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Thread: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

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    Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Hi - I'm new to the forum and in the process of purchasing a new home with an existing pool. I am aware that NEC regulations indicate that a pool pump needs a GFCI outlet, but at the 11th hour in our "Back-out-for-any-reason/house inspection period" the seller's realtor is telling us "GFCI outlets cannot be installed in the pool pump shed as the switch is air pressured and the seller's been told that they cannot have GFCI outlets there and still have the system work properly." The house was built/pool installed in 2008. Obviously something bigger (improper installation/breaker/old pump???) is going on here. Thoughts that I can come back to them with to sound educated/guide the conversation so we can get the electrical in the pool shed up to code??? Many thanks!!!!!

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    Mod Squad JohnT's Avatar
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Welcome to TFP!

    It would be the switch that would have to be changed if for some bizarre reason it wouldn't work. GFCI outlets are going to be required to be code compliant.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
    Welcome to TFP!

    It would be the switch that would have to be changed if for some bizarre reason it wouldn't work. GFCI outlets are going to be required to be code compliant.
    +1

    No way around this one, there MUST be a GFCI protected circuit on the pool pump, end of story.

    I would ask "What does this "air pressured switch" control, and why can it not be replaced with a conventional wet location switch so we can remain code compliant?"

    I think you should also ask if the install was done with a proper permit/inspection. I'm going to guess it was not.

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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    I used to have a inground hot tub that had "air presure" switches at the tub. The pump still had a GFCI though. Is this what they have? I would not take the word of the realtor on electrical issues regarding the pool. Has the house / pool been proffesionally inspected yet?
    8500 gallon IG Pebble Sheen with Spa. 3hp Pentair VS Intelliflo ( pool ), 3/4 hp WhisperFlo ( water feature ),Pentair Racer, 400K Pentair heater, Pentair 500sqft Cartridge filter, EasyTouch 8, Stenner 45mp2 15gallon wired to ET8

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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    The seller's realtor statement is puzzling & makes little sense.

    What does he/she care what is what?

    That's the job of the home and pool company inspection.

    I'd be livid with that realtor right now if I were the seller of that house.

    The house I bought a year ago had no working gfci on the pool light
    and the bonding wire was not connected to the pump. it didn't hold anything up.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Quote Originally Posted by rphpool View Post
    I used to have a inground hot tub that had "air presure" switches at the tub. The pump still had a GFCI though. Is this what they have? I would not take the word of the realtor on electrical issues regarding the pool. Has the house / pool been proffesionally inspected yet?

    Yes - I do now think the "air pressure" switch in question is related to the hot tub (although the seller hasn't specifically said yet, but that makes sense). It is a small fiberglass pool insert with a circular "built in" jetted hot tub on one side. I see in the inspection pictures that the hot tub switch (which I presume at this point to be the air pressured switch in question) is on the exterior wall of the stand-alone pool pump shed about 8 feet from the pool.

    Anyone see a reason the air pressure switch for a hot tub wouldn't be GFCI compatible? Or know if a hot tub air pressure switch can be converted to some other kind of switch?

    To clarify others' questions/statements...yes, the pool has been professionally inspected and that is why we brought the GFCI issue to the Seller. The Seller's agent is relaying the "incompatibility" issue to our Buyer's agent on behalf of the Seller. In turn, our Buyer's agent forwarded the statement to us. The seller is fully in the loop and initially agreed to installing the GFCI outlets in the pool shed, but when their handyman/electrician/pool guy (??) went out to do the job they said it couldn't be done because of the "air pressure" switch.

    Please note, this issue is in the USVI...so they're a bit looser down there, but do for all intents and purposes follow US mainland (specifically that of the southern states per our inspector) building code. I came to this forum so I could come back to the seller with an educated response because I know logically what they are saying doesn't sound right, and you are all being super helpful - thanks! Keep your thoughts coming!

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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Quote Originally Posted by mke View Post
    , but when their handyman/electrician/pool guy (??) went out to do the job they said it couldn't be done because of the "air pressure" switch.
    Stuff like that is very frustrating.

    Instead of just not doing it he should have made a recommendation to make it work "to code" and proceeded after approval.

    This guy sounds lazy (I've dealt with repair folk like this before) I'd get someone else to come out but let
    them know ahead of time the situation and that you expect a repair to be made before he leaves.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Sorry, I have no idea what they are talking about. Air switch buttons are installed so that you don't have an issue with wet hands turning on electrical switches usually in spas. A GFI is connected on the pump circuit and has literally no relationship to the air switch. Power source to air switch relay to motor. The air button has no electricity connected to it.

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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    I would think the air switch at hot tub is safe since there is no electrical connection ( just air ) to be a hazard. BUT you do want GFCI to protect the motor and air blower and more importantly anyone in hot tub since water is involved. Do you happen to have a picture of pool shed and equipment?

    Oldpoolman beat me to it!! Fast typing!
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Quote Originally Posted by mke View Post
    Yes - I do now think the "air pressure" switch in question is related to the hot tub (although the seller hasn't specifically said yet, but that makes sense). It is a small fiberglass pool insert with a circular "built in" jetted hot tub on one side. I see in the inspection pictures that the hot tub switch (which I presume at this point to be the air pressured switch in question) is on the exterior wall of the stand-alone pool pump shed about 8 feet from the pool.

