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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Daughter's in-ground pool's pump and lighting circuit is on a 2-pole 20 amp in a ~20 year old CH box.

Trying to be helpful with safety in mind, I turned off the 200a main and swapped the old 2-pole 20a breaker for a new 2 pole 20a GFCI breaker (type CH).
Turned on the main, and tested the new breaker using the test button, worked like a charm.

I had to go out to get a replacement single pole 20 breaker for the adjacent breaker to the new GFCI (I didn't change any positions) as one of the foot hook things on it was broken (before this work) and it wouldn't stay in place.

I turned off main, replaced the single pole 20, and repowered the panel. When I turned on this last 20 amp single pole, the new 2-pole GFCI tripped. I tried it a couple of times and I couldn't get it to stay on.

Any ideas as to why this might be?

I think the single pole might run a hot tub bubbler and wonder if all the circuits are somehow sharing the same neutral?
 

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When you installed the 2-pole 20A breaker, was there a neutral wire in that circuit? Did you move the circuit neutral to the GFCI breaker or is it still on the neutral bar?

I bet it's a crossed neutral somewhere. Either the 120V circuit has a load that is returning power via the 240V circuit's neutral, or the other way 'round. It's always been a risk of overload and a code violation, but before, nothing watched for that. Now, GFCIs won't tolerate it.

You'll need to go through both circuits and make sure each load s only using its own neutral and not poaching neutral from the other.

If the 240V circuit was wired with /2 cable (black-white) and also has 120V loads on it, then it must be poaching neutral from, well, somewhere... the GFCI won't tolerate that at all.
 

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I should say, "or ground". Any 120V load will be connected to a hot, but for returning neutral current, it could have been wired to use any circuit's neutral, or even any safety ground wire! (these configurations are dangerous and illegal, but they could have gotten away with it). Now, under GFCI, it must only return current on the circuit's proper neutral.

This is the risk anytime you install a GFCI; you "bring to the surface" any problems like this.

If you find a /2-wired 240V circuit with 120V lights bootlegging ground, I'd mention many modern light fixtures have electronic drivers/ballasts that work fine on 240V. You could also convert to low-voltage lighting; 12/24V power supplies are readily available in 240V.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks SE.
I was thinking the same. I’m 15 miles away from it now, but my memory was 3 black, one white, one red, two to three greens in the liquid tight entering the panel. Naively/stupidly, I thought, “great, no need to figure out which neutral goes with my double pole”.
I assume the electrician coming to fix this mess may have to pull more neutrals, one for each single pole and double pole circuit and have each hot protected by a GFCI breaker given it is a pool?
 

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Yeah, or simply reorganize what is on which circuit. 4 hots 1 neutral sounds like one 240V-only line (pump) and one MWBC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Pool has a pump, light, gas heater, and the bubbler. Assuming all are in the liquid tight, I think there should be 2 hots for the 240 (pump) and three additional 120 lines. That’d be 4 neutrals. do I have this right?
Are 4 grounds needed or just one?
 

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One (THWN) neutral to go with the double ground fault circuit interrupter breaker.

If the (240 volt) pump requires a neutral (it probably doesn't), then give it its own neutral to accompany its two hot wires.

One neutral for the one remaining hot wire (on the plain single breaker).

One ground wire, size is that of the fattest hot wire, shared by all of the circuits. If there is a junction box along the way with no receptacles or switches inside, you can optionally run separate ground wires from the panel, one going as a home run each way, as opposed to branching off from a single ground wire from the panel in the junction box to continue on each way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Electrician came and suggested going without GFCI for pump (220 line) as a GFCI wouldn't protect the line (no neutral).
Installed GFCI outlet that now protects pool light circuit.
He said the heater and bubbler are run off the 220 lines.
 

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Well, the value of GFCI protection doesn't have anything to do with whether there's a neutral or not. So that's "lost in translation" at best, and flat wrong at worst.

I gather this was not a real electrician, since they were able to walk away from the job without ever turning the thing on to test it.



Here's the problem I see. You report 4 hots and 1 neutral.

  • 240V circuit doesn't necessarily need a neutral
  • 1 hot and 1 neutral for a 120V circuit
  • 1 remaining hot for ?????????

