Electrical GFCI Question

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#1
I have a blank face GFI at the pool pad. Had a now removed sprinkler control jankily connected to a very unsafe 15amp outlet wired into the main CB junction box. I’ve disconnected the outlet and want to still have a easily accessible plug.

Would it be possible to replace the blank face GFI with a GFI plug to be able to power items such as a pool robot or plugged-in SWG for future use?
 

Jimrahbe

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Jul 7, 2014
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Bedford, TX
#2
KD,

I can't see any reason why not.. I assume you are taking about removing the blank face one completely and then installing a GFCI with outlets..

They should be interchangeable..

Jim R.
 

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#3
Hi Jim,
Yes, replace the blank or ‘dead-face’ GFI with a standard duplex GFCI receptacle.

There’s no ground wire going to the current blank-face GFI, but that can easily be run to the j-box from the ground bus bar. Don’t really know if that matters as it does effectively trip on ground fault.
 

Jimrahbe

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#4
KD,

You don't need a ground wire to have a GFCI work properly..

It must be pretty old to not have a ground wire... so, you only have a hot and neutral wire and nothing else??

Is this single wires in a conduit or is it a Romex wire?

Jim R.
 

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#5
KD,

You don't need a ground wire to have a GFCI work properly..

It must be pretty old to not have a ground wire... so, you only have a hot and neutral wire and nothing else??

Is this single wires in a conduit or is it a Romex wire?

Jim R.
This is a year old photo, but reflects the wiring. No ground wire, and the GFI could be original (1987). Only a hot and neutral come in and out if it. No Romex bundled wire, individual insulated wires.

I’ve replaced the blank face with a new one and can’t get it to work, so bought a new one-and a duplex plug version if it’ll work (to save me a trip)—to see if it’s defective. Maybe new ones require a ground wire?

 

Dirk

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TFP Guide
Nov 12, 2017
4,377
Central California
#6
I got "tripped" up on a GFI installation once, because I wired the new one exactly like the old one, not realizing that the LOAD side and the LINE side were different from one to the other. That's something to check.

The GFI will trip correctly without the ground, but you shouldn't have a three-pronged outlet that is not grounded. When that "third hole" is present, it's assumed it's grounded.

Maybe that's why it was "blank faced." The original installer didn't want to run the ground, and didn't want to install an ungrounded three-prong outlet, which was prudent.
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
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LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
10,520
Bedford, TX
#7
KD,

What Dirk said... never assume.. :cool:

I still don't believe you need a ground, but I would want one if possible. If the conduit is metal, they may have used it as the ground???

Can you add a ground wire back to the input??

I also doubt something was wrong with your new GFCI... It is more likely something that you did.

Jim R.

- - - Updated - - -

The input wires go to the Line (input) and the output wires go to the Load side.

If still popping, disconnect any wires on the load side and see if it works just for the outlets... If the outlets work, then obviously something on the load side is bad.

Jim R.
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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#8
I did a quickie check. There are other possible reasons that was a blank face GFCI.

- If what is connected to it requires a dedicated circuit, then you wouldn't add an outlet, because it would no longer be a dedicated circuit. The example I found referred to a whirlpool tub (indoors). To what is that circuit providing power?

- If the GFCI was within a certain amount of feet of a certain kind of thing. Again, the example was the whirlpool tub. The blank face is cheaper than a GFCI breaker in the panel, and more convenient for a user, if it trips, than running outside to find a GFCI breaker in a panel. So they use blank face near a tub like that.

So whether you can add an outlet depends on: being able to hook up a proper ground wire, whether the circuit is supposed to be dedicated, and it's proximity to anything that is not supposed to be near an outlet.

According to the google machine...
 

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#9
- If what is connected to it requires a dedicated circuit, then you wouldn't add an outlet, because it would no longer be a dedicated circuit. The example I found referred to a whirlpool tub (indoors). To what is that circuit providing power?
I think I found that similar post elsewhere. From what I could trace The GFI is interconnected into the lights and 120v switches that allow pump and pool jets to turn on -switches are closer to pool- to be protected. I don’t see a specific circuit that would preclude it from sharing reasonable use. It protects a single pole 20amp circuit, that, when off, prevents use of spa jet pump and lights. I could wire in another duplex plug, but that’s another $35.00 in plug, conduit, & Jbox.

