240V pool pump and grounding

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Old 05-19-13, 09:12 PM
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240V pool pump and grounding

Hi guys,

My pool pump is 240V and it is connected to two orange wires and there is no ground wire. This circuit is controlled by a double-pole 15/15 amp breaker.
My pool light is 110V and it is connected to brown, white and green wires, which come from a different single-pole breaker.

All 5 of these wires come to the pool pump location through the same thin (I think 1/2") underground EMT conduit. This conduit is turning to dust, so I am getting ready to replace it with either PVC or rigid metal. Before I start, thought, my first concern is whether the current setup is safe, especially because it is near water. And if not, what is the simplest way to fix it.

I am not an electrician by far, so in case I used wrong language or terms, here are some more specific questions to hopefully clarify:
* Is it standard/safe to not ground the pool pump, or in general to not ground 240V equipment?
* If not, is there any way to fix it without pulling a new ground wire all the way from the circuit breaker panel?
* The pump circuit breaker looks old and I do not think it is GFCI. If there is a problem with my wiring, would replacing the standard breaker with GFCI solve it, or is grounding required independently from GFCI protection?

I live in Los Angeles county.

Thanks in advance for your help, and here are some pictures...

This is what the setup looked like before I tore things out.


This one is after I tore stuff out. The conduit on the left brings power to the site. If you zoom in you can see the wires I described above - 2 orange, one brown, one white and one green. The conduit on the left looks like copper and it goes to the pool light.


If we turn to the left, you can see the rusty conduit go underground and towards the house in the direction of the plant, past the A/C unit.


This picture is in the same direction, but a little closer. You can see the conduit go up the wall and to an electrical box. The main circuit breaker panel is on this wall, almost all the way at the end, where you can see the gate.


Here's a close-up of that electrical box on the wall.


And finally, here is the circuit breaker panel. Second breaker from the top is the "Pool Lite" breaker. I don't know why it's double the height of the other breakers right below it. The first breaker from the bottom is the 240V to the pump.
 
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  #2  
Old 05-19-13, 10:56 PM
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My pool pump is 240V and it is connected to two orange wires and there is no ground wire. This circuit is controlled by a double-pole 15/15 amp breaker.
My pool light is 110V and it is connected to brown, white and green wires, which come from a different single-pole breaker.

All 5 of these wires come to the pool pump location through the same... conduit.
The circuit for your pool pump is protected by a 240V 2-pole 15A circuit breaker. The circuit for your pool light is protected by a 120V single-pole 15A circuit breaker.

There is a ground wire in the conduit. It is the wire with the green insulation.

my first concern is whether the current setup is safe, especially because it is near water.
How close to the water is it? Is it less than 5 feet?

Is it standard/safe to not ground the pool pump, or in general to not ground 240V equipment?
No, it should be grounded.

* If not, is there any way to fix it without pulling a new ground wire all the way from the circuit breaker panel?
Yes. Use the green wire to connect it to ground.

* The pump circuit breaker looks old
Age is no indicator of the viability of a circuit breaker.

I do not think it is GFCI.
It isn't.

If there is a problem with my wiring, would replacing the standard breaker with GFCI solve it
I see two or three problems. The first is that the circuit for the pool pump is not GFCI protected. It should be. The second is that the breaker is made of two half-height, or tandem, breakers and that the other half of the full-height slots, immediately above and below this breaker, have been left open.

GFCI breakers are only available in full height, so replacing your existing breaker for the pool pump with a 240V 15A GFCI breaker will solve both of those problems at once.

The third problem, potentially, is that the circuit for the pool light is not GFCI protected. It may need to be. How close to the water is it?

is grounding required independently from GFCI protection?
Yes, absolutely.

Second breaker from the top is the "Pool Lite" breaker. I don't know why it's double the height of the other breakers right below it.
It is a full height, or standard, breaker. The ones immediately below it are half-height, or tandem, breakers.
 
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Old 05-19-13, 11:21 PM
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There is a ground wire in the conduit. It is the wire with the green insulation.
I understand that the green wire is ground, I just thought that I couldn't re-use ground wire from one circuit to ground a different circuit. Am I wrong about that? I assumed that's why the pump was not grounded before.

How close to the water is it? Is it less than 5 feet?
The two conduits coming out of the ground in the second photo are about 7' away from the pool. My main concern is a wet person touching the pool timer and getting shocked. I guess GFCI would provide protection for that scenario.

