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Old 09-15-2010, 03:14 PM   #1
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Hot tub water is electrified with 60 Volts? please help


First want to start off and thank you for your time in reviewing this. I have had a 4 wire hot tub for 5 years now. On occation when I touched the GFCI disconnect I have felt a “buzzing fuzzy feeling” in my hand. Didn’t think much of it. The other day I placed my fingers in the water to add my usual bromine tab to it. I suddenly felt the “buzzing fuzzy” feeling in my fingers! Never noticed this before in the water. This can’t be good. I did some research and reviewed the wiring diagram for the tub. My tub is a balboa tub is a 4 wire 240V. From the tub there are 4 wires a black, white, red and a green. My electrician wired a black, white and green to the main in my basement to the external GFCI disconnect . I think this 3 wire configuration may be the problem.

I did always feel the electrical charge at the external GFCI disconnect but never in the water. I placed my voltmeter in the water and then to the ground and recorded 50-60 volts in the water. At times when the water is not charged I do get the the same volt reding on the actual disconnect box. I connected a voltmeter to the door of the disconnect and to a piece of metal I placed on the ground and documented that the actual “box” is charged with what appers to be 100+ volts. It comes and goes and it makes no difference if the blowers are on or the underwater light is on or off. Sometimes the water is charged sometimes it isn’t. I have several photos here of the existing wiring. Any help would be greatly appreciated

When looking at the photo of the GFCI the left side 3 wire conduit is from the house main and the right side is the 4 wire conduit from the spa.
When looking at the photo of my "house main" the 50A breaker is the bottom left. There is a black and a white going to it. It looks like there is a big red wire also but it's just another wire from another appliance that IS NOT CONNECTED to the bthe spa breaker. Only a black and white. The green is connected to the silver bar thingy in the middle left. The conduit from the external GFCI is the metal conduit on the top left of the main panel
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Hot tub water is electrified with 60 Volts? please help-dsc_0704-medium-.jpg   Hot tub water is electrified with 60 Volts? please help-dsc_0705-medium-.jpg   Hot tub water is electrified with 60 Volts? please help-dsc_0707-medium-.jpg   Hot tub water is electrified with 60 Volts? please help-dsc_0710-medium-.jpg  
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Old 09-15-2010, 03:34 PM   #2
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Something's definitely not right here, but I'm still thinking about what it is. For starters, IMMEDIATELY turn off the breaker feeding that spa panel. You should seriously think about calling out a licensed electrician, preferably not the one that installed this. If you had been grounded a little better when you touched the water or the spa panel, you could have been killed.

I really don't like the looks of that re-marked green wire as a neutral, especially since it appears to be a size smaller than the hots. Also, is that plastic conduit feeding the spa panel? If so, there's no grounding means at all, which is incredibly illegal and dangerous. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think even if metal conduit is used for a spa panel, there still needs to be an insulated ground wire.
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Old 09-15-2010, 03:40 PM   #3
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On closer examination, that's definitely PVC conduit. That's without a doubt one of the stupidest things I've ever seen. Get the original electrician to pay a different company to come do it right. Was the original electrician even licensed? Was there a permit and inspection for this work?
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Old 09-15-2010, 03:51 PM   #4
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I agree. This is a 3-wire feed to a 4-wire tub. He used a green wire remarked for the neutral and did not run a ground.

HOW people walk away from work like this is beyond me.

I would not have the last guy re-do this, but I would definitely inform him that he created a serious violation and dangerous condition with this installation.
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Old 09-15-2010, 03:58 PM   #5
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I think you are both correct. The latter observation is what I think the issue is a4 wire tub wired into a 3 wire feeder. He did "re-mark" other wires with different colored electrical tape also for some reason. I have used this tub for 5 years wired like this. Lucky to be alive. I have read on other forums that the feeder needs to be 4 wires to be properly grounded. The "pigtail" from the tub is flex tube and not metal.
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Old 09-15-2010, 04:00 PM   #6
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I do have a different electrician coming out in a few days to re-evaluate this. I was looking to see what others thought in the interim. Thanks again
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Old 09-15-2010, 04:22 PM   #7
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do not use this hot tub until this is repaired and verified there is no voltage present where it shouldn't be.

I presume you already came to that conclusion but just wanted to be sure.
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Old 09-15-2010, 04:44 PM   #8
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This is what I see

There are 4 wires going to the spa white (neutral) red (T2) black (T1) and a solid green insulated ground terminated to the grounding lug on the back of the spa disconnect.

From the main panel is a white insulated wire marked black (L2) and a black (L1) terminated to the pullout block of the the spa disconnect. And a green insulated wire marked white for the neutral terminated to the disconnects neutral bar. 3 wires only .. no insulated green equipment grounding wire and if that is and it appears to be pvc conduit there is not fault path back to the source so that a breaker will trip.

