Wiring a 20 amp, 2 pole, GFCI circuit breaker?

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Old 06-03-18, 08:35 AM
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Question Wiring a 20 amp, 2 pole, GFCI circuit breaker?

Thank you in advance for any help! I'm brand new to this forum, but I see myself becoming a regular. My pool pump is powered from a 240V subpanel with a 20 amp, 2 pole, GFCI circuit breaker. My pool pump recently stopped working and I have figured out (with some help) that it was the GFCI circuit breaker that blew. Resetting the breaker (turning it all the way off then back on several times) has not restored power to the pool pump. Interestingly, when I opened the electrical panel, I noticed the Neutral Pigtail from the GFCI breaker was not attached to anything! I have several questions regarding GFCI circuit breakers:

1. Can someone explain in simple terms how a GFCI circuit breaker differs from a regular circuit breaker?
2. I replaced the 20 amp, 2 pole, GFCI circuit breaker with a new regular 20 amp, 2 pole, circuit breaker and the pump started working. Is my breaker now functioning the same way that the builder installed the original GFCI breaker (without attaching the Pigtail Neutral to the Neutral Bar)? What are the risks associated with this wiring?
3. Will the GFCI circuit breaker still function properly if the Load Neutral is attached to the Neutral Bar and the Pigtail Neutral is also attached to the Neutral Bar (that's how my neighbor's was wired)? Does the Load Neutral have to be connected to the GCFI breaker for it to work properly, if so, why?
4. Why are GFCI breakers so expensive???
 
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Old 06-03-18, 08:58 AM
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A gfi works by comparing the outgoing current with the return current . If it differs by 4-6 mA it trips.

The breaker pigtail should be on the neutral bar. Any circuit neutral should be connected to the neutral terminal on the breaker.
 
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Old 06-03-18, 09:06 AM
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A regular breaker protects against over current and shorts. So no overheating and fires.
A GFCI protects against electrocution. It keeps people alive when something goes wrong with wiring or motors.

If you have a 240 volt load with no neutral used then the GFCI's neutral doesn't matter much but is supposed to be attached to the neutral bus.

Some pool panels are fed via a GFCI in the main panel. If yours doesn't you need to install a 20 amp double pole gfci.

GFCI breakers are more expensive because they have electronics in them that regular breakers don't.
 
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Old 06-03-18, 09:57 AM
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Thank you very much! Now my question is which neutral wire to connect to the GFCI breaker? There are 2 white wires connected to the neutral bus, 1 white goes back to the main breaker and 1 from what I believe is a transformer located inside the subpanel. The wires going to the pool pump are blue, red, dark grey and green. I'm not sure which wire to attach to the Neutral on the GFCI? Sorry if that's confusing.
 
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Old 06-03-18, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by PearlJamDW View Post
Thank you very much! Now my question is which neutral wire to connect to the GFCI breaker? There are 2 white wires connected to the neutral bus, 1 white goes back to the main breaker and 1 from what I believe is a transformer located inside the subpanel. The wires going to the pool pump are blue, red, dark grey and green. I'm not sure which wire to attach to the Neutral on the GFCI? Sorry if that's confusing.
Blue and red are the hots and connect to the breaker. The grey is neutral and connects to the neutral lug on breaker. The white pigtail on the breaker connects to the neutral bar.
 
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Old 06-03-18, 12:07 PM
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Pictures are also very helpful in trying to get an idea across.... How-to-insert-pictures
 
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Old 06-03-18, 02:33 PM
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I have had 2 pole GFCI breakers that you do not connect the neutral pigtail if the circuit does not have a neutral wire connected. If you do the breaker will trip as it "thinks" there is an imbalance on the neutral wire.
 
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Old 06-03-18, 08:33 PM
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Here's a picture of the subpanel

I've been trying to figure out how to attach a photo, thanks for the link PJMax! In the picture below, the wires to and from the pool pump go through the knockout in the bottom far right corner. My goal is replace the 2 pole 20 amp breaker in the picture with a 2 pole 20 amp GCFI breaker. From the bottom right knockout hole, the red wire goes to the upper left timer, the blue wire goes to upper right timer and the dark grey wire goes to the upper left timer. Someone previously responded that the dark grey wire is the neutral and should be connected to the Load Neutral on the GFCI breaker and then attach the pigtail neutral to the neutral bus. Does that seem correct now that there's a photo attached?
 
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Last edited by ray2047; 06-03-18 at 09:17 PM. Reason: Rotate photo.
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Old 06-03-18, 09:34 PM
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I said grey to neutral because grey is a color specified to be used for neutral. Not to sure now after seeing pictures. Is there a wiring diagram?
 
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Old 06-04-18, 07:07 AM
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I was on my phone trying to respond earlier which was somewhat difficult, I'm now on a PC. What does the single pole breaker supply? If it supplies related pool equipment then why is not also GFI? My original thinking was you were dealing with a primary supply to the controls so my question now is why can't the source feeding breaker be a GFI and the breakers in the control panel be standard breakers. I'll admit that my experience with pool control equipment is very limited. To add if that double pole breaker is only supplying 240V loads only then the neutral is not used. Obviously there is some 120V loads since there is a single pole breaker which I guess is power for the transformer.
 
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Old 06-04-18, 07:51 AM
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Dark gray is not an official neutral wire color. We cannot rule out a dark gray neutral in this panel but you will have to find out whether that is true and, for best results replace any neutrals that are not white or light gray with white wires. But you need to figure out whether the gray wire(s) going to the timer are actually also hot.