I see two or three problems. The first is that the circuit for the pool pump is not GFCI protected. It should be. The second is that the breaker is made of two half-height, or tandem, breakers and that the other half of the full-height slots, immediately above and below this breaker, have been left open.
I see. So a 240V 15A GFCI breaker would look sort of like the A/C breaker above?

Thanks!
 
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Old 05-19-13, 11:27 PM
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Is this an "in-ground" pool ?

If it is you are missing pool bonding wiring.
I take the "pool light" to mean a light actually in the pool.

My in ground pool was installed back in 1970 or so. There was no GFI protection in use then but there was a full # 8 solid wire grounding/bonding system installed connecting all metal around the pool including the re-rod in the pool. The wiring was originally done in rigid pipe and that pipe rotted out just like yours did. The constant contact with the chlorine completely rotted it. My pump and it's shed is over 100' from the panel. I dug the line up several feet back and added compression fittings and converted to PVC. I have a board on the side of my pool shed that holds all the boxes in place.

If you switched to PVC you would need to build a frame to hold everything up and in place. I put the in-pool light on a GFI but left the 240 v pump with a standard two pole breaker. My pump is connected with sealtite and there are two hot wires and a ground in it. I also have the pool bonding wiring connecting to a lug on the motor of the pump.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 12:52 AM
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PJmax,

Yes, it is an in-ground pool. The house was built in 1969 and I'm assuming the pool is "original", but I don't know. And by "pool light" I do mean the light that is actually in the pool.

I'm still researching the bonding concept. I wonder if the rigid copper conduit coming from the pool light may be part of a bonding system.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 12:54 AM
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Alex. I hope you weren't planning on using the original setup as a template for the rewire. There were at least a half dozen categories of code violations.
1. 300.5 burial depth
2. 300.11 securing and supporting
3. Disconnect
4. Material used not according to their listing

680:
5. Bond wire
6. GFCI(and you cannot mix GFCI and nonGFCI wires in the same conduit.)
7. Ground must be a minimum of #12

These are just some of the violations from when the setup was installed. The rewire would need to meet present day code. Things like, a special junction box for the pool light conduit and duct seal where underground conduits enter boxes.

Usually incompetent electricians have the sense to cut corners where it's hidden and make a good show of what's visible. This guy's arrogant stupidity is mindboggling. I guarantee there are more nightmares the pictures don't show.

The rewire needs to be permitted and inspected.

This isn't anywhere in the realm of a DIY project.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 01:01 AM
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"...I wonder if the rigid copper conduit coming from the pool light may be part of a bonding system."

Yes it is. The proper pool light j-box will have a lug to connect the #8 bond wire. That wire then goes to a lug on the outside of the motor and the heater.

Use a brass lay-in lug on one of the pieces of equipment. Do not cut the bond wire or bend it sharply.
 

Last edited by Glennsparky; 05-20-13 at 01:36 AM.
  #8  
Old 05-20-13, 01:17 AM
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PJmax,
"...There was no GFI protection in use then..."
Was that originally a 12v light?
"...I dug the line up several feet back and added compression fittings and converted to PVC..."
Was the rigid used as the ground or the bond? If it was, what was your work around?
"...I put the in-pool light on a GFI but left the 240 v pump with a standard two pole breaker..."
15 and 20 amp breakers for pumps have been required to be GFCI since the 2008 code. 680.22(B)
 

Last edited by Glennsparky; 05-20-13 at 01:33 AM.
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Old 05-20-13, 01:59 AM
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It was and is still a 120vac light. Wet niche type. Connection under diving board.

There is a continuous # 10 green from panel to sub panel at pump house
 
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Old 05-20-13, 02:02 AM
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Glennsparky,

So this work requires a permit? If I hired a contractor, would they take care of obtaining the permit? Does getting a permit automatically result in inspection by some government agency when the work is completed? How much would a job like this cost, ballpark?

I was not planning on getting involved in a big, expensive non-DIY electrical project. This all started when I decided to replace my old pool filter, then one thing led to another. Is there something I can do myself to get this working? For example, #1 and 4 I can definitely do - I can bury new PVC conduit 18" under ground. Am I required by some law or regulation to hire a contractor? Safety is number one, of course, but I'm just trying to figure out all my options.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 02:04 AM
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PJmax,
"Is this an "in-ground" pool ?