NOT very smart on the installers part.


However that does not explain the voltage on the metal of the panel as the spa does have the correct wiring though not properly sized or identified. It is missing the equipment ground back to the service panel .... but this will not effect the operation of the spa or place voltage on the metal of the panel.

The question that first hit me when op stated amount of voltage on spa panel metal was ...why hasn't a breaker tripped??

Well that is rather obvious .. no low impedance ground fault path back to the service equipment. NO breaker can trip.

This is incredibly dangerous and it is a miracle no one was electrocuted in that spa or by touching that panel being all wet etc...

But it doesn't explain the energized panel. A fault has occurred or a miswire at the spa control panel or something as the ground wire or metal conduit to the spa (if its metal) is energized.

Spa needs to be turned off as stated and the cause located.
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Last edited by Stubbie; 09-15-2010 at 05:04 PM. Reason: clarification of grounding wire being absent
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Old 09-15-2010, 04:58 PM   #9
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Right, there's definitely a ground fault somewhere causing the voltage, and it probably would have been noticed earlier if there had been an EGC present to allow the breaker to trip. Makes me wonder why the GFCI doesn't trip. I assume either the GFCI is faulty, or the fault is in the spa panel, before the GFCI.

But I think we all agree on the bottom line, which is that the breaker should be left off until an electrician can evaluate. I'm of the opinion that something like this is just too risky for DIY troubleshooting.
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Old 09-15-2010, 05:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
But I think we all agree on the bottom line, which is that the breaker should be left off until an electrician can evaluate. I'm of the opinion that something like this is just too risky for DIY troubleshooting.
Yes absolutely.

And yes I agree that the gfci should trip if a load side fault is the cause as soon as you touch the spa panel. It could be that one of those panel mounting screws has penetrated a hot or neutral wire in the house wall ??
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Old 09-15-2010, 05:27 PM   #11
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It's a mystery, for sure. fiamen55, please let us know what you find out when the new electrician comes to check on this.
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Old 09-15-2010, 07:41 PM   #12
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I appreciate all the feedback. It is strange. I don't think the screws on the GFCI pierced any wires on the inside of the house there is nothing on that side of the wall in my bedroom. I'm hoping that all I need is a proper 4 wire feed to the exterior box and that will be it. Do any of think my GFCI box itself is faulty? The strange thing is that I can press the test button on the breaker and it does indeed trip and then I can reset it ok. I have no idea what's up I will keep you all posted on the final verdict
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Old 09-15-2010, 08:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fiamen55 View Post
I appreciate all the feedback. It is strange. I don't think the screws on the GFCI pierced any wires on the inside of the house there is nothing on that side of the wall in my bedroom. I'm hoping that all I need is a proper 4 wire feed to the exterior box and that will be it. Do any of think my GFCI box itself is faulty? The strange thing is that I can press the test button on the breaker and it does indeed trip and then I can reset it ok. I have no idea what's up I will keep you all posted on the final verdict
Unfortunately you have the 3 wires needed that will operate the spa and the 4 wires needed from the spa disconnect to the spa control panel. The 4th wire missing is the equipment ground wire of the feeder to the spa panel from the main service panel.

That is not needed to operate the spa but is critical for overcurrent ground fault protection and human safety.

Did you say that this buzzing feeling has been present since the spa was first installed?
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Old 09-15-2010, 08:54 PM   #14
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Quote:
Do any of think my GFCI box itself is faulty?
I do not think so but anything is possible at this point.

Do one thing for me and be careful not to touch the metal on the panel. Turn off the 50 amp breaker at the main panel (should already be off). Test from the ground lug to the neutral bar in that spa disconnect.... points 1 and 2 in the image below. I want to make sure the voltage is not coming from another source than the spa feeder. If your not comfortable with this then wait for the electrician. If so when he gets there be sure to tell him that the metal panel has voltage on it.
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Old 09-15-2010, 09:24 PM   #15
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Will do stubbie first thing in the AM and well see what happens on the meter. I never notied the buzzing feeling in the water until 2 days ago. I did on occation feel it at the exterior panel at times. Also a few years back during a heavy rain there would be a loud "wires arcing" sound" from my back yard. I always assumed it was from the neighbors yard. Makes me think now that the box or perhaps my tub was doing that. I have inspected all the wiring in and out and found no evidence of such. I'm wondering if rain on the exterior box is enough to cause an arc now that the whole box appers charged with 50 volts? The weird thing is that there is no pattern to the water being charged. One min it's charged then a few min later it goes away. WTF! I'm just hoping a new 4 wire main feeder is what I need. Stubbie in your photo where you have the #1 arrow there is an extra screw slot... should something have been connected there?

Last edited by fiamen55; 09-15-2010 at 09:27 PM. Reason: added to comment
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