- If the GFCI was within a certain amount of feet of a certain kind of thing. Again, the example was the whirlpool tub. The blank face is cheaper than a GFCI breaker in the panel, and more convenient for a user, if it trips, than running outside to find a GFCI breaker in a panel. So they use blank face near a tub like that.

So whether you can add an outlet depends on: being able to hook up a proper ground wire, whether the circuit is supposed to be dedicated, and it's proximity to anything that is not supposed to be near an outlet.
Well noted. I can easily run a ground to the outlet. I do think it’s highly possible I mis-wired it, but felt wiring exactly as the (much) older GFI would do, what a dum dum! I gave up as this was June and our summers are intense, so it’s cooled down enough to retackle.
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
#10
The article I was researching mentioned that if the spa had a heater, it would require a second dedicated GFCI circuit, because pump and heater each require their own. It wasn't clear where the requirement came from: manufacturer, or code.

If there are two or more things on your circuit, pump and light and whatever, then that is not a dedicated circuit. But that doesn't tell us it wasn't supposed to be. Maybe wiring everything to the same circuit was a shortcut by the installer, because he too rationalized the seemingly unnecessary cost of a second run. Will it work without adding a second circuit? Of course. Is it code? Up to you to determine. Are you going to wire to code? Up to you to decide. I'll only add: codes exist for good reasons, but those reasons are not always obvious.
 

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#11
I completely agree, and I have no idea why somethings code exist the way they DID without drowning my mind in it. But, I enjoy these things too as I’m sure you do. I believe I’m leaning toward adding a separate outlet.

Safety and updating things I can is key. I did buy a new single-pole breaker, as there’s room for one in the panel. I can wire it up and have a dedicated circuit for the identified GFI duplex outlet. Guess I coulda bought a GFI breaker and a cheaper outlet, but I’d rather have a more obviously protected outlet. The outlet that was juryrigged was really shockingly dangerous and I’d left it until I just couldn’t forgive myself anymore. It wasn’t even GFI protected and hence why this thread.

If lights are on (though they’re low-watt LED now) and anything else on that circuit are on, and some future resident plugs in a huge amp draw device, Tripping breakers all the way (god forbid during a big pool party!) and it may reveal something I’m not thinking of. I have 15 amp power outlets relatively near for power tools and such, but I may want a 20 amp dedicated plug for future proofing robots, SWGs or lord knows.
 

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#13
On the house main electrical panel I’ve got 60 amp service to the pool equipment sub-panel. There are 3, 20 amp breakers in the sub-panel.

That’s 60 amps feeding 60 amps. If I add another 20 amp breaker to the vacant spot on the pool sub-panel (thus 80 amps total in the sub-panel) that’s not necessarily a code violation...correct?

I understand amp draw and I am not looking to feed a new always-on device to this desired dedicated circuit, but just an occasional use plug. The likelihood of the sub-panel drawing more than 60 amps at any given time is extremely unlikely.

Objections?
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
#14
Total amps of breakers can exceed the 60 amp service.

Total amps of actual load cannot, because the breaker back at the main panel will pop (assuming it is a 60 amp breaker, which you should verify). As long as all the wiring is of suitable gauge and type, you're OK, but that's a very important "if."

NOTE: I'm not an electrician and have never played one on TV. We're right on the threshold of what I am comfortable discussing on an internet forum, though others here have different thresholds. If you have any doubts about what you are doing, have a licensed electrician, qualified and experienced with pool electrical, have a look.
 

