GFI breaker trips and won't reset, but still getting heat to hot tub

Neal

Active member
Jul 11, 2012
31
SW Michigan
#1
About 2 weeks ago I began having problems with my Hot Springs spa and it was not heating up totally. I was out of town, called service, they found the 2 pole 220v 30a GFI breaker had tripped, reset it and all seemed fine. Couple days later it happened again and after a week the breaker will not reset at all. There is a separate breaker for the recirc pump, etc. and that works fine. We are in Michigan and cold weather, so obviously concerned about freeze up, but here is the strange thing. The 220 breaker has been tripped and will not reset for about 4 days, but the water temp has stayed at a consistent 72-75 degrees. It seems obvious to me that the heater is working somewhat to keep the water temp in the 70's when it is around 30 outside. But, how can this happen with the breaker tripped. Shouldn't there be zero volts to the tub heater with the breaker tripped? Talked to service again, they said everything in the tub checks fine and suspect the breaker is bad. Recommended I call an electrician. Now I am not currently concerned about freeze up because, as I said, somehow the water temp is staying around 70. Is it possible that he GFI breaker has gone bad, but leaks enough voltage to the heater to allow it to run and keep that water temp around 70?? I did talk to an electrician, he couldn't come out right away, but seemed to be suspect since he said breakers don't fail that often. I am not at all opposed to getting the electrician out to replace the breaker, but I hate to throw several hundred dollars at this only to find out it is something else. What else could it be? Any help or ideas? The real peculiar part is how can the tub be maintaining a heat of 72-75 for the last 4-5 days with outside temps between 15 and 40 and the heater circuit breaker tripped that whole time?? Lastly, the hot tub and all electrical including the circuit breakers were installed Fall 2001.

Neal
Hot Springs Grandee Hot Tub
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
10,938
Bedford, TX
#2
Neal,

If you have a good cover, the heat from the circulation pump can keep a hot tub warm...

That said, guessing is just that ... guessing... The only way to solve the issue is to actually measure the voltage on the output of the GFCI breaker... I suppose the breaker could fail to open even if the GFCI part popped... The only way to tell would be to use a meter and measure the output voltage of the breaker.

I can't see any amount of "leakage" voltage that would ever power your heater.

This is a case for having the right tool for the right job. If you do not have volt meter, they cost about $10 bucks.

Thanks,

Jim R.
 
OP
OP
Neal

Neal

Active member
Jul 11, 2012
31
SW Michigan
#3
Thank you for replying Jim. Wow, I would have never guessed that heat from the circ pump could keep the water that warm and yes I do believe that I have a good cover. I am on the same path as you about checking the voltage out of the breaker, but unfortunately I am away from my home. My daughter has been checking the hot tub for me, but I certainly don't want her messing with the electric. If I was there I could troubleshoot it (I have a very good voltmeter) as I have done in the past replacing two heaters and the relay board, but I'm not. I have googled about everything I can think of regarding the breaker. Can they fail, certainly just as any device could. The best I could find is about a 30 year life span, outside application could shorten that and gfi tend to fail more than non-gfi. Can they leak voltage after being tripped? I did find one or two references to that being possible, but gosh that seems extremely dangerous since the purpose of the tripped gfi is to prevent electrocution, fire, etc. The only thing that kept bringing me back to the breaker is maintaining the 72-75 water temp and thinking that could only happen if the heater was somewhat operational. Well, I think that I have three options: 1) call my hot springs service guy back out since it is now a hard failure of the breaker rather than intermittent; 2) call an electrician and have him replace the breaker or at least troubleshoot it; 3) Honestly, if the recirc pump and a good cover can keep the tub warm enough to not freeze up just wait until I get home (spring is coming soon!). I would love to hear some other opinions on this, but thanks for your reply Jim I really appreciate it!
Neal
 

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
10,938
Bedford, TX
#4
Neal,

I see the problem now.. :)

To bad you don't have a friend that could run the test for you...

I would make sure that no one uses the spa until you get it fixed..

Jim R.
 
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OP
Neal

Neal

Active member
Jul 11, 2012
31
SW Michigan
#5
Just to do a wrap up on my original post, hoping it may be of help to other members. Bottomline: The 220V/30A GFI breaker was bad. It was intermittently tripping at first and then a hard failure. Fortunately, my hot tub service guy could replace it, so I did not need to call an electrician. I would have done it myself, but I was out of town and concerned about a freeze up. Lastly, I was amazed that the water temp stayed as high as it did (low 70's) with the breaker off for 2 or 3 days and below freezing air temperatures. This thing must be insulated extremely well! In summary, breakers do go bad!