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Thread: GFCI and Sump pumps

  1. #1

    Default GFCI and Sump pumps

    Both my crawl space and unfinished basement have sump pumps. When I wire them up do I need to use GFI's? I think the answer is yes, but I really DO NOT want gfi's on my sumps.

    The reason is simple:GFI's trip, and then your basement floods. Over the years I've had GFI's trip for no apparent reason, go bad, etc.. I heard on these forumns that lighting may trip them. The area near sumps (escpecially in a crawl space) is damp and this may make a GFI over sensitive.

    The sump pumps are your standard everyday pumps, so they come with plugs on them. I guess I could cut off the plugs and hard wire them. Are there other ways around this?

  2. #2

    Default

    I have always understood that permanent basement and crawlspace equipment (sump pumps, deep freezers, etc.) are not required to have GFCI protection if they are plugged into a SINGLE outlet. If it was a duplex receptacle, that would leave one opening for someone to use for portable equipment, and would require GFCI protection. If it is a single outlet, all the "holes" will be filled, and no GFCI protection is required.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    Default

    In the unfinished basement you can put a single, non-GFI receptacle for a dedicated load.
    You cannot do this in a crawl space. All receptacles in a crawl must be GFI. For this I would recommend a GFI breaker, if you intend to run a new circuit. This way you can see if it is triped without going into the crawl. Maybe even an indicator light on the circuit so you don't even have to open the breaker panel.

  4. #4

    Default

    I like Speedy's advice to you on using the GFI breaker, to make resetting easier, but you sill have the trouble of knowing if the GFI has tripped or not. Speedy suggests the indicator lamp. I just wanted to pass along that if time is not important, GFI breakers can be special ordered with an auxillary "alarm contact" that will close a set of points if the breaker tripps and turn on something like a buzzer, light, or whatever you hook the alarm contacts to. I know that square 'd', for instance, if you add -2100 to the end of any breaker part number, you get the tripped alarm contact version of that breaker. Takes a few weeks to get by special order. It would make a breaker part number like QO120GFI-2100. Most other manufacturers have this option as well.

    Just a thought to add to the mix.

  5. #5

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    There used to be an exception in the NEC for basements and crawl space sump pumps. That exception was deleated. The NEC rules requires this plugged in sump pump to be GFI protected whether in crawl space or basement. Idea of cutting of plug and direct connect would allow that sump pump to be nonGFI protected because no receptacle would be involved. Yet the manufacturer's installation instructions do not state direct connect so this would violate the installation rules and 110.3.B requiring you to follow the installation instructions. Then if direct connect you lost your form of disconnect required by the NEC unless you install a disconnect at point of hard wire connection.

    I understand many argue this is a fastened in place appliance. Read the Code and is says large appliances. Intent is the receptacle behind large appliance for that exception not being readily available. Sump pump can be unplugged and a nonGFI receptacle would then be easily used by personel where GFI protection is intended. This is the reason the exception for sump pumps were removed now requiring GFI protection.

    If you are concerned about losing your sump pump then you would need to install a battery back up sump pump or delete the cross over from the perimeter drain subsurface around you basement and pump it from outside the basement where it is intened keeping the water out of the basement not draining into the basement to pump it out of the basement. This is just my opinion on the location of a basement subsurface pump design. Not a code rule.

    Just telling the rules as they are.

    Wg

  6. #6
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    Default

    What you may want to do is install the GFCI receptacle in a very visible location (garage or room above the basement perhaps) and let it protect the sump pumps wired downstream of the GFCI. Then, plug a wall wart into the GFCI and use it to provide power to a low voltage relay. If the GFCI trips, the low voltage goes away and the relay de-energizes. Use the normally closed contacts to trip a buzzer. The buzzer would need to get its power from a different circuit.

    A simpler idea would be to plug one of those rechargable battery backed power fail lights into the GFCI. When the light is on, the GFCI or breaker has tripped. You may need long runtime from the battery, so I'd reduce the lamp wattage to as small as practical. I've seen the big two light emergency exit lamps available from Harbor Freight tools for about $30.