Each timer has (should have) a hot and a white neutral. For a ground fault circuit interrupter breaker put into this panel, , if you connect a hot branch circuit wire (e.g. going to a timer) to the GFCI breaker, the corresponding neutral must also be connected to the GFCI breaker, to its neutral terminal provided. Then the GFCI breaker white pigtail also provided must be connected to the panel neutral bus bar.

If two wires want to go under one screw, cut a short length (pigtail) of the same color (white if we are talking about the GFCI breaker neutral screw) and connect that to the screw. Connect the far end to the other wires in question.

Looks to me like you are using two (single pole) timers for the two legs supplying 240 volt power to the pool pump. It is preferable here to use one 2-pole timer instead of two single pole timers although it is too late for you now unless an inspector wanders by and rules your box to be a code noncompliant hazard.

I cannot tell for sure but since someone alleged that you have a dark gray neutral I suspect that you have the two timer neutrals tied to each other but not to a real neutral back to the panel. You might also have other 120 volt loads fed by the GFCI breaker and with neutrals tied to this tie point. This creates a "broken neutral" situation where all the 120 volt loads including the timer motors using this tie point as the neutral are subject to seesawing voltages that can shorten the lives of these loads. If you indeed have a neitral tie point like this then it is correctly conected (using a white pigtal I suggested earlier) to the GFCI breaker load neutral. The seesawing voltages will not be corrected until you also connect the GFCI breaker neutral lead to the panel neutral.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 06-04-18 at 08:16 AM.
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Old 06-04-18, 08:22 AM
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-The single pole breaker supplies power to the pool light.

-There are 2 timers in the box because it is a variable speed pump with a high and a low speed. Iím not sure if a 2 pole timer would accomplish the same thing or not?

-Iím at work right now, but I can look for a wiring diagram when I get home.

The only reason Iím trying to install a GFCI breaker is because there was already one there when I went in to replace it (but it was not wired correctly - no neutral load wire to the GGCI breaker and the neutral pigtail was just dangling and not connected to anything) The single pole breaker was never a GFCI breaker when installed. The breaker in the main panel that supplies this sub panel is not a GFCI breaker. Shouldnít they be GFCI breakers given their ďwetĒ location?
 
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Old 06-04-18, 09:14 AM
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If the single breaker in the control panel is serving the pool lights it should definitely be GFI. Knowing that, it seems to me the main serving 2 pole breaker should be GFI and the 2 breakers in the control panel could just be standard breakers.
 
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Old 06-04-18, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
Dark gray is not an official neutral wire color.

NEC just states "Grey" as an identifying color for neutral, it doesn't specify any certain shade. The grounded conductor can also be any color but green having three continuous white stripes. Solid white is the most common.
 
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Old 06-04-18, 03:14 PM
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My first suggestion would be to draw a wiring diagram.

Make two boxes and mark them "Timer 1" and "Timer 2"
Make a box for each breaker, and draw how the wires attach to each timer (Motor/Hot lead, NC, NO, etc.) and then how the wires go from the timers to the pool pump and the pool light.

If you carefully follow and draw each wire, you'll give yourself a road map and save a lot of guesswork.

Once you use your roadmap to figure out where each wire is going, you can figure out where each wire should attach to the GFCI breakers.

Now, I'm a little confused looking at the timers, because one of them turns on at 2 PM and shuts off at 10 PM (pump, I'm guessing?) and the other turns on at 6 PM and shuts off at 10 PM (light, I'm guessing). But the current time of day is 2 PM on one timer and 7 PM on the other.

I've got to ask a silly question here, please don't be offended: When you did your troubleshooting, and decided it was the GFCI breaker, did you make sure both timers were turned on?
 
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Old 06-04-18, 03:20 PM
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Also, another silly question -- why is there a transformer in the lower left corner? I don't see a low-volt control circuit, and it looks like all the transformer wires are capped off.
 
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Old 06-04-18, 07:18 PM
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Wow, 9600-8N1, good pick up! Now that's attention to detail. No offense taken, those are good questions.
1. You are correct, the times were not set correctly, but that only happened while I was messing around in the panel. The times have since been corrected.
2. Both of the timers control one variable speed pool pump, which has a high and a low speed. For the pump to run on low speed, both switches need to be on (not sure why, but that's what the builder told me when we bought the house). Basically, the pump runs on high speed from 2pm-6pm and on low speed from 6pm-10pm.
3. When I tested the pump, I turned both timers on manually, so the times wouldn't have mattered. Furthermore, I've since replaced the breaker with a regular non-GCFI breaker and the pool pump now works.
4. I have no idea why there is a transformer in the bottom left and yes all of the wires are capped. The builder put it in there.
 
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Old 06-04-18, 07:24 PM
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Does this count as a wiring diagram, there seems to be some info on here, but not much with respect to wiring a GCFI breaker.
 
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Old 06-05-18, 02:46 AM
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I'm going to say "Sort of" because it's showing how a generic system should be wired, not how this one is wired. I would try to photocopy that, maybe even blow it up a little -- maybe take a cell phone picture and print it bigger?

Then I would take markers and draw my real wires onto the copy of that diagram.
 
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Old 06-05-18, 06:14 AM
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Yes it does help and now I realize you have a variable speed pump. If there is a four wire feed to that pool panel from the main panel (L,L,N,G) then I still think the best solution is to use a 2 pole GFI in the main panel and use 2 regular breakers in the pool panel. The GFI breaker in the main will be connected as feeder L,L to breaker L,L lugs, and feeder neutral to breaker neutral lug, and breaker neutral pigtail to main panel neutral bar. Another thing is the neutral bar in the pool panel should be isolated from ground which it appears to be. The grey wire from pump appears to be for the variable speed.
 
 

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