Do Hot Tubs Need to Be GFCI Protected? (Explained!)

Getting a hot tub is one thing, installing it is another. Hot tubs are amazing properties to have but installing them will require some level of electrical set-up which can turn out to be one very hectic task especially if you are new to the whole process.

One part of the electrical setup that needs consideration is if the hot tub needs a GFCI breaker. Does it? Here is what I found out when I installed my hot tub.

What Is a GFCI Breaker in a Hot Tub?

A GFCI breaker (ground fault circuit interrupter) is also known as a residual-current device (RCD), or a residual-current circuit breaker (RCCB). It’s a device that automatically breaks an electrical circuit to prevent harm or damage. GFCI breakers are necessary for all hot tubs.

The breaker prevents damages to the tub and prevents the bathers or users from an electric shock which could turn out deadly. Whenever there is an unbalanced electric current between the supply and return conductors of a circuit, the GFCI automatically cuts all electrical supply to the hot tub.

Prevents Un-balanced Electric

The unbalanced electric current means there is a current leakage somewhere and that leakage can cause an electric shock to anyone around or even an electrical fault with the hot tub. The GCFI therefore quickly cuts off all electric connections to the hot tub to prevent such from happening.

Protects You From Any Ground Fault

GFCI also protects you and the tub from any ground fault. A ground fault occurs when there is an unexpected problem with the electrical connection below the ground. The problem could arise as a result of damaged wiring, or when an electrical wire carrying current comes in contact with another grounded wire.

Electric Mishaps

Electrical mishaps cannot be completely avoided. Even pest activity in the ground could cause some sort of electrical mishap which can turn out hazardous. Pests like rodents and ants are somewhat attracted to hot tubs. Rodents especially love to chew wires and that can result in an exposed wire or cable.

This is why a GFCI breaker is very necessary because mishaps can happen anytime. That’s why they are called “accidents” so if you have a GFCI breaker in place, you can feel more relaxed.

Do Hot Tubs Need a GFCI Breaker?

Yes, hot tubs need a GFCI breaker. A hot tub requires a good deal of electricity and some of the wires are run underground. A GCFI breaker serves as an indicator and at the same time prevents electrical accidents with the hot tub.

When there is a fault with the electrical setup of your hot tub such as a short circuit, the GFCI breaker stops all electrical connections to your hot tub so there and then, you can tell something is wrong without having to experience any injury or damage to the hot tub.

Related Read: How To Determine If Your Hot Tub Can Fit Through The Door?

What Kind of GFCI Do I Need for My Hot Tub?

The type of GCFI you will need for your hot tub depends on the type of hot tub you have, where you want to put the hot tub, either indoors or outdoors, and the voltage.

There are two main types of hot tubs. The plug-n-play hot tub and the wired hot tub. The plug-n-play hot tubs are also called plug-in hot tubs. You simply plug them in a power outlet, usually 120V to use them. This makes it possible to put plug-in hot tubs anywhere.

Wired hot tubs on the other hand are connected directly to the circuit breaker of your home. This makes it difficult to place them anywhere. Electrical codes require wired hot tubs to be placed at least 6 feet away from the circuit breaker.

In terms of a GFCI for your hot tub, the size of the tub matters. For instance, the regular 4-5 person hot tubs usually come with a 120V.

You will need 15 amps or 20 amps single pole GFCI breaker for such a hot tub. These types of hot tubs can be plugged into the outer protected GFCI outlet such as the one on the side of the house. The larger 6-8 person hot tub will require between 30 amps to a 60 amp GFCI breaker.

Also, if you have an indoor hot tub, the GFCI requirements will be different from the requirements of an outdoor hot tub.  We will get to that in just a bit.

Related Read: How To Refill A Hot Tub In The Basement?

Does a Plug-in Hot Tub Need a GFCI Breaker?

Yes, virtually every hot tub needs a GFCI and this includes plug-in hot tubs too. Plug and play hot tubs are designed to be plugged directly into a 120V power outlet. Inflatable hot tubs are also referred to as plug-in hot tubs.

