since it is unlikely the hot tub will be moved much, if at all, an inspector might enforce some of them.
 
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Old 09-01-06, 12:10 PM
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The company responded to me by sending out their own inspector. He says the UF wire (which is sunlight protected) is code when stapled to the outside of the house. He says that running it inside conduit is against code as it would not let heat dissapate. I guess I have to live with it.

To remedy the covered outlet problem, he offered to replace my integrated GFCI plug with a standard 20 amp plug which would reduce its size, and could then be placed inside a standard covered box for the continuous use outlet. Since the outlet is now a well grounded GFCI receptacle, although it will void the warranty on the hot tub, I said go for it. Hell, at this point I am grasping for straws.

All in all not the best of experiences but not that bad either. The company is trying to do the right thing by the customer and I will respect that. If I have a code compliant safe installation at the end of the day, that will have to suffice.
 
  #20  
Old 09-01-06, 12:23 PM
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I hope he replaced the whole cord set and didnt just cut the end off and replaced it with a NON water tight plug,,, SIGH
 
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Old 09-01-06, 12:24 PM
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There is no prohibition on UF cable (or NM cable for that matter) in conduit for short sections, when the conduit is for protection. In your case it would have to be UF cable as it is outdoors.

An inspector would have to judge the issue of whether the exposed UF cable is subject to damage or not. Maybe, maybe not, I suppose.

Did you tell the company that the cable running outside your house is ugly and that you don't like it? Was it not possible for this cable to be run indoors and then to the receptacle? Why did it have to be run outdoors? Was it laziness on the part of the original electrician?

As for the open ground, why did you pay for that portion of the time, when he/she never found and fixed the problem? I certainly would not have, unless the electrician made it clear to me (and I agreed to it) that he/she might not be able to find it, and that I would have to pay either way.

Bottom line, I still don't think the company has done right by you yet. They would have not done right by me yet.
 
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Old 09-01-06, 01:20 PM
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There is no prohibition on UF cable (or NM cable for that matter) in conduit for short sections,

there is no prohibition on installing cables in conduit.
 
  #23  
Old 09-01-06, 10:38 PM
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The cable in conduit thing has been a controversy for many code cycles. I believe though the last time I followed this that the 2002 code cycle which tended to prohibit cable in conduit has been addressed somewhere in the 2005 cycle and is generally just considered a bad practice now. I dont get too concerned as I see it in conduit all the time, so far I havent seen a fire from it, thats not to say it hasnt happened.

Well I sorta look at it as Bob mentioned that this is either an outdoor general purpose receptacle or a hot tub feeder to a cord and plug hot tub. I still say if you plug a hot tub into this outlet and that oulet is fed by UF exposed on the side of the house (outside) then the insulated ground is required. On the other hand if you plug it into a gfci outlet that is not fed from a cable on the outside of the house but rather enters the receptacle box from inside the wall and none of that cable is exposed outside then a bare ground can exist as a chapter 3 wiring method. So I differ with the company inspector and a violation does exist. This tub was probably meant to be inside maybe. All wiring methods outside the house for tubs, spas and pools require the ground to be insulated once it leaves the interior of the house and shows up outside. I dont see how you can avoid this by running uf on the exterior of the home then plugging a hot tub into that receptacle. Anyway just my way of looking at this. There is an exception that allows EMT conduit to be an acceptable raceway as long as it stays attached to the house....I would much prefer that to UF-B. When made up with the nice raintight fittings and lb's it doesnt look bad at all.

Hope all goes well


Roger
 
  #24  
Old 09-03-06, 06:08 AM
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Post by neon moved to new thread. Hot Tub Wiring in this same forum.

http://forum.doityourself.com//showthread.php?t=276493
 
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