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Matt S
Matt S, Electrical Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4
Experience:  I have 26 years of experience in heavy industrial, commercial & residential electric repair install and design.
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I have a hot tub connected to a 220 line which had a 40 amp

Resolved Question:

I have a hot tub connected to a 220 line which had a 40 amp GFCI breaker. Worked fine in that it did not trip. Now 6 years after installing the original breaker I had a new patio put in. The concrete was removed. The cable underneath was exposed. The plastic pipe was cracked. The contractors electrician replaced the pipe and the ground wire. Pavers were laid and all is now covered. Now when it rains hard the breaker would tirp. He told me that I should really have a 50 amp breaker. He changed it. Then he said that he did not want to connect the pigtail wire as it would cause nusance trips. Now I could not use the test button. I read that this wire must be connected to get the protection of the breaker. I had him put it back. Now it just rained and the breaker tripped again. My feeling is that they cracked something in the underground wire and that is the problem. Note that the 220 line has two hot wires but the white return is not used and is capped off. If you connect it to the GFCI it trips immediately. I do not see a white wire being used at the hot tub side. Just two hots and a ground.

1. Is it required to connect the pigtail wire to be protected ?

2. Can this be caused by damage from the construction and then a problem with the reapair of the wire ?

The electrician is telling me this is just something in the breaker, or the way it is wired in the panel and that I am using the pigtail wire instead of leaving it capped.

Thanks.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Matt S replied 1 year ago.

Matt S :

Hi My name isXXXXX here to help. You are correct in what you discovered. A GFIC circuit breaker must have a neutral wire connected to the load side (In your case the spa) and the neutral pig tail coming off of the GFIC circuit breaker attached to the neutral bussing in the electric panel. Sounds to me like there could be a nik on one or both of the hot wires and or neutral wire. When the conduit and wires are dry no problem however when water gets inside it creates a path for the electricity to ground out thus tripping the circuit breaker. If the outside casing on the wires is not damaged at all then the electricity cannot escape to ground. Wires with no damage to their casing can be under water without tripping a circuit breaker. If when the neutral wire is connected and the GFIC trips instantly then there is definitely another problem going on. If the GFIC circuit breaker trips without ever turning on the spa and or if the wires are disconnected from the spa side completely and isolated from touching each other or anything else then the problem is between the electric panel and the spa somewhere inside the conduit and the wires are damaged.If the circuit breaker does not trip when the wires are isolated then the problem is in your spa equipment.If this is the case call a reputable spa service company and have them come check your equipment. DO NOT! get into or let anyone else get inside your spa unless the GFIC is properly connected and working (Via the test button) if you cannot get the GFIC to work then it is doing its job and keeping you alive. DO NOT bypass any part of the GFIC circuit. Finally 40 and 50 amp 220 volt GFIC circuit breakers used to operate spas will virtually never nuisance trip. If it is tripping then get it fixed you or anyone else life is not worth the short cut or the headache of getting it fixed correct.

Customer:

Hi Matt. Thanks for your answer but it still leaves this partially unanswered. First The tripping of the breaker still happens if I pull the disconnect and isolate the spa. Therefore the spa is not the problem.

Customer:

Next I wanted to describe again that for six years the spa was wired without a white return wire. In fact the wire coming out of the spa includes only a red, black, and ground (green) wire. Thus two hot wires and a ground. In my box in the house the white wire in the cabel was capped off. The pigtail wire from the GFCI breaker was connected to the neutral bus. It never tripped for 6 years. I just wanted to confirm that there is nothing wrong with this installation. I was not sure from your message if that was the case or not. I know that with two hot wires and a white return wire, that the return is connected to the GFCI breaker, but with two hot wires only I just want to confirm that the wiring was correct. The electrician from the contractor wanted to connedt the white unused wire to the neutral bus and NOT connect the pigtail wire. Next he wanted to cap off both and not connect either. I told him to put it back the way it was because it was working fine for a long time. The other point I wanted to clarify was whether or not you should ever leave out the pigtail wire. If you do then the test button does not work. Lastly I agree that the wires in the ground are damaged somewhere. Wanted your opinion on that, but based on the electrician's comments to me ( I cannot see this from just looking at the disconnect box) he said that the original wiring had the ground and return joined together at the spa side (presumably in the disconnect box or a nearby junction box). I think that this is why the return was never used (it is capped). If you connect it then the breaker trips right away even if it is dry. Thoughts on this ?