Though the plug-in hot tubs also need to be GFCI protected, it doesn’t have to be on a breaker. A regular GFCI outlet will be enough for plug-in hot tubs including inflatable hot tubs.

Plug-in hot tubs don’t use much energy. You can even run them with a bill between $15 to $30 monthly depending on size.

Different Types of GFCI For Your Hot Tub

When it comes to GFCI for hot tubs, there are two main types of GFCI. They are the GFCI for indoor hot tubs and the GFCI for outdoor hot tubs.

Both have their specific requirements for the setup. The type of GFCI you will use with your hot tub depends on if you want to install the hot tub indoors or outdoors.

GFCI Connection for an Indoor Hot Tub

When installing a GFCI for an indoor hot tub,

  • You need to have at least one convenience receptacle located on the inside wall of the hot tub. The convenience receptacle has to be located between 6 to 10 feet from the inside wall.
  • The receptacle has to be GFCI protected.

GFCI Connection for an Outdoor Hot Tub

When installing a GFCI for an outdoor hot tub,

  • You need to have at least one convenience receptacle located on the inside wall of the hot tub. The convenience receptacle has to be located between 6 to 10 feet from the inside wall.
  • The receptacle has to be GFCI protected.
  • You can use a non-metallic conduit or a flexible liquid-tight metal provided the receptacle is not up to 6 feet away from the hot tub.
  • The outdoor receptacle should be weatherproof if exposed to the elements.  This can be a plastic shell.
  • You can use a plug or cord connected hot tub if the receptacle is GFCI protected and is or less than 15 feet in length.

It is always advised to contact a local electrician for help when you want to set-up a GFCI with your hot tub.

This is because codes and requirements may differ where you reside and the electrician will be able to make suggestions and help you out.

Related Read: Inflatable Hot Tub Vs Regular Hot Tub

How Do You Hook Up a GFCI to a Hot Tub?

Hooking a GFCI to a hot tub isn’t a DIY task. There are different codes and regulations to follow so it’s advised to contact an electrician experienced with hot tubs wiring before you move on with the task.

If you are wondering how do you hook up a gfci to a hot tub? Then the answer is YOU DON'T. This process is very complicated and it's not a DIY task. I'd suggest hiring a professional to do this.

Even if you have some level of experience with electrical wiring, it is still advisable to have a professional electrician on standby.

1. Inspect the Wiring

The first thing to do after contacting an electrician is to inspect the wiring to be sure there isn’t any corrosion, damage, or exposed wires.

Before you hook up a GFCI breaker, you need to be sure none of the previous wirings is faulty as that could turn out dangerous later on.

Also, it’s advised to keep your hot tub at about 10 to 15 feet from any overhead power lines and poles.

2. Cut the Power

You can do this by flipping a switch at the breaker box in your home. The switch is usually red and flipping it cuts off power.

3. Install the Hot Tub Disconnect Panel

The panel needs to be at least 5 feet from the hot tub to prevent anyone from accidentally touching the panel while in the tub.

You will need to consult the user’s manual for specific instructions to install the hot tub disconnect panel.

Related Read: Does a Hot Tub Need to Be Perfectly Level?

4. Dig the trench for the Conduit

After you have mounted the hot tub disconnect panel, you need to make a dugout for the conduit. This is another reason to contact a professional electrician.

You need to know the guidelines and depth for laying a conduit in your area and the best person to help you with that is an electrician unless you have the local building code.

The electrician will also need to inspect the ground so you don’t dig into a buried utility cable or pipe that runs in and out of your home.

The conduit needs to be buried at a minimum depth of 6 inches for metal conduits and a minimum of 18 inches for non-metallic conduits.

You need to make the dugout and trench the conduit from the hot tub to the disconnect panel. There are instances where the conduit can be run under the deck. In such instances, you can skip this step.

5. Run the Conduit and Pull the Wire

You might need to drill a hole to allow the conduit to run out of the house. The hole should be drilled close to the breaker panel.