    Anyone see a reason the air pressure switch for a hot tub wouldn't be GFCI compatible? Or know if a hot tub air pressure switch can be converted to some other kind of switch?

    To clarify others' questions/statements...yes, the pool has been professionally inspected and that is why we brought the GFCI issue to the Seller. The Seller's agent is relaying the "incompatibility" issue to our Buyer's agent on behalf of the Seller. In turn, our Buyer's agent forwarded the statement to us. The seller is fully in the loop and initially agreed to installing the GFCI outlets in the pool shed, but when their handyman/electrician/pool guy (??) went out to do the job they said it couldn't be done because of the "air pressure" switch.

    Please note, this issue is in the USVI...so they're a bit looser down there, but do for all intents and purposes follow US mainland (specifically that of the southern states per our inspector) building code. I came to this forum so I could come back to the seller with an educated response because I know logically what they are saying doesn't sound right, and you are all being super helpful - thanks! Keep your thoughts coming!
    Would a building permit have been needed? I'd hate to see you go through all this just to have that pop up after the closing.

    Dom
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    So the Seller's come back with an updated story having nothing to do with the air switch...now they're saying that the pool pump is plugged in to a 220v receptacle and that GFCI outlets are not made for that voltage. The NEC language I saw around the need for a GFCI outlet mentions 125v and 240v...nothing about 220v. So is there something magical about a 220v receptacle that doesn't require a GFCI??? If not, is a 220v GFCI receptacle breaker/receptacle available (I'm not having an easy time locating one on the internet) OR does the breaker/receptacle need upgraded to 240v GFCI - or would that be too much power for the pump?

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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Quote Originally Posted by mke View Post
    So the Seller's come back with an updated story having nothing to do with the air switch...now they're saying that the pool pump is plugged in to a 220v receptacle and that GFCI outlets are not made for that voltage. The NEC language I saw around the need for a GFCI outlet mentions 125v and 240v...nothing about 220v. So is there something magical about a 220v receptacle that doesn't require a GFCI??? If not, is a 220v GFCI receptacle breaker/receptacle available (I'm not having an easy time locating one on the internet) OR does the breaker/receptacle need upgraded to 240v GFCI - or would that be too much power for the pump?
    Pumps are required to be protected by a GFCI breaker. But that's a relatively recent addition to the NEC, and you can't really expect someone to update an existing installation to meet NEC requirements that changed after installation.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    the pool was installed in 2008, after the new codes

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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    220 volt may need a GFCI breaker not an outlet, based on local codes.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    2014 NEC requires GFCI on all pumps. However the 2014 NEC has not been fully adopted by all juristictions having authority, and they can be working on an older version of the NEC. The NEC is updated every three years.

    Looks like Georgia is on the 2014 NEC with some local exceptions:

    National Electrical Code - NEMA


    As noted above, your setup was likely compliant when it was built in 2008. Most electrical things are brought up to code over the years whenever something breaks or work is already being performed.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    My house had no GFCI either, and I switched to that when I rebuilt the entire pad. My VS kept tripping the new GFCI. Two different licensed electricians and two different pool service guys all told me "GFCI is just unreliable for a pool and we just skip them, the grounding, bonding, and regular breaker are enough", so maybe they have one of those kinds of guys?

    Or, perhaps there are multiple devices on that branch circuit, maybe even something 110 on one leg, so a GFCI breaker wouldn't work and would need a new dedicated circuit.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    VS pumps are really bad with nuisance GFCI tripping, just by nature of the way they work. In a nutshell, the heart of a VS pump is a variable frequency drive (VFD) which is used to make the speed of the pump variable. VFD's are known for the harmonic distortion they create, and if enough of that reaches the GFCI circuitry, it can cause it to trip (especially during startup). Electronic filtering circuits can alleviate some of the distortion, but well engineered filtering costs money and would add more to the cost of the pumps. I don't know how much filtering the manufacturers have built into the pumps. I do know that Hayward specifies a specific breaker to help alleviate (but not eliminate) nuisance trips.

    I really don't like hearing that GFCI's are unreliable, from an electrician of all people. It sounds like he closed his mind to new thinking and new technology (that attitude plagues a lot of trades), and blames the GFCI instead of trying to learn and understand what is connected to it. Sorry for the minor rant, but that attitude frustrates me.

    I have a GFCI connected to my pump, but it's a 2 HP dinosaur compared to a new fancy VS pump. I have not had a nuisance trip with it at all.
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    Re: Air switch incompatible with GFCI? What's underlying issue?

    Standard US voltages are 120 and 240 + - a few volts. old school terminology uses 110,115 and 220, 230. A lot of motors for some reason are listed as 115 and 230. There are no 220 breakers on the market. In fact there are truly no breakers on the market listed for any of the above voltages. Most breakers can handle voltages well above that. The ratings that are important on breakers is the Amperage. Any properly sized double pole GFCI will work on the 240 circuit feeding the 220/240 pump.

    As far as the air switch goes. there will be absolutely no problems as the "air Button" only serves as a remote link to the actual switch.

    I don't know what the USVI uses for code cycle at this time nor if it even adopts the NEC for it's use. While it is true that at some time in the past, 240 circuits did not require a GFCI, it makes no sense whatsoever that one is not used any time a system is upgraded. Aside from a few instances of GFCI's tripping on VS pumps (there are GFCI's that work fine with them) they are reliable and safe
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