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Electrical Wire and Cable

Why a New Hot Tub May Not Work Right

Why is my new hot tub not working right? Why a Hot Tub Stops Working and the Breaker Does Not Trip.


New Hot Tub Problem

Electrical Question: Why is my new hot tub not working right?

My electrical wiring question involves an electrical problem with a GFCI breaker for a hot tub.

I have 130′ run of (3) 6 AWG wires and (1) 8 AWG ground wire from a main panel 50 amp standard Breaker (100amp total service) to a spa sub panel using 1″ PVC sch 40 grey conduit with a 50amp GFIC breaker in the spa sub panel box. There are no other breakers in the box or anything else on the circuit. The run to the spa is about 15′ and has the same wire configuration in a 3/4″ combination liquid tight flex conduit to internal 1″ solid conduit in the spa itself. Everything seems right to me however, when running the spa jets (2 pumps) for an hour or so, the Breaker in the sub panel gets hot and the spa stops running. The circuit breaker does not trip but when it gets too hot and the spa does not work, and the test button does not function properly. After I shut it off and it cools down everything works fine again until the GFCI breaker gets hot again.

The wiring is about 10 years old and was installed prior to me purchasing the house but the spa is brand new and was installed just last Friday. The Spa manual requires a min. 40 amp 240 volt service. When I test the sub panel connections I get good 120Volt on both L1 and L2. However at the spa after the GFCI breaker the voltage at L1 is 125 and at L2 115. not sure why. Could this be the problem? The only other thing I can think of is that the original wiring run from main panel to sub panel is faulty somewhere in the conduit. If this was the case could it cause this problem? I don’t want to run new wire if I don’t have to. Is there a way of testing that run of wire to find faults? Is there any other reason you think this could be happening?

This electrical wiring question came from Robert, a Handyman in Oceanside, California.

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical wiring question Robert.

Hot Tub Problem

Application: Electrical Problem with a Hot Tub GFCI Breaker.
Skill Level: Intermediate to Advanced – Best performed by a Licensed Electrical Contractor, or Certified Electrician.
Electrical Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools, Voltage Tester, and appropriate Safety Gear.
Estimated Time: Depends on the personal level experience, ability to work with tools, install electrical circuit wiring, and the available access to the project area.
Electrical Safety: Identify the electrical power source to the GFCI Breaker, turn it OFF and Tag with a Note before working with the electrical wiring.
Electrical Wiring Parts and Materials: Electrical parts and materials for the GFCI Breaker should be approved for the specific project and compliant with local and national electrical codes.
Electrical Codes and Inspections: Installing or changing home electrical wiring should be done according to local and national electrical codes as adopted in Oceanside, California. A permit and inspections may also be required.
Resources to help you do electrical wiring in your area:
Locate Electricians or Electrical Contractors in California
California Electrical Contractor License, Building Permits and Electrical Codes

Hot Tub Stops Working and the Breaker Does Not Trip

Here are my thoughts and questions for you to consider regarding the problem you are experiencing with your hot tub:

Circuit Requirements for the Hot Tub
How big was the previous hot tub electrical circuit requirements compared to the new hot tub?
I am guessing that the new hot tub has a higher amperage requirement compared to the previous one.

Length of the Circuit Wires
The length of the wire run is of concern to me, especially if any of the circuit conductors are aluminum wire.
NOTE: Most hot tubs require copper wire only due to the high amperage requirements.

Testing the Voltage
A voltage test should be taken while the hot tub is running to see if there is a voltage drop condition. A voltage reading while the hot tub is not running will only reveal the voltage without a load, but once the hot tub is on along with all of the components, especially the heater, then you will get a true understanding of what the circuit voltage condition really is.

Hot Tub Problem
It is important to know that this type of a problem is typically not a fault of the hot tub, it is simply the wrong electrical circuit wire size based on the total length of the wire and the amperage requirements of the hot tub. The longer the length of wire, the more voltage drop will occur.

Voltage Drop Condition
If it is found that there is a voltage drop condition then the wiring will need to be replaced with the next size larger, or if the circuit wiring is aluminum then it will need to be replaced with copper wire.

Low Voltage Causes Over Heating
When there is a voltage drop condition it is common that the circuit components will overheat, and eventually motors will burn out and other damage will occur to the electrical components due to excessive overheating.

Circuit Wiring as Required
In addition, make sure the circuit wiring is correct. Specifically, if the hot tub requires a separate neutral and a separate ground wire, along with the power conductors then the circuit must match the requirements, and that the wiring has been configured and connected to the hot tub correctly.

 

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