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GFCI & Sump Pump

Posted by mike_kaiser (My Page) on
Mon, Nov 16, 09 at 11:49

I've got a situation where the unfinished basement "utility" room houses the laundry, furnace, slop sink, and sump pump. The receptacle for sump pump is <2' from the edge of the sink. The '08 NEC calls for a GFCI and but in previous years there have been some exceptions and local convention often places a single receptacle for use by the sump pump.

The obvious question and problem is nuisance trips on a circuit as important as a sump pump. Modern GFCI's are far less prone to nuisance trips but they still can occur and seemingly more frequently with induction motors. So it seems to be a question of the lesser of two evils.

Thoughts? Comments?

Thanks.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

This is VERY simple.

There is no 'lesser of two evils' as far as the 2008 NEC goes.

The 2008 NEC Code requires GFCI protection without question for all receptacles in a basement or crawlspace.

So install the GFCI receptacle or breaker for the sump pump and be done with it or be cited by your local electrical inspector for non-compliance with the electrical code.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

X2...

ALL receptacles in an UNFINISHED basement MUST be GFCI...

210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for
Personnel.

(A)(5)(5) Unfinished basements for purposes of this section, unfinished basements are defined as portions or areas of the basement not intended as habitable rooms and limited to storage areas, work areas, and the like.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Buy good homeowner's insurance, making sure it covers sump overflow/pump failure. Refer your insurer to the relevant portion of the NEC when you make your first claim.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

You guys are tough! Of course I knew everyone would say what they did. :-)

I know the electric code doesn't much care if the basement floods potentially causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Homeowners insurance covers it (hopefully) and then the insurance company drops you shortly thereafter. I suppose that's less of a hassle than planning a funeral.

What I left out was that the unprotected receptacle has been there for many years and I presume grandfathered. I happened to be doing some other work, fixing some minor problems like 14 ga. wire on a 20 amp circuit. It came out of the service panel as 12 ga. and somebody some years ago decided to extend the circuit. So I guess the "technical" question would be that since I had the j-box containing the receptacle in question open, am I obligated to replace it?


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Is there no way to address nuisance trips for a device like a sump pump, while remaining NEC compliant? Would hard-wiring it circumvent GFI protection? After all, GFI is not required for hard-wired things like furnaces and electric water heaters in an unfinished basement.
Don't count on insurance too much. They can easily find ways to weasel out of paying a claim. For example, they could say that they pay only if the pump itself fails, but not for failure due to a power interruption. Make sure coverage is clear.
How about turning this space into a "habitable room?"


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Hard wire the pump with a correctly rated disconnect.

I would much rather deal with the possibility of a shock from a sump pump than the cost of water in a basement from a GFCI tripping off and preventing the pump from operating.

If you turn off the pump (the reason you need a disconnect) there is no realistic hazard anyway.
Hard wiring also eliminates the possibility of someone unplugging the pump and forgetting to plug it back in.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Brickeyee,

How does one "hard wire" the a sump pump unless it's specifically designed to be hard wired? I'd think just lopping off the plug violates some other part of the NEC and would effect the UL rating.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Only the 15/20A 120V receptacles in the basement need to be protected. Get a 240V pump or put a 30A plug on it.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

There are 120 V pumps available with no cord for the pump motor.

They are usually the 'pedestal' variety instead of the submersible type.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Well, like a good little boy I replaced the sump pump with a GFCI. The very first time the pump ran the GFCI tripped.

Like that wasn't a big surprise...


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

I replaced the sump pump with a GFCI.
GFCI's don't pump very well at all.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

On the bright side I won't get electrocuted when I bail the water out of the basement. :-)

The NEC says you need a GFCI, I presume because there is a potential for shock. But the device causes a new problem and I guess a flooded basement is preferable to being dead but maybe the mold will just kill me a little further down the road.

So we come up with a bunch of work-a-rounds that meet the the technical aspects of the code but not its spirit. Or spend a bunch of money to replace a perfect good pump with one that's 240v or designed to be hard wired.

Ron - if I replace the plug with a 30 amp, I'd also need to replace the receptacle, wire, and breaker. Right? Doesn't that create a new set of problems when a appliance designed to be put on a 15 or 20 amp OCPD is on a 30 amp OCPD? Or no?


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Think about this.
No one on here is going to tell you it is "ok" to install a standard outlet, as we all know what the NEC says. We all know that speeding on the interstate is illegal too.

