So you are buying a hot tub and you ask your self does a hot tub need a gfci breaker protecting it. The article will help you understand how a gfci works and why you should have one for your hot tub.
Does a hot tub needs a GFCI Breaker or similar gfci protection from water? Yes it does, it must have a rating of 5 milliamps. This is according to the National Electrical Code and Canadian Electrical Code.
Why Does A Hot Tub Need A GFCI Breaker?
A hot tub needs to have gfci protection to protect you the user in the event of a malfunction of the electrical circuit supplying it. This is to prevent electrical shock. All building and electrical codes state that the electrical device. The hot tub in this case must have protection from water in the event that the electricity tries to go to ground.
Electricity takes the least path of resistance in this case water. Any current or amperage as we call it above 5 milliamps can kill you. Its the electricity flow through the circuit.
You want to take all precautions to keep it within that circuit instead of you. Receiving and electrical shock of any kind can be very dangerous let alone water to intensify it.
Even if one of the components shorts out to ground like the motor of the hot tub the gfci will pick it up. It doesn’t really matter what kind of gfci protection you use it all has the same protection rating.
Depending on what type of hot tub you have the protection will change from a plug to a breaker type.
What Kind Of GFCI Do I Need
For a standard small four to five person round or square hot tub most of them come with a 120 volt 15 amp plug on the end of them. This includes the inflatable or portable hot tubs as well.
You can simply plug it in to your exterior protected gfci outlet on your deck or side of house. These are very common hot tubs and very inexpensive which will get you into one at a low cost.
The power usage is very minimum and you can run and heat it for under $20 dollars per month on your electric bill. I will say though these smaller hot tubs take much longer to heat up. Also most of the time can’t keep the heat up to temperature with the cover off.
When enjoying the usage of the hot tub on a warm summer night outside you should be fine for a few hours. In the winter months with the cover off the temperature can drop a few degrees with in an hour or so.
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Does My Hot Tub Need A GFCI Breaker If It Plugs In?
Yes you need gfci protection if it plugs in. No you do not necessarily need it to be on a breaker. A standard gfci outlet will suffice. To understand why you need the protection is quite simple really.
The gfci detects the difference between the two power lines for leakage to ground outside the circuit. It actually detects the difference between the hot and neutral wire. This goes to the ground anyway.
If the motor has a bad electrical winding inside the gfci will sense that and trip. If the heating element goes to ground it will sense that.
The heating element is submersed right inside the water pipe. So would you want to chance that grounding out through the water. I wouldn’t.
How Far Does The Hot Tub Need To Be Away From The Breaker?
There is really no code rule stating how far the gfci protection needs to be away from the tub. If it plugs in then its most likely with in 6 feet. The code does say the shut off not to be confused with the gfci. Must be within 9 meters or within site.
That is just not practical from a service point of view. The shut off weather it be a plug or and on off disconnect. Should be within 6 feet if the tub in a location that doesn’t get splashed by water.
The gfci protection if a breaker can be right in the disconnect which we call a spa buddy. It can also be inside the house back at the house panel running to an external disconnect.
Does The Wire Need To Be Buried ?
If you have a permanently mounted large hot tub free standing in your backyard. You will want to bury the cable for ascetic purposes.
Check with your local electrician to find out the code rules and regulations on burying the cable.
If the hot tub sets on a deck attached to the house then no. You can run the proper approved damp location cable under the deck to save from digging the yard up.
Why Does The Breaker Keep Tripping?
The breaker usually trips to indicate there is a problem. If you try to reset it and it keeps tripping then you may have an issue with a component in the hot tub.
Most times it ends up being the winding inside the pump motor getting week overheating or damp. This causes a leak to ground which will make the gfci trip.
We recommend shutting the hot tub off for a while. Open the compartment where the motor is.Make sure the power of shut off. eave it open to the air for a little while to see if it fixes the issue.
Open up the door on the gfci breaker next to the hot tub and let that get air to it as well. Sometimes the gfci gets damp too causing it to trip.
If none of these tricks work then it’s time to call your hot tube service guy.
Where Do I Buy The GFCI Breaker?
Sometimes you can strike a deal with the hot tub company to get the gfci breaker with the purchase of the unit. You can also buy them at your local hardware stores, big box stores or building supplier that has an electrical deptartment.
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What Size Breaker Do I Need For A Hot Tub
For a standard smaller 120 volt hot tub you will need a 15 amp or 20 amp single pole gfci breaker. Many times as mentioned above you can simply pug it in to an outside outlet that is protected.
Larger 8 person and up hot tubs require a larger 240 volt breaker. They start at 30 amp and go right up to 60 amp.
The most common size is 40 amp which requires an 8 gauge cooper wire. The 12 person large hot tubs that usually require a pad to sit on are 50 amp or 60 amp depending on the size heaters.
This larger hot tub requires 6 gauge copper wire.
Can You Run A Hot Tub On A 100 Amp Service?
The smaller plug in hot tub yes you can. It doesn’t load your power service up much. The larger 240 volt hot tubs should be fed back to a 200 amp standard house panel or electrical service. The issue is if you use 50 amps for a hot tub and only leave 50 amps for the rest of the house. It can cause a problem.
if your hot tub was in heat mode and you turned on your electric dryer and stove at the same time you would most likely pop your main breaker on 100 amp. That comes down to demand loads on house services but that’s another article all together.