If it is you are missing pool bonding wiring. ..."

Almost all pools require equipotential bonding, 680.26. Those that don't, fall under the code's definition of storable. 680.2

Alex
"...I understand that the green wire is ground, I just thought that I couldn't re-use ground wire from one circuit to ground a different circuit. Am I wrong about that?..."

One ground can be used for any number of circuits in a conduit. As long as the ground is sized for the largest circuit.

"...I assumed that's why the pump was not grounded before."

The reason the pump was not grounded on the inside and bonded on the outside was gross negligence and/or incompetence.
 

Last edited by Glennsparky; 05-20-13 at 02:40 AM.
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Old 05-20-13, 02:25 AM
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Today, 04:02 AM_Alex_
Glennsparky,

So this work requires a permit? Yes. If I hired a contractor, would they take care of obtaining the permit? They're supposed to, not you. No homeowner permit if a contractor is doing the work. Does getting a permit automatically result in inspection by some government agency when the work is completed? Yes. Check your jurisdiction for crazy exceptions. Be there when the inspector comes to make sure he does his job. (politely, unobtrusively) How much would a job like this cost, ballpark? DK

I was not planning on getting involved in a big, expensive non-DIY electrical project. Too late. This all started when I decided to replace my old pool filter, then one thing led to another. Anything you didn't touch would have been grandfathered in. Is there something I can do myself to get this working? For example, #1 and 4 I can definitely do - I can bury new PVC conduit 18" under ground. Maybe. See if a contractor will work with you. But probably not. Am I required by some law or regulation to hire a contractor? Check your jurisdiction. Some homeowner permits have very liberal requirements. Sometimes it's just no. Safety is number one, of course, but I'm just trying to figure out all my options.

You can't do worse than that first guy. At least you're conscientious.
 

Last edited by Glennsparky; 05-20-13 at 03:04 AM.
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Old 05-20-13, 02:55 AM
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"Today, 03:59 AMPJmax
It was and is still a 120vac light. Wet niche type. Connection under diving board."

Wow, I've never seen that kind of setup. And diving boards are becoming the stuff of legend.

"There is a continuous # 10 green from panel to sub panel at pump house"

Works for me. Did any of the electrical connections go all cruddy and green from the chlorine? If so, did you find anything that's good to stop it?
 
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Old 05-20-13, 03:39 AM
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Alex,
Your average residential electrician shouldn't tackle this job. See if you can find someone who advertises pools as a specialty. Maybe call local pool contractors and ask who they use. The pool contractors themselves cost too much, usually.

Get at least three quotes.

Older electricians will have a better understanding of what to do with that copper rigid light pipe.

If you get stuck doing this yourself, keep pumping us with plans, pictures and questions. If we give conflicting advice, remember, the inspector has the final say.
Good luck.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 10:57 AM
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I had absolutely no problems with the connections. The copper was clean. There were two rigid pipes.... one back to the panel and one to the deck box under the board. Both pipes were completely rusted thru.

Yes.....diving boards are pretty much a thing of the past. This is a Sylvan pool. The diving board stanchion actually had a cutout in it to access the top of the deck box. You would take the two bolts out of the diving board and remove it.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 01:57 PM
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Hi guys,

Based on your advice I'm starting to look for a few electricians to come in, evaluate the situation and make a proposal. At this point I think I understand enough to identify ones that do not know what they are talking about. I'll evaluate them based on how they cover the following bases:

* Replacing both breakers with GFCI models
* Type of conduit they would use
* Depth of conduit burial
* Grounding the pump
* Bonding
* Permit
* Inspection

Am I missing anything?

Now the only problem is to find promising candidates. Right now I'm just searching yellow pages for "Pool Electricians". I might also search for "Pool Contractors" to get referrals from them.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 02:56 PM
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Alex, this:
Your average residential electrician shouldn't tackle this job. See if you can find someone who advertises pools as a specialty. Maybe call local pool contractors and ask who they use.
Is probably the best advice in this thread. I've been doing electrical work for years. I'm very qualified in the work, and the code requirements, for residential, commercial, industrial and some other areas, including my first love, theatre lighting. That's a specialty.

The requirements for power and other wiring associated with pools is another specialty. That's not one I'm experienced or qualified in.