If you speed a little bit, you are technically more likely to be injured, but nothing too bad usually happens...unless you get caught by someone who can cite you for the offense.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

One out is if you are still on 2005 NEC (what state are you in), you can use the "dedicated space" exemption possibly.
They removed that in 2008.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Just switched to '08. I'd like to keep the GFCI because I can use it to protect some things downstream that should be protected. My plan was to switch to a single "dedicated" receptacle for the sump pump and leave the GFCI to protect the other receptacles. I guess this is one situation where the most practical solution is to ignore the speed limit.

Is it me or is this just the silliest thing...


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Part of the problem is that the folks with flooded basements from tripped GFCIs on their sump pumps are not likely to make an issue with NFPA and seek NEC changes.

If it gets expensive enough for the insurance industry they might push for a change.

The NEC is designed for electrical safety, and has little concern for much else.

At least fire pumps can be run until they burn up.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

Part of the problem is that the folks with flooded basements from tripped GFCIs on their sump pumps are not likely to make an issue with NFPA and seek NEC changes.

So in a few years as the '08 changes to the NEC are more widely adopted maybe the insurance companies will fork out enough money it repairing flooded basements that they'll lobby NFPA for a change. Until then, folks will be mopping their basement floors.

I'd like to think the NEC and other building codes have some basis in reality and try to strike a balance between safety and real world costs. Let's say the code is changed and the aggregate cost to consumer is $1 billion and we save two lives. If it's your life or the life of a loved one you might say it's worth it but the reality is that we can assign a value to a human life and it isn't $500 million. Insensitive as it may seem, that's the nature of public policy decisions.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

The insurance industry (not the word I would like to use) has influenced the NEC a lot more than many realize. They will readily spend $$ for lobbying if it will prevent paying claims. That is why I mentioned showing the relevant NEC article when your pump failed.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

No way would I have a GFCI on my sump pump. If it is existing (and not being inspected) why change it? are you bringing the entire home to code? AFCIs etc.

I also would have a dedicated outlet for that pump as well.

I'm not an electrician and can't quote code but is a GFCI required if you have a single outlet (vs duplex) on a dedicated circuit?


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

It isn't practical nor economical to bring the entire house to code. AFCIs would require a panel replacement. The receptacle in question is about a 1' from a sink.

We're on '08 which doesn't provide an exemption for single outlet for something like a sump pump. That's what I'm going to do though.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

"I'd like to think the NEC and other building codes have some basis in reality and try to strike a balance between safety and real world costs. Let's say the code is changed and the aggregate cost to consumer is $1 billion and we save two lives. If it's your life or the life of a loved one you might say it's worth it but the reality is that we can assign a value to a human life and it isn't $500 million. Insensitive as it may seem, that's the nature of public policy decisions."

They seem to worry a lot more about electrical workers (IBEW) and absent a concerted campaign by a patent holder (think AFCI) move rather slowly.

I would much rather deal with the possibility of being shocked by a defective sump pump than the huge price to repair a flooded basement.

I can simply unplug the pump or turn off its circuit if I need to work on it.

Nothing can be made fool proof because fools are so ingenious.

Another version is if you try to make something foolproof, someone always finds a bigger fool.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

lets think for a moment about one thing that doesnt work well with water. electricity .I m not a safety guru person at all but I will tell you that if your pump should leak to ground (water ) and you place your hands in the well pit or maybe even if the pump has lost the ability to pump and you now attempt to walk in a flooded basement that has a live condition you wont be able to react fast enough to escape .think about a second pump installation for back up .maybe with an alarm and battery backup type sold at lowes .


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

While we are discussing "water and electricity", some of you might be interested in the failure mode of my sump pump. It was a "Simer" brand oil filled submersible type, and somehow the threaded plug on top came out. This resulted in all of the oil being replaced with sump water. The pump operated this way for an undetermined period of time, and finally quit when the bearings locked up.

The non-GFCI circuit never tripped, my cat regularly used the sump as a drinking fountain and didn't get electrocuted, and the pump didn't make any unusual sound until it simply stopped working one day.


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RE: GFCI & Sump Pump

"...if the pump has lost the ability to pump and you now attempt to walk in a flooded basement that has a live condition you wont be able to react fast enough to escape ."

Water iteslf does not actually conduct at all.

Pure water is used as in discharge machining.

Ionic contamiants in water allow it to conduct, but unless it is heavily loaded with ions (think salt water) it still has a pretty high resistanvce at 120 volts.

A flooded basement with a sump pupm leaking current is not going to be a hazard unless you are very close to the pump, or put your hand in the water and try and touch it.

This entire things strikes me as either sump pumps being overlooked as not requirug a GFCI, or an excessive fear from a lack of understanding.


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