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Thread: gfi breaker keeps jumping

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    gfi breaker keeps jumping

    The GFI breaker has recently has been jumping lately. Whenever the heater kicks in a few minutes later the breaker jumps and one if the leads coming from the breaker gets hot and smokes a little. Here is a picture of the lead . I tested the breaker with a volt meter. 117 volts from each hot lead to ground and 234 from hot lead to hot lead so it appears to be working properly. I checked all the wiring for shorts and no luck. I also poked around the wiring looking for one the may be hot which was not the case. I even pulled the filter figuring that maybe the pump was working to hard. Any ideas for trouble shooting?

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    Isaac-1's Avatar
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    If the wire is getting hot enough to smoke then whatever is connected to it is drawing too many amps and the breaker is doing its job as a conventional breaker would and disconnects the load due to too high of amp draw. You likely need to get a professional service person there to check out the heater.
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    "Smoking" and "hot" are 2 terms you NEVER want associated with electricity. Unless you want to burn your house down and possibly kill your family...GET IT FIXED...RIGHT NOW.

    I am not kidding...that is really bad.
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    The real question is, where is this breaker located? It shouldn't have a bunch of things connected to it like the lights. Heater and such should be a dedicated breaker and it doesn't need to be GFCI. So where is this breaker at? Maybe a better picture of the entire inside of the box would help us identify the issue.
    Paul
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    That breaker looks to be damaged as the screw for the "Load Power" red wire seems to have been fatally overheated, it's moved off center and the metal beneath the screw seems discolored from heat. The plastic body of the breaker is likely also distorted and the breaker should be replaced.
    Apparently according to code it doesn't need to be a GFI breaker but it's always nice to have a little added protection.
    It sounds like you have a short in the heater and it's drawing way too many amps through the circuit. You know there is a problem so it's time to quit resetting the breaker as you are literally gambling each time you reset it that something severe doesn't occur.
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by ps0303 View Post
    The real question is, where is this breaker located? It shouldn't have a bunch of things connected to it like the lights. Heater and such should be a dedicated breaker and it doesn't need to be GFCI. So where is this breaker at? Maybe a better picture of the entire inside of the box would help us identify the issue.
    Here is the picture of the panel. Only the tub is connected to it.

    [IMG][/IMG]


    I haven't replaced the breaker yet as I wanted to do some quick amp reading as I now own an clamp meter and want to confirm the correct amp breaker first. On the side of the circuit panel it says 32 amp 240v 60hz (current gfci breaker is 50 amp). I only turned power on for a few seconds to be able to record some data.

    Results...

    Red and black wire on the load side of the breaker with the heater on:
    Pump on High:
    Red 32 amps
    Black 29.8 amps

    Pump on Low:
    Red 24.7 amps
    Black 23.3 amps

    Both leads at the heater: 21.8 on one side and 21.5 on the other

    At the pump:
    Low (red wire) speed 3.9 amps
    High (black wire) speed 9.5 amps

    Testing the heater with the power off using a multi meter I was getting around 11 amps.

    Can a conclusion be made from these results?

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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    Need more info. What is your entire setup? Do you have a pool, spa, one pump or two. So that's the only panel you have feeding ALL of your equipment?

    Please give us some more info.
    Paul
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    It's a hot tub. Two pumps. One is a circ pump and the other is a high low speed pump which runs during heating, filtration cycle and to work the jets. As for the panel there is a direct line of 6-3 wire from the panel inside to a panel outside the house as seen in the picture. The panel outside has the gfci and only the hot tub is connected to it.

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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    It's a hot tub. Two pumps. One is a circ pump and the other is a high low speed pump which runs during heating, filtration cycle and to work the jets. As for the panel there is a direct line of 6-3 wire from the panel inside to a panel outside the house as seen in the picture. The panel outside has the gfci and only the hot tub is connected to it.

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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    At least your fire will be confined to the box...
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    My stab in the dark at this is maybe that lug was over torqued and damaged the electrical connection inside the breaker. After heat cycling so many times it has finally worn down enough that there is only a small connection between the lug and the inside of the breaker, and it isn't capable of handling that kind of current. It gets super hot which eventually trips the thermal circuit. It could also just be at the end of its life. Breakers do wear out. I just replaced the main breaker in my subpanel that feeds my garage, an A/C, and the pool. It was getting hot and tripping. No other breaker was remotely warm, but that one was super hot. Replaced it, and now everything works as it should. I vote replace the breaker ASAP.
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    I do agree with replacing the breaker asap. I haven't yet as I would like to make sure I have the right amperage breaker based on the data that I previously posted since they are expensive. I am currently using 50 amp.

