GFCI Breakers and Swimming Pool Equipment – What We Know and Our Recommendations

Riverview Pool and Electrical Contractors Serving Tampa

The National Electric Code requires that all swimming pool pumps be connected to a GFCI breaker. As a residential electrical contractor wiring thousands of swimming pool pumps, we at Hawkins decided to explain some common issues that we find with these breakers. As electricians, we often find ourselves in the middle of a problem that arises when a homeowner experiences problems and believes there is something wrong with the electrical installation.

What We Know

  • NEC requires GFCI protection for all pool pumps. A pool builder or electrician cannot install power to your pool pump per code without one.
  • GFCI breakers can and do trip more often than traditional breakers because they are designed to disconnect power at very low levels that would prevent a person from being injured. They are doing their job when they trip.
  • Noise from transformers, variable speed pump drives, and certain lighting controls cause nuisance tripping.
  • Moisture from rain, sprinklers, or runoff causes GFCI breakers to trip as well.
  • Some breakers experience a lower rate of nuisance tripping than others. At Hawkins Service, we install the Siemens breakers for this reason. They have proven to be the best available currently for pool pumps. Even these will trip, just less often.

What Can Be Done to Help Keep Your GFCI From Tripping

  • If the issue occurs when light colors are changed or when switching lights on and off, then installing a light transformer with a filter may help. (at Hawkins we only use this type)
  • If the issue occurs when it rains or after sprinkler use – It is likely that moisture has accumulated on the wiring connections or the motor windings. This will cause a small fault in the ground that will trip a GFCI breaker. Check the area around your pool pump. Is there a way to keep it dry? If your pump sits in a puddle or gets excessive runoff from the roof then look for a solution to keep it more protected. The motor needs airspace so don’t cover it with plastic or enclose it tightly. Think of shielding it but with airspace. Motors have vents in the back and a fan that cools them. This same fan can suck in moist air and cause the GFCI to trip. You don’t want to block the vent just keep it from taking on excessive moisture.
  • If the breaker trips as soon as you turn it on and the pump area is dry then you may have a bad breaker or motor. This is when you should call your electrician who can test both.