If you are running it below 6 feet, you can use a non-metallic conduit or a liquid-tight flexible metal. If it’s going to be more than 6 feet, you can use rigid and intermediate metal conduit. Use an LB fitting on the wall’s hole to connect the indoor and outdoor conduit.

Next, you should use copper wire with (THHN) thermoplastic nylon to pull the wires. Do not use aluminum wire. You will also need to pull the wires to the hot tub panel from the fitting.

6. Connect the Wires

This might prove tricky for you which is another reason to get a professional electrician. First, you need to connect the red and black load wires to the circuit breaker.

Then you will connect the green and white ground wires to the neutral bar that is in the service panel. Then pass the four wires to the GFCI box the GFCI breaker box through a conduit.

Connect the black load wire to the GFCI line-in 1 and the red load wire to line-in 2. After that, connect the white neutral wire to the neutral bar in the GFCI breaker box and connect the green ground wire to the GFCI ground bar.

Lastly, you need to connect the white pigtail to the neutral bar as well. If your hot tub is equipped with a 240V control system, pass the black wire from the GFCI load-out 1 and pass the red cable from GFCI load-out 2 together with the green ground wire connected to the ground bar through a conduit to the control system of the hot tub.

If your hot tub is equipped with a 120V control system, you will have to connect an extra white neutral wire to the load neutral out from the GFCI breaker box.

Related Read >>> How to Prevent Hot Tub Air Lock?

7. Inspect the wiring

Check to ensure you have the correct connections and wires in the right place. It is not advisable to run any wire beneath or above the hot tub.

The codes above might be different from where you reside so contact appropriate authorities for instructions and guidelines for hooking up a GFCI breaker to a hot tub.

I understand that the whole process might seem lengthy and complicated which is why I stated earlier that you should get help for this.

The wrong wire or connection can damage not just the hot tub’s electrical system but your home’s electrical set-up too.

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How Far Away Does a GFCI Have to Be From a Hot Tub?

The distance of the hot tub from the GFCI must be at least 5 feet but other factors also come into play. For instance, if you are putting the hot tub outdoors, the distance should be at least 5 feet from the hot tub. If the hot tub is to be placed indoors, the distance should be at least 6 feet.

The codes in your area might be different and the circumstances around your home might require a longer distance but the safe distance starts from 5 feet and can extend to 10 feet.

For the disconnect panel, it should also be installed at least 5 feet from the hot tub and it should be placed adjacent or directly in the line of sight from the hot tub.

The distance is to prevent anyone from touching the panel while in the water and also to keep an eye on the disconnect panel for maintenance purposes.

Does the GFCI Wire Need to Be Buried?

If the hot tub is placed on a concrete slab, a gravel base, or any other permanent base, you will need to bury the GFCI wire for different reasons. One of which is to prevent people from stepping on or tripping over the wires. However, if your hot tub sits on your deck, you can just run the wires below the deck. You need to ensure the wires are set up to be pest-resistant and weatherproof.

A good way will be to cover or pass the wires through plastic pipes. Rodents and ants seek shelter under the deck and these pests can damage the wires causing exposure.

To be on the safe side, you might need to consult a professional hot tub electrician to know the rules and requirements on burying a cable or wire.

You will also need to inspect the ground for other utility wires and pipes that run in and out of your home so you damage them while digging.

Can You Run a Hot Tub on a 100 Amp Service?

Yes, you can with smaller plug-in hot tubs. As stated earlier, plug-in hot tubs don’t use as much energy as others and the smaller versions use even less energy. However, if your hot tub is equipped with a 240V control system, it will need to be backed up to a stronger electrical service.

As with all electrical work, your electrician will be in the best position to give recommendations.

Safety Precaution While Installing a GFCI Breaker.

As a precaution, do not try to install a GFCI breaker or any electrical device to your hot tub by yourself. A wrong connection can result in damages, fines from local authorities, and even serious injuries.

The best bet is to get a professional hot tub electrician to inspect the wiring, inspect the ground if you are planning on running wires or cables underground, and also help you out with all the connections.

I hope you found this post useful. If you have any questions about hot tubs, feel free to leave them below and I’ll respond to them as soon as possible.

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