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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by bandito View Post
    I do agree with replacing the breaker asap. I haven't yet as I would like to make sure I have the right amperage breaker based on the data that I previously posted since they are expensive. I am currently using 50 amp.
    Breakers are really sized for the wire, not the load. Now, in a perfect world the wire is sized to the load.

    You can put a smaller breaker in there as it would afford greater protection to the wire, but only put a larger breaker in if the wire is properly sized for the rating of the breaker.

    You can't just put in a larger breaker if you calculate you have a larger load because the wire is weak link and will fail before the breaker trips.
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    Yep. Size the breaker for the wire. Also, get a price on a breaker from a couple electrical supply houses. They have the potential to be a whole lot cheaper. I used to order from North American breaker to fill orders for customers. Maybe call them and see if anyone in the area has an account with them. All but square d homeline were cheaper from them. Lowes had some special contract with square d to get super pricing.
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    I'm assuming your 11 amp reading with power off was 11 ohms?
    That is correct for a 5kW heater. More importantly I would test ohms from each leg of heater to ground.

    I'm guessing your meter error was responsible for the unequal heater amp readings 21.8 vs 21.5.

    Did you test the line side voltage in the panel vs the load side voltage on the breaker?

    Question I have is, what's the couple amp difference in L1 vs L2 red/black? Is the difference showing up on the neutral line amp reading as well?
    What is drawing that many amps?
    Hopefully not the transformer or control board which is likely 120v. Maybe an ozonator?

    BTW, NM-B wire is not rated for outdoor use, or wet locations.
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    I replaced the breaker with a 40 amp as specified in the manual and after 6 hours runs perfect. No wires are getting hot. I had put the original breaker in during the winter and I think it cracked a bit when I tighten the screw.

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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    Glad you're up and running again

    Quote Originally Posted by tim5055 View Post
    Breakers are really sized for the wire, not the load. Now, in a perfect world the wire is sized to the load.

    You can put a smaller breaker in there as it would afford greater protection to the wire, but only put a larger breaker in if the wire is properly sized for the rating of the breaker.

    You can't just put in a larger breaker if you calculate you have a larger load because the wire is weak link and will fail before the breaker trips.
    In my world the circuit breaker is never chosen or sized according to the wire. Someone posted something like this once before. You choose a circuit breaker depending on the load on the line and only the load. Same with the wire, the wire size is chosen depending on the load on the circuit and the distance of the run. In a perfect world the person making the buying decision picks a circuit breaker close to what's recommended for the load and goes a size bigger than what's recommended on the wire.

    There is no benefit in going bigger on the circuit breaker as it only allows the device to pull more amps than it should. That extra amperage is usually being turned into heat and with enough of it you get smoke and then fire. If you put in a bigger circuit breaker because the wire can handle more amps due to it being over sized for the load you simply put the electrical device at risk of massive failure including smoke, fire and explosion as it's not being protected at the proper level.
    '70s IG Vinyl 32K gal, Lazy L, Hayward SuperPump 1.5hp 120V, S240 Sand Filter W/DE
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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    Well said! I also may have broken the original breaker when installing it in the freezing cold.

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    Re: gfi breaker keeps jumping

    Quote Originally Posted by kiss4afrog View Post
    In my world the circuit breaker is never chosen or sized according to the wire. Someone posted something like this once before. You choose a circuit breaker depending on the load on the line and only the load. Same with the wire, the wire size is chosen depending on the load on the circuit and the distance of the run. In a perfect world the person making the buying decision picks a circuit breaker close to what's recommended for the load and goes a size bigger than what's recommended on the wire.

    There is no benefit in going bigger on the circuit breaker as it only allows the device to pull more amps than it should. That extra amperage is usually being turned into heat and with enough of it you get smoke and then fire. If you put in a bigger circuit breaker because the wire can handle more amps due to it being over sized for the load you simply put the electrical device at risk of massive failure including smoke, fire and explosion as it's not being protected at the proper level.
    I actually think we are saying the same thing. What I should have said is that in repair/remodeling where you have an existing wire the breaker is sized to the existing wire.

    But when it comes down to it as you said the breaker protects the wire from overheating.
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