The only legal possibility is a MWBC (I was hoping you would Google that, I'm not gonna write a book describing what that is). There's nothing wrong with MWBCs in principle, but they do need to be configured correctly. Least, they must now have a "handle-tie" between the breakers, and in GFCIs they need a 2-pole GFCI. I suspect somebody put a 120V GFCI breaker on one side of the MWBC, which is insta-fail.

But we don't know. You'd need to inspect the wiring further and give us a report on what's connected to what.



The "promiscuous neutral" rule is real simple. (note 2 hots sharing a neutral are 1 circuit.) ANY circuit with 120V loads has 1-2 hots and 1 neutral. Any 120V load that uses one of the hots, MUST use the partner neutral. It can't use any other circuit's neutral. It can't use ground.

When you add GFCI to the equation, then all the hots AND the neutral go to the GFCI (breaker). That set of 2-3 wires coming off the GFCI must be monogamous to each other and not interact with ground or any other circuit's wire.

So I would look first to see if this is an MWBC. Then, search for any promiscuous activity involving that neutral, or that hot and ground.

Bug-hunts like these are a big variable in GFCI upgrades, and "the lowest bidder" worker may not have planned his time for that, so skeedaddled to the next job and said "lotsa luck pal".
 

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Electrician came and suggested going without GFCI for pump (220 line) as a GFCI wouldn't protect the line (no neutral).
Installed GFCI outlet that now protects pool light circuit.
He said the heater and bubbler are run off the 220 lines.
Does it sound reasonable that one piece of pool equipment should have GFCI protection to save your life and not another?

If your electrician suggested going without GFCI then you should find another electrician.

And don't use the pool until it's fixed properly.
 

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Electrician came and suggested going without GFCI for pump (220 line) as a GFCI wouldn't protect the line (no neutral).
Installed GFCI outlet that now protects pool light circuit.
He said the heater and bubbler are run off the 220 lines.
Electrician was wrong. GFCI is required for a pool pump and does protect the occupants. Lights over the voltage threshold (14 volts) requires GFCI protection also. Heater is fine non GFCI protected.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Thanks; I’ll follow up after more investigation.
All of these wires end up in an Intermatic timer box. All are controlled by the timer.
I’m assuming the one neutral is used by the light; he said everything else is 220 with no neutrals needed. I don’t think a gas-fired pool heater is 220 no the air bubbler but I didn’t want to argue since he had a meter in his hand not me and he is an electrician.
 

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Well, then, pretty simple, follow the hot and neutral that are attached to the breaker's output screws (not to be confused with the neutral pigtail if any). Look at every single load that either of them is connected to. Make sure all of them are connected only to that hot and that neutral. And no other wires (except safety ground, which is not a normal conductor and is irrelevant to GFCI). If you find one connected to another wire, disconnect that hot and neutral, and see if the GFCI stops tripping. If it does, you found it!

Now one thing we haven't discussed is an actual failing appliance or wire. But it sounds like a wiring issue. Troubleshoot appliances by disconnecting both hot and neutral (important), and see if the fault goes away.



It seems perfectly reasonable to have 220V gas fired heaters and bubblers, since it's used with the pump, and the pump is usually 220, so you know it's in the pool room.
 

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Electrician came and suggested going without GFCI for pump (220 line) as a GFCI wouldn't protect the line (no neutral).
...
As others have mentioned and I am going to chime in also on this because it is important. A 2 pole GFCI does not need a neutral in order for it to function correctly and provide the safety it was designed to provide. Also, it does not mean that because it is a 240v circuit a GFCI breaker is not then required. Just because the circuit is a 240v (no neutral) and not a 120v/240v where there would be a neutral in use does not mean there is no reason to use a GFCI breaker. This bothers me a lot if this is what the electrician stated for not using one.

And the main thing that bothers me is that this is all for a pool. Circuits that service power to pool equipment etc must be installed/maintained specifically for human protection overall. Water and electricity do not play well together. If you start omitting safety factors such as GFCIs you are increasing chances of accidents that can have serious consequences. Not all licensed electrician are skilled or qualify to work on pool electrical needs. Special knowledge is needed for bonding etc.
 
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