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#15
Edit: well darn. Replaced worn circuit breaker (1 pole 20 amp). Installed new GFI. Wired it up properly this time. Old GFI Load & Line were transversed compared to new Leviton units. Flipped breaker, spa pump worked, then wired up 1 pool light, pushed in GFI and WHAM! Sparks everywhere coming from sub panel. Granted it was dark out, but wow. How did this happen? What am I missing here for it to trip so violently? All I can think is ground that old GFI never had is the issue, or ground fault along path to lights? Maybe running a dedicated ground from ground bus bar to new GFI?

Thanks Dirk,
Firstly! You were all right! Old GFI has load and line reversed. I replaced the blank face with a new one anyways, swapped wires...wait! See edit.

I’m such a dummy-never thought that might be an option but the way old GFIs were wired, they run through system in strange way.
I replaced the existing single pole CB as it’s really on its last legs, so I’ll tackle new CB and plug soon. I’m attaching new jbox for duplex plug to prep area.
I appreciate the vote of confidence and caution. Friend is an electrician and is gonna drop by and confirm adding a different circuit and do some other stuff I need done. He said to do it and just leave the breaker off until I need the plug.
 
Last edited:

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#16
I was scoping around and am still unsure about the grounding of the Blankface GFCI.

Read code book video and mentioned to remove the paper washer, and I didn’t so maybe there is no good ground to the metal jbox. Gonna fix that in morning. Also gonna add a grounding pigtail ‘equipment bonding jumper’ also. Said it’s good practice to do both.

So this will entail wiring a 12 gauge green insulated wire from grounding bus bar down conduit to blank face GFCI outlet. Fingers crossed.

Could still be some issue with lights, but that would mean my pool light has leak. I’ll check with a morning swim.

Oh, also bought a new metal jbox outlet box for the outlet, but may just replace old box that blank face GFCI was in (old rusty thing) while I’m at it and postpone the plug install until this is all figured out first!)
 

Dirk

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Nov 12, 2017
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Central California
#17
Uh, "WHAM! Sparks everywhere coming from sub panel." and "I’ll check with a morning swim." shouldn't be uttered with the same breath! Have your electrician buddy come by first.

I wanna say there is no circumstance in which properly wired circuits and sub panel would throw sparks from the sub panel. Is that what happened? I've seen sparks at a receptacle, and a light switch or light fixture, but not at the panel. Maybe I've just never been looking at one in the dark, but I sure wouldn't get into that pool until I knew exactly what happened. Do you yet?

Please be careful, and smart, about what you're doing...
 

KDpoolguy

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2017
301
Palm Desert, CA
#18
Uh, "WHAM! Sparks everywhere coming from sub panel." and "I’ll check with a morning swim." shouldn't be uttered with the same breath! Have your electrician buddy come by first.

I wanna say there is no circumstance in which properly wired circuits and sub panel would throw sparks from the sub panel. Is that what happened? I've seen sparks at a receptacle, and a light switch or light fixture, but not at the panel. Maybe I've just never been looking at one in the dark, but I sure wouldn't get into that pool until I knew exactly what happened. Do you yet?

Please be careful, and smart, about what you're doing...
(Smiling!). Electrical is serious, but yes, it does sound nuts to swim! Who does that?

Let me clarify, I just want to move front to back on possible reasons. Want to see if there’s water in pool light. I strongly doubt this is source, but wanna check. Before I jump in tomorrow, as now-breaker is now off, pool lights are disconnected and covered by wire nuts at light jbox. NO chance of danger.

Also, this problem child is only one breaker, the other 2 breakers that power pump and heater are working fine, no issues.

Before I took a break for the night, I got the breaker back on and spa pump fired back up—no sparks. Breaker is working fine again. Turned it off though. I presume if I were to push RESET button on GFI I’d have fireworks and trip.

Problem is either bad ground or short from GFI jbox, or something downstream at pool/spa lights. My strong suspicion is it’s bad ground. Gonna check my work, remove paper washer, add the ground wire pigtail and then I’ll wait to have my electrician check it.

Never seen a larger CB trip in darkness, but it was ‘jolting’ by the blue flash-and loud snap of breaker. Could have been totally normal protection response (let’s hope).

I never had any electrical issues ever since replacing the GFI, so I really think it’s something ground related-at that jbox.