Two friends of mine acquired a company called Pool Power a few years ago. They kept the name and operate it as a subsidiary. They do exactly what Glennsparky was talking about: all of the standard voltage, low voltage, controls, wiring, bonding, etc. associated with pools, especially in-ground pools. If I have a question I call them. I refer clients to them. Occasionally I have an opportunity to use them as a sub. They do not build or install pools, but they make everything electrical around them work effectively and safely.

They know that area inside out. Most of the rest of us don't. There should be a number of such companies near you. That's the route to go.

So this work requires a permit?
Maybe. It depends on the extent of the improvements.

If I hired a contractor, would they take care of obtaining the permit?
Yes. They must pull the permit if one is needed.

Does getting a permit automatically result in inspection by some government agency when the work is completed?
Yes.

How much would a job like this cost, ballpark?
DK. Ask your friends and neighbors with pools if they've had work like this done, who they used, and how they liked them. Try to get three estimates, including written descriptions of the work to be done. We can help you evaluate those if you'd like.

I was not planning on getting involved in a big, expensive non-DIY electrical project. This all started when I decided to replace my old pool filter, then one thing led to another.
If this is the first time you've encountered the Mushroom Factor, you may not have done a lot of DIY work before.

Is there something I can do myself to get this working? For example, #1 and 4 I can definitely do - I can bury new PVC conduit 18" under ground.
Maybe. Work that out as part of the negotiations with each prospective contractor. Don't do anything, if you're going to use a contractor, that you and they haven't agreed that you can do.

Am I required by some law or regulation to hire a contractor?
No.

Safety is number one, of course, but I'm just trying to figure out all my options.
There you have the #1 reason for hiring a qualified contractor.

Specific comments:
I understand that the green wire is ground, I just thought that I couldn't re-use ground wire from one circuit to ground a different circuit. Am I wrong about that?
Yep. A 120V circuit is one hot and one neutral. A 240V circuit is two hots. Equipment grounding conductors are pulled with those but are not part of any given circuit because they should only carry potential in the event of a fault.

Originally Posted by Glennsparky
6. GFCI(and you cannot mix GFCI and nonGFCI wires in the same conduit.)
So feed both loads from GFCI breakers.

So a 240V 15A GFCI breaker would look sort of like the A/C breaker above?
Yep, just with the addition of the test button. But the same size and shape.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 05:03 PM
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I don't see a whole lot of money needed for improvements there. Usually the biggest expense is the conduit work from point a to point b. You installing the conduit would be a big chunk of the labor costs. Even if the electrician you hired didn't want you to install the conduit system you could still do the actual trenching work.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 09:28 PM
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There should be a number of such companies near you.
I've been looking at various ...pages (yellow, super, etc.), searching for Pool Electrician. So far they all list a thousand things they can do, and most of the time it includes pool and spa. Probably jacks of all trades, masters of none. The toughest part of this will be finding a qualified contractor.

Ha ha, mushroom factor! I like that. This is my first house. I bought it less than two years ago. But already I am familiar with the mushroom factor. Not unlike this wiring, there are other things in the house that were done in a half-a$$ed fashion. For example, I am remodeling one of the bathrooms and the existing exhaust fan turned out to be full of drywall dust because of the way it was "installed". Then I discover that in the attic it is connected to a flexible aluminum duct, which just lays there on top of insulation, and everything is covered in this drywall dust. So then I ended up having to install a roof vent. I think that much of this was done by a previous owner who didn't have brains or patience to do things right. This may be the case with pool wiring.

BTW, the previous owner is supposedly a "master electrician", but apparently he didn't have a problem with this setup, or just ignored it. I inherited a bunch of rigid metallic and PVC conduit from him. The funkiest piece in there is this solid copper rod about 1/2" thick and probably 8' long.



 
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Old 05-20-13, 09:33 PM
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That is a ground rod. It's actually a copper coated steel rod.
 
  #21  
Old 05-20-13, 09:35 PM
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Oh man. And I thought I struck gold.
 
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Old 05-20-13, 10:30 PM
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Yesterday, 11:28 PM_Alex_
I've been looking at various ...pages (yellow, super, etc.), searching for Pool Electrician. So far they all list a thousand things they can do, and most of the time it includes pool and spa. Probably jacks of all trades, masters of none. The toughest part of this will be finding a qualified contractor. ...
There's truth to that, with a couple of exceptions. Commercial/industrial electricians often have an easier time with the pool code than residential only guys. A 50+ year old, who got out of trade school at 20, may have that kind of resume. And a large company with many electricians may consistently send the same guy to pools, another guy to restaurants, etc.

