What is a GFCI and why is it so important for your Spa Repair safety?
What is a GFCI?
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. GFIC is an electrical device that will shut off power to your spa if it senses there is something wrong in the electrical system of the spa. It is designed to SAVE LIVES, and a properly working GFCI is the best life insurance you can have in your spa. A GFCI is very sensitive to electrical current. That is how it's designed to be. It works by measuring the electrical current on incoming power wiring to the spa.
Lets use and example:
Many spas are heated by a 5,500 watt electrical heating element. If your spa is wired to a 240 volts system, then the current (the amp draw) will be 5500/240 = 23 amp. GFCI is designed to make sure that the 23 amps that are going into your spa control system also come back out from your spa control system.
Why is that important? Well, if all or a part of those 23 amps is not returning, where does it go? Where does it disappear to? The GFCI is hypersensitive. If it senses that there is an imbalance in the current, or if it senses that there is more current that goes into the system than what comes back out, it trips itself. It shuts off the power to the spa immediately. The reason is does that is because it assumes that the missing current could be doing something dangerous, such as going through a person in the water, i.e. electrocuting that person.
We mentioned that the GFCI is highly sensitive. Many GFCI sense current around 5-10 milliamps. That means that if you were in the spa water and something happened in the electrical system (or you splashed water on the pump or control system), as soon as the GFCI noticed that there is a 5 milliamps (lets say 5 milliamps is the number, in reality it varies slightly), discrepancy between the incoming and outgoing electricity, it turns off the power to the spa.
Just to give you an example:
Now, 23 amps equal 23,000 milliamps. The GFCI trips on 5 milliamps (0.005 amps). When a GFCI trips you will not notice anything except for your spa suddenly stops working. You might wonder "Why did the spa shut off?" "What happened?" This is what you need to do if this happens:
- Get yourself and all others out of the water. DO NOT attempt to turn the GFCI back on with people in the water.
- Check the GFCI.
- If it is tripped, leave it tripped and call licensed spa service technicians.
- DO NOT GO IN THE WATER AGAIN UNTIL THE SPA HAS BEEN CHECKED BY A LICENSED, SKILLED SPA REPAIR TECHNICIAN.
DO NOT, this is a BIG DO NOT ask your Spa Repair Technician or Pool Service Technician to simply Reset the GFCI when they come out. Anyone can flip a switch or push a button. You need a skilled technician that knows what they are doing.
YES, you will pay for a service call and possibly also for a repair of some kind, BUT... This is not the time to save money. Someone will get seriously hurt and possibly die if they are electrocuted in the spa due to a faulty GFCI.
Mats Elmstrom, Senior Technician with Precision Spa invites residents in the Los Angeles area to contact their technicians for quality spa repair and troubleshooting.