    As far as GFCI reliability, I've never had one trip via "nuisance". Only time I've seen them trip is when they should be tripping. This usually means your connected equipment is defective, even though it appears to be working fine. You can wait for the small leak to become a big short and trip on over current, but its best to heed the GFCI's warning. To me, the GFCI just gives you earlier warning of the problem. Without a GFCI, you could trip the breaker and still flood the basement because you didn't know it tripped. So you'll still want the alarm to notify when one of your sump pumps develops a current leak.
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  7. #7

    Default

    As far as GFCI reliability, I've never had one trip via "nuisance". Only time I've seen them trip is when they should be tripping. This usually means your connected equipment is defective, even though it appears to be working fine. You can wait for the small leak to become a big short and trip on over current, but its best to heed the GFCI's warning. To me, the GFCI just gives you earlier warning of the problem. Without a GFCI, you could trip the breaker and still flood the basement because you didn't know it tripped. So you'll still want the alarm to notify when one of your sump pumps develops a current leak.
    I'm going to disagree here. I've had GFI's that got "trippy" in the past. I had one in my kitchen that a coffe pot would always trip. I'm not sure how a two pronged plug (hot & neutral) in an appliance made entirely of plastic, sitting on a non-conductive surface can ever have a "short" to trip the GFI. I don't rember if I tested it with other GFI's in the kitchen at the time. I had a non-gfi outlet laying around so I replaced it with that for a few years until I sold the house.... never a problem. I have a hedge trimmer that would always trip the GFI in the basement of my old house. Years later now I still have the hedge trimmer (and the old extensions cords) in use and have never had a problem with another outlet.

    Having read these posts for over a year now, how many post go something like this: Question "we had a storm last night and now the Fridge in the garage doesn't work" Answer "... Look for a tripped GFI upstream from the fridge somewhere...."

    Anyway, I don't want to digress into a discussion on how GFI's work and the such. Lets just say I personally feel that there is a certain probability that a GFI will "age" or just "go-bad" or "get hypersenstive" and would thus make them a "less than ideal' choice for certain "critical" applications.

    BTW: I do like the theroy of using a GFI upstream and using an alarm setup. Or i may just tie my sumps into my Kitchen lights feed via a GFI. You'll know very fast if the kitchen lights are out.....

  8. #8
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    I believe if you have a GFCI that has suffered a huge current surge from a downstream fault, then they can go wacky. I don't believe I've ever blown a breaker on overcurrent, and only once or twice on thermal overload. Perhaps this is why my GFCI's always work well. Lightning surges may damage them as well, but we rarely have lightning here. But I have a whole house TVSS or maybe I'm just lucky. Perhaps I just don't get out enough...
    Mark
    Kent, WA

  9. #9

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    But I have a whole house TVSS or maybe I'm just lucky. Perhaps I just don't get out enough...
    Like I ever get out..... I'm married after all.....

    What type of "whole house TVSS" do you have? Have you monitored/tested it to tell how well it performs? One (or more) of these are on my list of "must gets" but I end up getting confused in the end. I can't decided if the $39 from Lowes will work worth a damn, or if the $239 from the supply house is really anybetter.

  10. #10
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    Default Tvss

    My first TVSS is a Cutler Hammer CHSA. This looks like a double pole breaker and plugs into the load center. Instead of two handles, it has 2 LED's that glow green when the TVSS is still able to shunt current. This one is potentially the most effective because it has no leads to the bus and the neutral wire is quite short.

    Lowes had some Cutler Hammer CHSP TVSS units on close out (regularly $129 marked down to $39), so I bought one of these as well. This one is rated for higher amp surges than the CHSA, and also does cable TV and phone wires if you want. It too has green LED's on the front, but is large enough that it is a box that mounts to the loadcenter through a knockout. You feed it via a 15A double pole breaker to provide short circuit protection.

    I don't know how well these work, but they are a sacrificial device. So testing them is probably not a good idea. It seems like cheap insurance, but realize most of these devices are just MOV's across your power feed and they typically begin clamping around 300V. This is rather high, as a 120V line goes to about 170V at the peak of the waveform. Perhaps they burn up too fast if using 200V or 250V MOV's.
    Mark
    Kent, WA

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