It doesn't hurt to ask. They may even have references. Hang in there.
 
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Old 05-21-13, 07:11 PM
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BTW, the previous owner is supposedly a "master electrician",
I think the keyword you used was "Supposedly". I have a really hard time believing a master electrician would ever use thinwall conduit underground.
 
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Old 05-21-13, 07:14 PM
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Joe, the master electrician owned the house from 2003 until I bought it. I think the mess that I'm dealing with was created before him.
 
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Old 05-22-13, 03:27 PM
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Well, I had the first guy come in. Said he's been an electrician for 20 years before I was born. C10 (electrician) license checks out.

He didn't know anything about bonding. He said that I'm the second person that asked him about it. He said that the pool is its own system and is "grounded" separately.

He said that one problem is that the pool light is not connected through GFCI and he'd put in a GFCI box. I asked him if he meant a GFCI receptacle and he said "no, it's just a box". I haven't seen GFCI boxes, only receptacles. Do such boxes exist? I've only seen receptacles and corded inline ones.

He said that the pump is not required to be on a GFCI breaker. He said that GFCI would trip too often.

And he said he'd also put in a switch to the pump so that I can turn off the pump and keep the timer running. I said that I can just turn the whole thing at the breaker. How often am I going to "work on the pump"? If I ever need to, I'll just set the time.

When I asked if permit is required, he said that a permit is required even for changing a light bulb (joke) because they want to collect money.

He said that the trench has to be dug 16" deep and asked who's digging. I said I'd do it. Then he quoted me $690. I said I'll think about it (meaning big fat NO). He didn't tell me anything that I can't do myself.
 
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Old 05-23-13, 01:18 AM
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Sorry Alex, that's disappointing. That guy sounds like a bad fit. But let me play devil's advocate and ramble a little bit. It may help you with the next guy.
He didn't know anything about bonding.
Ok, that's crazy.
He said that the pool is its own system and is "grounded" separately.
Many electricians will use the word ground instead of bond. It's wrong, but it's common usage. Call it an extra ground and homeowners just accept it. Otherwise homeowners ask tricky questions like, "what's the difference between a bond and a ground?"

A bond wire does not go in pipe and is exposed when the inspector shows up. So even the laziest inspector will catch bond issues. Which teaches electricians to get it right, even if they don't know what it is.
He said that one problem is that the pool light is not connected through GFCI and he'd put in a GFCI box. I asked him if he meant a GFCI receptacle and he said "no, it's just a box". I haven't seen GFCI boxes, only receptacles. Do such boxes exist? I've only seen receptacles and corded inline ones.
It looks just like a GFCI receptacle except it has no slots or holes for plugs.
He said that the pump is not required to be on a GFCI breaker.
That's possible. Each jurisdiction amends the code in small ways or doesn't pass it into law for years. You may still be on the '08 code or earlier. And I was mistaken before, pumps on GFCI didn't come in until the '11 code.
He said that GFCI would trip too often.
That's unlikely for a modern GFCI. If a new GFCI trips it's more likely you need to fix your equipment.
And he said he'd also put in a switch to the pump so that I can turn off the pump and keep the timer running. I said that I can just turn the whole thing at the breaker. How often am I going to "work on the pump"? If I ever need to, I'll just set the time.
That switch may be necessary. The disconnect must be "in sight of" the equipment.(680.12) If I were working on the pump or the heater could I see the breaker? Is the breaker within 50 feet of the equipment? A no to either question means you need another disconnect, like a switch.
When I asked if permit is required, he said that a permit is required even for changing a light bulb (joke) because they want to collect money.
That's true, but no excuse for not getting a permit.
He said that the trench has to be dug 16" deep ...
That's a weird depth, no matter how you slice it. Either your jurisdiction is kookoo or he is.

Measurements in table 300.5 are given ttop(to top of pipe). In general, for PVC it's 18" ttop. Lay PVC in a ~20" trench, measure 18" from grade ttop. You're good. Rigid is 6" ttop. 4" of concrete over a pipe is golden. 16"? Doesn't match up with anything I see.
 

Last edited by Glennsparky; 05-23-13 at 02:04 AM.
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