Surge Protector / GFCI Recommendations

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Old 11-18-09, 09:47 AM
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Surge Protector / GFCI Recommendations

This morning my wife smelled burning electronics and called me to come home. I found a small amount of water had dripped into a bargain-basement surge protector and caused it start burning internally. This has happened before and while no fires were started (I am blessed and I hope it's unlikely since they aren't really flammable) I obviously need protection against this sort of thing.

First, the breaker didn't trip and the surge protector was still providing power despite the internal circuitry being torched (I took it apart to check). All of the equipment seems to be fine, though I will be replacing the wart for the elliptical just in case. If it didn't trip the breaker, I'm guessing it wasn't really pulling much current as the amount of water was small.

1) I assume it's worth it to install a GFCI there, correct? I suppose it can't hurt, though it's an odd location. My main goal is to prevent fires.

2) Are there surge protectors recommended for use with aquariums? It looks like all of them say that they are specifically NOT for use with aquariums. I know there are fire-protection surge protectors out there as well as ones with included GFCI.

Obviously, I'm going to take steps to prevent water from getting in there in the first place, but I want to have extra layers of protection as well.
 
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Old 11-18-09, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by flintsilver7 View Post
I'm guessing it wasn't really pulling much current as the amount of water was small.
That's probably the case -- plain water isn't that great of a conductor. If this is salt water it could certainly be dangerous.

1) I assume it's worth it to install a GFCI there, correct? I suppose it can't hurt, though it's an odd location. My main goal is to prevent fires.
It's not required, but it can't hurt. GFCI however is generally intended to prevent electrocution of people in the water. You can still get a pretty good short going without tripping a GFCI as long as no current is lost to ground. You could also install an AFCI breaker which can detect small sparks and frayed cords.

2) Are there surge protectors recommended for use with aquariums?
Seems like anything that's heavy-duty should be fine. The ones intended for use at construction sites for example are generally weather resistant. None are water proof of course.

One technique that works pretty reliably is to mount the strip up on the wall and make sure all of the cords have a drip loop below the height of the power strip. That way even if you have some water running down a cord it will drip off as it can't travel uphill to the strip.
 
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Old 11-18-09, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
That's probably the case -- plain water isn't that great of a conductor. If this is salt water it could certainly be dangerous.



It's not required, but it can't hurt. GFCI however is generally intended to prevent electrocution of people in the water. You can still get a pretty good short going without tripping a GFCI as long as no current is lost to ground. You could also install an AFCI breaker which can detect small sparks and frayed cords.



Seems like anything that's heavy-duty should be fine. The ones intended for use at construction sites for example are generally weather resistant. None are water proof of course.

One technique that works pretty reliably is to mount the strip up on the wall and make sure all of the cords have a drip loop below the height of the power strip. That way even if you have some water running down a cord it will drip off as it can't travel uphill to the strip.
Thanks for the help. It is freshwater, so the current was small. I don't think AFCI is really necessary as from what I've read it may cause more problems than it solves. In any case, I will probably go with a plug-in GFCI so I can take it with me and not confuse the next owner with wondering why there is a GFCI installed in a random corner of the basement. Couple that with a better powerstrip and I should be OK.

The power strip was sitting on a raised wooden mini-shelf and had some overhead protection, but it's easy to see how water could have gotten in. I'm going to use some corrugated plastic to both direct any overhead drips towards the wall/floor and ensure that cords are forced to travel upwards before plugging in. Preventing water from getting in in the first place should significantly reduce the risk of arcing (almost eliminating it entirely, but never say never).
 
 

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