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Old 10-18-2012, 03:16 PM   #1
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Burnt up outlet....

Hey everyone, got a question for you

I have a small hot tub, with only a 120 volt 12 amp heater. The previous owner put a regular prong on the end of the wire, ( two vertical instead of one vertical one horizontal)(also, the heater cord says 14/3 on it). I have had this plugged in for a bout a month when i smelled some burning, unplugged it, and it had melted part of the receptacle and the plug itself. This receptacle is a 15 amp gfci duplex outlet on a 20 amp breaker, with no other outlets or lights on it. The wire run to the receptacle is 12 guage.

two questions -
1. why did the hot tub have a 20 amp plug (horizontal and vertical) in the first place if the heater says right on it 120 volt 12 amp?
2. Why did the receptacle burn? A 20 amp breaker, run with 12 ga wire, with a single 15 amp duplex receptacle should hold the power needed, right?(even with 80% load, 15*.8 = 12 amps)

Also - solutions -
should I put a new 20 amp receptacle in its place and put a replacement 20 amp plugin o the cord? or just put in a new 15 amp receptacle and a new replacement 15 amp plug in?

suggestions? ideas? answers? thanks!

apologies for the long post, i wanted to be thorough.


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Old 10-18-2012, 03:43 PM   #2
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The previous owner probably wanted to use the 15 amp receptacle rather than swap it for a 20. Usually when I find a melted plug and receptacle I find a loose connection. Either on the plug or receptacle wires or on the prongs and contacts themselves. Another possibility is the heater drawing more than the 12 amps due to a problem with the heating element. A amp clamp meter would show that. If it were mine, faced with replacing things anyway, I would replace both the plug and the receptacle with 20 amp devices. And keep a close eye on it for a while. If you have access to an amp clamp it would be helpful for you to check the actual current draw. But enough current to melt a perfectly good plug and receptacle should see the breaker trip before the cord set melts.


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Old 10-18-2012, 04:17 PM   #3
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Are you sure the total load for the tub is only 12A, not just the heater? The pump is usually a significant load, too. It would be quite unusual (and counterproductive and pointless) for the manufacturer to put a 20A plug on it if it doesn't need one. Regardless, 15A receptacles are rated for 20A internally so it shouldn't have been a problem. I would suggest replacing the plug with a good heavy duty commercial grade plug, and replacing the receptacle with an equally high quality new GFCI. Burned plugs and receptacles happen when there is a slightly loose connection between a prong of the plug and a blade in the receptacle. With a heavy load, the resistance of the loose connection causes heating and it makes itself worse over time. High quality plugs and receptacles make a big difference for high-load appliances like this.
I am a lawyer, but not your lawyer. And who cares anyways? We're here to talk construction. This is DIY advice, not legal advice.
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Old 10-18-2012, 04:29 PM   #4
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thats a good point on the pump... kinda of a forehead slap moment, I could not figure out why they would originally install a 20a plug if it wasn't necessary. I think yall are right; when we were moving the tub we had to remove the plug, pull it through a hole in the wood siding part of the tub, then put it back on. Thats probably where the loose connection came into play, when it was reconnected. It would probably be okay going back to 15 amp, but ima play it safe and do a 20 amp receptacle and plug.
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15a , 20a , hot , outlet , tub

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