How to Fix a Tripped Hot Tub GFCI Circuit Breaker
Finally, you're the owner of the hot tub you've always wanted. Ever since you first brought it home, it's provided you with nothing but peace, relaxation, and comfort. Except for one small thing: The GFCI circuit breaker keeps tripping, shutting off the power to your spa just when you're settling in for a soak.
GFCI issues are a relatively common occurrence with hot tubs, and often can be resolved with little fuss or expense. However, because electricity and water are an extremely dangerous combination, make sure you know what you're doing before troubleshooting any electrical problems. Unless you're confident in your ability to address GFCI issues yourself, always consult a professional hot tub repair expert or electrician. An improperly-wired hot tub can result in electrocution or an electrical fire. Electrical work such as installing a hot tub or making adjustments to its components or wiring must be performed by a licensed electrician and must adhere to all local and national electrical codes. As a reminder, always turn off your hot tub and disconnect it from the power supply before attempting any repairs.
What is a GFCI circuit breaker?
A GFCI—a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter—is a device used to protect your hot tub from unusual fluctuations or deviations in your power supply. Ground faults and short circuits occur when electricity takes a path the designers of the circuit didn't intend. When a GFCI detects an anomaly in the electrical supply, such as a ground fault or a short circuit, it interrupts the circuit and cuts off all electricity to your spa. When this interruption occurs, it's often referred to as “tripping” the GFCI.
WHERE IS MY GFCI?
Even if you've never experienced any electrical problems with your hot tub, make sure you know where your GFCI is located. While some hot tubs are designed to plug into a traditional 120-volt outlet, most will require the installation of both a GFCI circuit breaker and a dedicated electrical outlet designed to handle the increased voltage—generally 220 to 240 volts—necessary to power your spa. Most likely, you'll find your GFCI in the control panel located close to or containing the outlet your spa or hot tub uses. To reduce the risk of the electrical supply coming in contact with water, the National Electrical Code requires that the electrical components, including the GFCI, be located a minimum of six feet away from your hot tub.
HOW DO I RESET MY GFCI?
Your GFCI should have a visible reset button. These buttons are usually red and are clearly labeled “reset.” To reset your GFCI, simply press the button. This will restore the electricity supply to your spa.
WHY DOES MY GFCI KEEP TRIPPING WHEN I TURN ON MY HOT TUB?
When your GFCI trips, it's an indication that something unexpected has happened with your electrical supply. This might be a one-time occurrence, which may be resolved by simply pressing the button to reset the breaker. If your GFCI repeatedly trips whenever you turn on your hot tub, it means there's an ongoing problem that must be addressed and resolved. There are a few reasons why your GFCI might trip each time you power up your hot tub:
- There may be an issue with your GFCI. Disconnect all hot tub components from your GFCI, then reset it. If it immediately trips even though nothing is attached to it, your GFCI is most likely faulty and will need to be replaced.
- There may be an issue with one of your hot tub's components, such as the heater, the pumps, or the entertainment system. If these components can be individually disconnected from your GFCI, disconnect them all, then reconnect and test them one at a time. If any of them cause your GFCI to trip when you turn your hot tub on, the faulty component will most likely need to be serviced or replaced.
- Your GFCI may be wired incorrectly. To isolate a faulty switch or wire, disconnect wires one at a time to each switch, then test the GFCI to see if any individual wire causes it to trip.
Once again, it's important to stress that electricity can be harmful or fatal. If you aren't confident in your ability to safely troubleshoot electrical problems, call in a knowledgeable and experienced professional.
WHY DOES MY GFCI TRIP AT RANDOM TIMES?
Your GFCI may trip at seemingly random intervals, either while you're in the middle of a soak or when your hot tub is not in use. If your GFCI constantly trips, one of the following issues might be the culprit:
- Your hot tub heater may be corroded or otherwise damaged. Problems with the heating elements are among the most common causes of GFCI issues. Inspect your heater for visible signs of damage, and try operating your hot tub with the heater disconnected to see if the GFCI problem reoccurs.
- Your spa's electrical contacts have become corroded. Inspect each contact and replace any that show signs of corrosion.
- One or more electrical connections is loose. With the power to your spa disconnected, tug gently on each connection, then tighten and secure any that seem to be loose.
- The control box containing your GFCI has been exposed to moisture, such as rainwater or condensation. If the inside of your control box is damp, locate the source of the moisture, protect your box from future water exposure, and allow it to thoroughly dry out before testing the GFCI. If water has damaged any electrical components, replace them.
- There's a short in one or more of your electric components. Run your spa for 15 minutes, then turn it off, unplug your tub, and inspect your components by hand. Electrical components that are shorting out will feel warm to the touch. Replace any components which grew warm during your test.
WHERE CAN I FIND REPLACEMENT COMPONENTS OR GFCIS?
Your local hardware store will likely have replacement GFCIs and components for sale, or you can order them online. If you're not certain which model or configuration to purchase, talk to a repair professional or licensed electrician. The best way to find components for your hot tub is often by visiting the dealer who sold it to you. They will have advanced knowledge of your specific model and will either have parts in stock, or will be able to order them for you. They'll also have experience diagnosing and repairing similar problems and may be able to offer repair services or advice.
A GFCI circuit breaker that trips constantly is at best a nuisance, and could be an indication of a potentially hazardous situation with your hot tub. Armed with a little knowledge, you should be able to diagnose the problem with your GFCI and find a way to fix it, either by repairing it yourself or by calling upon the knowledge and services of your hot tub dealer or a licensed electrician. A tripped GFCI can be frustrating, but it doesn't have to get in the way of your enjoyment of your hot tub.
At Hot Spring® Spas, we believe in providing the best possible ownership experience for our hot tub customers. That's why we strive to provide resources and support for our hot tub owners long after their spa has been delivered and installed. Whether they need help with a maintenance question or in locating a replacement part, our knowledgeable local dealers and informational website are there to help them every step of the way.