Matt S :

Yes then the problem is in the conduit with the wires. I'm sure they are damaged. Like you said you never had a problem all those years until the concrete was removed and then replaced this is very common. The wires should have been pulled out and checked and or replaced. If they were pulled out and they looked great then they may have been damaged when they were put back into the conduit. There could be a rock or a broken piece of conduit protruding into the conduit that cut or damaged the wires.

Customer:

So you are saying that the original wiring was correct (please confirm). I still need to know if the electrician was correct that you don't need to connect the pigtail wire to the neutral bus. I thought that if you did not connect the pigtail wire that you did not get the benefit of ground fault protection. Also the test button does not work in this case so how could it meet any locations code standards ? It is important that I know the absolute correct answer so that I can confront the contractor and tell him this is not right.

Matt S :

Ok if the spa is not equipped (To old) to need a neutral wire then it should have come with a GFI protection device on the spa equipment box located under the spa. Virtually all spas come from the manufacture requiring a neutral wire and two hot wires and a ground.

Matt S :

I just read your question yes absolutly the neutral wire pigtail coming from the circuit breaker must be connected to the neutral bus in the electric panel or the GFIC breaker will not work

Customer:

Thanks Matt for confirming that the neutral wire from the circuit breaker must be connected to the neutral bus. Now I know what I suspected. The electrician I am dealing with is not honest or is incompetant. Oh well....

Matt S :

If your spa does not need or use a neutral wire then a gfic circuit breaker will not work and protect you. They must have a neutral wire connected on both sides to work correctly

Matt S :

Does your spa have a GFIC device built into the spa control box located underneath? If it does then it is protected and you do not need a gfic circuit breaker. In fact if you connect two GFIC devices on the same circuit they will not work they cancel each other out so to speak.

Customer:

Regarding the spa, I pulled out the wiring diagram from the paperwork that came with the spa. It is 6 years old. It specifically states it needs an extrenal GFCI breaker but the diagram just has an H1, H2 and Ground wire on the spa side. There is no white neutral wire . The rest of the diagram is wierd and I do not full understand it but it shows the ground going ti a block in the disconnect box which then connects to another wire that goes back to the main panel. Then it shows a connection from the h1 wire to another block in the disconnect box that goes back to the main panel. The first wire goes to a bus connection on the left of the panel (this is where my grounds are connected) and in the diagram the second wire goes to the neutral bus on the right. This wire is not connected in my house and is capped off.

Customer:

The spa does not have a gfci in the spa itself. The instructsions specify that an external one is needed. I had an old spa that did haver the GFCI in the spa but it was replaced with this one 6 years ago.

Customer:

I just found another diagram in the paperwork that looks like what I have. Two hots , no neutral and ground to ground bar in panel. This looks like what I see on the panel side.

Customer:

Matt I think that I have thrown enough at you tonight. Thank you for your opinion on the damaged wires and very important to me your answer that the neutral pigtail wire needed to be connected. Thanks for your help.

Matt S :

connect the neutral to the neutral bar it does need this connection for the test button on the breaker to function. But do not connect the ground wire to the neutral connection on the breaker connect it to the ground bar. as connecting it to the neutral on the breaker will allow full current to flow on the grounding without the breaker tripping. there is no need for a connection to the neutral on the breaker if there is not going to be any 120 volt load. the way a GFCI works is by comparing current in the two hot conductors (and neutral if used). It does this by running all the conductors through a current coil or transformer if the current is balanced on all the conductors there will be no current induced into the coil and everything is hunky dorey. but if current happens to flow through somthing else, metal framing, your body someone else body, Etc... then the current in the conductors would be no longer balanced and current will begin to flow in the coil. When the level goes high enough (5ma.) the electronics will trip the breaker and remove the power from the circuit. thus protecting whom ever decided to become a path for the return current. This is the bases of all GFCI, GFP, and part of the circuitry in a AFCI that allows them to function

Matt S :

Either way the circuit breaker needs the neutral wire pigtail connected to work. Hope this helps

Customer:

Yes. Thank you very much.

Matt S, Electrical Technician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 4
Experience: I have 26 years of experience in heavy industrial, commercial & residential electric repair install and design.
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Matt S
Matt S
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I have 26 years of experience in heavy industrial, commercial & residential electric repair install and design.