Pump and heater causing breaker to trip

Jordada

Member
May 3, 2020
11
Northern Kentucky
Hello. I had all of my pool equipment replaced at the end of the season when we had the pool surface refinished and re-tiled. The pool was built in 1986. We now have a 1.5hp variable speed pump and a Rheem gas heater. The heater was actually replaced about 2.5 yrs ago. When the new pump was installed we had to upgrade the electrical as well. An electrician put in a dedicated box and moved our pool light breaker and installed a GFCI double 20amp breaker for the pump and heater in it's own box. The pool has been open for the season for a few weeks. Everything was running fine until this week. For the first time ever we went out and found no power to the pump/heater. The breaker had tripped. I turned it back on and everything started back up but the heater was making a horrible noise like it had souls trapped inside it. I called the local pool company and was told to try adjusting the speed of the pump. I cleaned the filter, etc and increased the speed on the pump and the sound went away. The breaker has tripped at least 3 more times over the next several days. The longest it has stayed on is about 24 hours. I now have the heater off but it has only been around 12 hours, and the pump is still running fine. Any idea what could be causing the breaker to trip? I'm not sure if I should call the electrician or have the heater serviced or both.
 
Last edited:

Jimrahbe

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
Jul 7, 2014
17,923
Bedford, TX
J,

It is unwise to have a two large items on the same GFCI breaker... VS pumps have a history of popping GFCI breakers due to harmonics that they can put on the AC line.

If this were my pool, I'd want two breakers, one for the VS pump, and one for heater. From a logical point of view it makes sense that when a breaker pops, you know the piece of equipment that is causing the problem, and not have to guess about which item is causing the problem.

Thanks,

Jim R.
 

Randrx2

Bronze Supporter
Dec 13, 2018
361
Orlando, FL
I agree with Jimrahbe, these loads should be on separate circuits.

Does the pump run fine and not trip the breaker without the heater running? Then you know the issue is with the heater. Determine if you have an actual ground fault condition causing the breaker to trip. Turn off the power and inspect the heater for any wetted components. Tighten all connections.

If the breaker is tripping with pump running, turn off power and inspect the pump and GFCI breaker to see if it is wetted. Tighten all connections.

You could also try replacing the breaker. Breakers installed outside are subject to harsher conditions and could wear out.

Also, the VSF does produce some noise on the line that can cause the breaker to trip. That is why you need to determine which component is causing the trip. The VSF pool pump motors have gotten better at filtering the noise going back to the GFCI breaker. Also, if it is “noise”, Pentair does have a breaker they recommend for their pump (part number PA220GF). This is basically a BR breaker. Technically, this is to be used in a Pentair panel and you would have to find out if it is compatible in your electric panel. But people say this breaker works for the VSF pump. I think it has a slightly higher GFCI tripping rating (6 milliamps instead of 5 ma). Siemens offers the same breaker for cheaper (QF220A).
 

Randrx2

Bronze Supporter
Dec 13, 2018
361
Orlando, FL
One other item. What is the amperage rating of the heater (motor)? Should be on nameplate on heater. Both the pump and heater added together may exceed the rated capacity of the breaker. While this may not be causing the breaker to trip on GFCI, you could be overloading the breaker in certain conditions. The electrician can not assume that you will run the pump at low speed all the time. The breaker needs to be rated for the full load of the motor AND heater. I thought the 1.5 hp VSF pump pulls 14 amps at full speed (pump motor plus controls). That only allows you 2 amps extra for the heater motor. The maximum current allowed on a 20 amp circuit is 16 amps.
 

setsailsoon

Gold Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
TFP Guide
Oct 25, 2015
2,972
Stuart/FL
Jor,

Welcome to TFP! You've definitely come to the right place where we have experts on everything related to pools! You've already gotten some great advice from them. Only think I have to add is if you are limited on slots in the breaker box most heaters can be converted to 120 v. This way if you have any single slot 120 v breakers you can replace them with a tandem breaker that will allow you to split the heater and pump without having to replace the whole box.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

Chris
 

Jordada

Member
May 3, 2020
11
Northern Kentucky
Thank you for all of the responses. I turned the heater off to see if it may be the problem and the breaker was still tripping. Couple of things, the breaker is a double 20 amp, so I assume that is 40 amps total? The heater says it pulls 2 amps when using 240v and I'm not sure if they have to be on the same breaker but I do remember the heater had to be switched from 120v to 240v when we upgraded the pump to the Intelliflow VSF. The heater is set to cut off if the pump kicks off so it doesn't continue to run without water flow so that may be why. The electrician was actually able to stop by yesterday afternoon. He believes the problem is actually the shutoff switch near the equipment. My breakers are in the basement, so not out in the elements, but there is an old school light switch style shut off in a box near the equipment. The shutoff switch near the equipment had water in the housing. He replaced that and caulked around it. It is raining again today so once it stops I will run out to see if the equipment is still running. I'm crossing my fingers this was the problem.
 

Randrx2

Bronze Supporter
Dec 13, 2018
361
Orlando, FL
The breaker is 20A at 240V, not 40A total.

When he sealed the box, did he leave the bottom unsealed or allow moisture some way to get out of the box? Otherwise, you can get condensation in the box and the same thing will happen again down the road.

You may also want to check that old style switch. It may be just a 120V single pole light switch and not rated for the motor (It technically breaks the circuit, but it does not remove power from the ciruit, there is still power potential down the line). Make sure it is a double pole switch rated at least 20A. The double pole will disconnect BOTH hot legs and not just one hot leg as in the case of a single pole switch.

Beyond the scope of this thread:
- The only way to get 40A is if it was wired as (2) separate 120V circuits at 20A each.
- If you take 240V x 20A = 4800W
- If you take 120V x 20A x 2 = 4800W
- So you can only get 20A at 240V and you can get 40A total with the combination of (2) 120V circuits. However, that will not work in your situation.