Running 220v to hot tub?!?

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  #1  
Old 08-01-07, 07:20 AM
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Angry Running 220v to hot tub?!?

Okay first off my name is Daniel & I'm new to these forums but I'm looking forward to learning a lot from you guys. The situation as of now is this...

A buddy of mine just moved into an older house & is trying to run 220 to the backyard by his porch so he can hardwire his hot tub. First off the main panel was full with breakers so there were no spaces left to add a 220 50A breaker. We took a 30A breaker which powered his hot water heater & a 40A breaker which powered his dryer outlet out of the box & replaced them (as advised by a local electrician) with 2 tandem breakers. He never specified what size tandem so we figured for the 30A breaker we needed a 2 pole 15A & for the 40A we'd need a 2 pole 20A. After replacing them to free up room for the 50A breaker needed for the run to the hot tub disconnect box his dryer would run but with no heat & his hot water heater wasn't making hot water at all.

We went ahead & hooked up the 6/3 wire to the main panels breaker, wired up the disconnect box (2 hots, 1 bare to the ground & the white to the neutral bar). We did the nessecerary changes to the hot tub to allow it to run 220 & then wired it up. When we turn on the GFCI in the disconnect box it wont stick in the on position it just springs right back (tripping I imagine) to the middle postition. The hot tub flashes like it wants to come on but turns immediately off. Can anyone tell me the best steps to follow to troubleshoot this? Where should I start?

I was thinking disconnect the hot tub from the disconnect box & seeing if the breaker will stay on then. Then I'd know if it was between the main and the disconnect or the disconnect & the tub?! Am I on the right path?

Sorry so long but it's a lot to explain. Hopefully someone here will know what to do! Thanks for your help in advance
 
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  #2  
Old 08-01-07, 07:44 AM
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> We took a 30A breaker which powered his hot water heater & a 40A
> breaker which powered his dryer outlet out of the box & replaced them
> (as advised by a local electrician) with 2 tandem breakers. He never
> specified what size tandem so we figured for the 30A breaker we needed
> a 2 pole 15A & for the 40A we'd need a 2 pole 20A.

You guessed wrong; luckily this guess wasn't one that could kill someone only prevent the appliances from working properly. You don't need two tandem breakers, you need a single 30/30 quad breaker with inside and outside common trip. The dryer is/was a fire hazard with a 40A breaker.

> We did the nessecerary changes to the hot tub to allow it to run
> 220 & then wired it up.

You're hand-waving away a lot of very important steps here. Exactly how did you wire the disconnect; i.e. what color wires to where? What type and size of conduit and conductors did you use to feed the tub? How exactly did you wire the tub?

> Where should I start?

I would recommend that you advise your friend to hire an electrician for this project and buy some books on home wiring for the next one. Furthermore, get an electrical permit and inspection for this hob tub install. If his or your careless guessing on something important winds up injuring or killing someone in the tub, you can be held liable for doing unlicensed electrical work on another person's house.
 
  #3  
Old 08-01-07, 07:47 AM
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Electricity and water do not mix well. In fact, they don;t even get along well. You need to be very careful in working with swimming pools and hot tubs, as you can easily kill yourself if you make mistake.

First, put the circuit breakers back for the water heater and dryer. You need full size 240 volt circuit breakers there, or you will experience just what did experience. You must have misunderstood the electrician's instructions. he did not tell you to replace those breakers with tandems. If he did, he does not know what he is talking about.

What you can do is to use those tandems in place four regular 120 volt circuit circuit breakers. Two of them being 20 amp breakers and the other two being 15 amp breakers. This will free up two spaces where you can install the breaker for the hot tub. Either find breakers already next to each other to take out or move come circuits around. It is imperative that all circuits presently on 15 amp breakers stay on 15 amp breakers and that all on 20 amp breakers stay on 20 amp breakers. Another option is to purchase a quad breaker. If you purchase a quad breaker you may be able to find one that can replace both the dryer breaker and the water heater breaker.

If the wiring for this hot tub panel is outside, then you need to use special cabling. Using traditional cabling (with a bare ground is wrong). If the cable remains inside the house your cable is okay. Hopefully you have the proper size cable/wire.

Your problem with the GFCI breaker is most likely because you did not install things properly. The white pigtail of the GFCI breaker gets connected to the neutral buss, and the neutral wire from the hot tub gets connected to the GFCI circuit breaker.

Other details include that the hot tub panel needs to be at least five feet from the tub, and that you need a convenience receptacle (normal 120 volt receptacle) at least ten feet but not more than 20 feet from the tub. Finally, the tub and any metal near the tub needs to be properly bonded to the motor.

I strongly urge you to study up on ALL the codes surrounding hot tubs before proceeding and to have this inspected so that you do not burn the house down, or worse yet kill someone.
 
  #4  
Old 08-01-07, 07:52 AM
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I agree with Ben. Your approach so far is definitely shooting from the hip and you are not exercising sufficient caution. Please be careful. Small mistakes can have big consequences.
 
  #5  
Old 08-01-07, 11:12 AM
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Okay, first off thanks for the replies. I know it's dangerous, I work with electricity all day just in a different enviroment with welders & robotics so we deal with 480v in our control panels when troubleshooting a problem. I know house wiring, codes, etc. are a lot different so that's why I'm here.

As for how I ran the wires...

We ran the cable through the basement coming out the back of the house to the disconnect box through conduit. The disconnect box is 5 feet from & in direct path of the hot tub. (Now from reading what you guys wrote I believe this is where we screwed up...) When we wired the line from the main to the disconnect we connected the black & red to the HOT lugs before the breaker, the bare wire to the ground rail & the white wire to the neutral rail.

