Spa electrical problem.

michael_adkins

Active member
Sep 22, 2009
28
Southern California Desert
Keeps poping the GFCI. Used to be kind of random just before we shut it down for the summer.

Now at fall start up its toast and I need to figure out what to do. Seems to pop off when the pump is started manually. But that is based on little evidence and since its raining right now, I determined it would be fairly stupid to continue diagnistics of electrical stuff. :-D

What I do know is the spa ran for about 24 hours and heated the contents to 102 as I wanted. At some point last night the gfci popped. Now, when reset, the spa goes into its diagnostic check and then to "prime" correctly. The next thing that is supposed to happen (I think) is to circulate water and start the pump and heater.

Things I know: Digital control bubble buttons are cracked. Could be some corrosion in that unit. There is a little bit of rust on one of the two heater electrical connections.

The spa is a Freeflow Passport spa set up for 110 Volt operation. Manufactured in 2005. It has a Balboa control and heating system in it.

I need to test the motor independantly just to make sure its not the motor, but I don't think so.

I'm guessing its the control panel, but the rust on the heater terminal gives me pause. Its not much rust either.

Thoughts:

Replace the control panel. If I can find a generic balboa replacement, I reckon thats about $150 to $200. If that isn't the problem, I've wasted my money as pretty much no one allows returns on electric parts.

Replace the entire control system with a generic like those from SpaGuts. $400 or so. Should be simple as the existing and the Spaguts use the same M7 15" heater. Provided the motor is good, nothing left to go wrong.
 

michael_adkins

Active member
Sep 22, 2009
28
Southern California Desert
Add'l info:

I unplugged the pump and built a jumper cable and ran the pump separately. Works well on high and low speed and does not trip the GFCI (Yes, I did use a ground so the GFCI would work if a fault was detected).

Spa still trips GFCI. Presumable when it kicks in the heater/pump after the prime cycle is complete. Can't seem to sit there and watch it long enough to see the display change from "Pr".

To me, this still could be the spa side control (digital) or the main logic board. So, I haven't really got anything new. I guess I could physically disconnect the heater element and see if that makes a difference.
 

Ohm_Boy

TFP Expert
May 1, 2007
1,344
Orlando, FL
Yeah, I'd disconnect the heater and test. If you have an ohmmeter, you can check (with power disconnected) for resistance between each of the heater terminals and ground. May tell you something.
 

michael_adkins

Active member
Sep 22, 2009
28
Southern California Desert
I disconnected the element and the symptom went away.

Reading the Spaguts website, they mentioned that elements can trip GFCIs. I ordered a new element. Only $50, so a fairly cheap gamble.

The element Ohms out OK, but the rust is a tale tell as well.

I still might need to replace my topside control in the future as the plastic bubble switches are cracked.

Freeflow spas are fairly bottom end, so I'm not willing to put lots of effort and money into it. It needs a new cover too, so there is another $400.
 

Ohm_Boy

TFP Expert
May 1, 2007
1,344
Orlando, FL
If the element cracks, the electrode will be exposed to the water. That may be your problem. We've seen it with water heaters too, but there's no GFCI on them, so it has to get bad enough to feel or trip a breaker.
 

michael_adkins

Active member
Sep 22, 2009
28
Southern California Desert
Well, the element looks OK except a bit of rust around the attachment flange outside and inside. And I do mean just a bit. I assume even a small flaw that might not register on my digital multimeter might trigger the GFCI.

At any rate, I've got a new element on order and I figure I should see it mid-week.
 

PoolGuyNJ

TFP Expert
May 20, 2007
3,192
South Central NJ
The insulation and O-ring break down over time. By disconnecting the element and seeing the GFCI issue end means it is the element. Glad you got that element on order. You'll be soaking soon enough.

Scott
 
Oct 1, 2010
13
Okay, I'll ask a really basic question about the GFCI that keeps tripping: (keeping in mind that I come from a family of Journeyman Electricians!) how OLD is the GFCI? Do you know they can go bad? And they can really go bad if they have had a history of tripping a lot? I apologize if you already had thought of this, and have already replaced it, but if not, it might be the least expensive item to try to replace. The other thought is about the amp rating of the GFCI, it is correct for your system? Is it a GFCI that was in place prior to upgrading/replacing any equipment? Just some electrical questions you might consider while you are doing your testing. My electrician husband thought that the heating element could be faulty and drawing too much current, since it seems to precipitate the tripping. Perhaps replacing it will do the trick! Good luck.
 

Ryl22

Member
Oct 4, 2010
5
I had a GFCI that tripped frequently and it was very frustrating. I had to spring for a new element for it and after it was installed the tub has been working fine. Good luck!
 

michael_adkins

Active member
Sep 22, 2009
28
Southern California Desert
Success!

The new element lets the spa work. Thusly, even though the element superficially looks fine with just minor corrosion, it was the culprit.

Bad news too. While installing the element, I noticed a pinhole in the stainless steel heater tube. So, I guess I'm ordering a new complete heater unit and the element I bought will become my backup. It doesn't seem to be leaking through the pinhole, but its going to for sure.

So, the lesson learned is to inspect the heater thoroughly before trying the save a few $$. At any rate, a new heater is less than $120 so with the $50 I've already spent, its still a fairly cheap repair. I am pleased.

Now, I still can't get in the spa until I get the stitches out of my leg, but the wife can, and that is important.
 

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