(This was a "SPA Box" that comes with the GFCI & disconnect already put together) We never hooked the neutral from the hot tub to the breaker instead we hooked it to the neutral rail. The breaker that came in the box had the neutral pig tail coming out of it & connecting to the neutral rail so we just ran the one from the hot tub to the neutral rail as well.

So you HAVE to wire the neutral from an appliance to the breaker instead of the neutral rail if your using a GFCI breaker? Would wiring the appliances neutral to the neutral rail instead of the GFCI cause it to trip like that?

Also about the tandems, that is what he said so he's apparently an idiot. So if we have the 30A breaker & 40A breaker & we need to make room for the 50A breaker for the disconnect we can just get a "30/30 Quad Breaker with inside & outside common trip"? That would cover both the 30A & 40A breakers & make room for the 50A, correct?

Thanks again for the help guys.
 
  #6  
Old 08-01-07, 11:48 AM
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> So you HAVE to wire the neutral from an appliance to the breaker instead
> of the neutral rail if your using a GFCI breaker?

Yes.

> Would wiring the appliances neutral to the neutral rail instead of
> the GFCI cause it to trip like that?

Guaranteed.

> we can just get a "30/30 Quad Breaker with inside & outside common trip"?
> That would cover both the 30A & 40A breakers & make room for the 50A,
> correct?

Yes, although you may need to special order it from a supply house; chances are the big box stores won't stock this specialty item. Also, common trip quad breakers are not manufactured for all makes of panels. Instead, you may need to relocate some 120V circuits to the tandem breakers as Bob described above; this method has the advantage of using parts you have already bought. In any case, the dryer breaker must be reduced from a 40A to a 30A; a dryer with a 40A breaker is unsafe.
 
  #7  
Old 08-01-07, 12:13 PM
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Regarding the 240 volt dryer and water heater not working:

An electric water heater requires 240 volts. By using a tandem breaker, you are feeding both lines with the same leg of the incoming power, so instead of 240 volts the water heater gets zero volts. No electricity, no hot water.

An electric dryer requires both 240 and 120 volts. By using a tandem breaker, you are feeding both lines with the same leg of the incoming power. This means that the dryer gets zero volts on the items that need 20 volts (the heating element), and 120 volts on the items that need 120 volts (the light bulb, the drum motor and any electronic controls). This why the drum turns, but you get no hot air.


Regarding the GFCI:

A GFCI works by comparing the current. The current each direction on the breaker must match (within a small amount) or the GFCI trips. With a 120 volt GFCI breaker, the current on the hot wire must match the current on the neutral wire. With a 240 volt breaker it is not as easy, since you have current going both ways on the hot wires and excess current on the neutral. With a 240 volt GFCI breaker, the current on the neutral must be the difference of the current on the hot wires, or the GFCI will trip. With either GFCI breaker, the breaker will trip when the current is not correct.


If your cable leaves the house and goes straight into the disconnect box you are okay using cable. However, if the cable is routed outside, even along the wall, you are not code compliant, instead individual conductors with an insulated neutral wire are required.
 
  #8  
Old 08-01-07, 12:27 PM
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Thanks a lot IB, then I'm almost certain that's the problem with the tub then because I know we wired it's neutral to the neutral bar instead of the breaker.

There is a small problem though, come to find out the dryer is actually on the 30A breaker so that part is fine I was wrong about it being 40A. The 40A runs to a seperate box in the basement that houses breakers for numerous outlets throughout the house as well as a breaker for the Hot Water Heater. So I'd imagine that would change the 30/30 Quad Breaker to a 30/40? Or do they even make those?
 
  #9  
Old 08-01-07, 12:44 PM
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What you are describing is a sub panel. The 40 amp breaker feeds a sub panel, which feeds the water heater and some other household circuits.

You will most likely have to go to an electrical supply house to find quad breakers. What they have or can order will depend on the type of panel.

You may have to go to other alternatives, specifically using tandems on some of the 120 volt circuits to free up space for the 50 amp breaker. You only need two tandems to get space for one 240 volt breaker.



As for not knowing what's on the circuits. I recommend that your friend (since it's his house) and you (since you are helping him) completely and thoroughly map out the circuits in the house. This is something that every new homeowner (or renter) should do. Your goal is to determine exactly what is controlled by each and every breaker. You should know down to to the receptacle, light and appliance level. This information will be invaluable when a problem develops (and with an older house a problem will eventually develop) and could save a life under the proper circumstances.

One final comment. Do you know if the incoming service can support a hot tub?
 
  #10  
Old 08-01-07, 12:52 PM
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Wow Racraft I just learned a lot in your last post, thanks for explaining all that it makes complete sense. I was a bit confused as to how the heating element was the only thing not working on the dryer. I guess the quad is my only choice because all the breakers in the main are 220 except 2 that are running driveway lights & powering an outlet on the side of the house.

I was thinking of putting like a 90A breaker instead of the 40A & adding the 50A to the sub panel in the basement but that would call for bigger wire being ran to the box which would not be fun so I guess I'm stuck with the quad.
 
  #11  
Old 08-01-07, 12:56 PM
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Well the tub calls for 240v, not sure about the incoming, we'll check that out tonight thanks a lot for all the help guys.
 
  #12  
Old 08-02-07, 04:36 AM
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Okay thanks for the help guys, we got a 30/40 Quad Breaker from a local supply house to free up the sapce, returned the tandems to home depot & rewired the neutral from the tub to the breaker instead of the neutral rail & boom everything worked great!

Thanks a lot for the help, I'm sure I'll be back for more since I found this great site.
 
  #13  
Old 08-02-07, 10:23 AM
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Glad it worked but electricians don't like the word "Boom". If you'd ever seen a dead short on 480v you'd understand. <G>
 
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