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Old 07-23-2011, 02:59 AM   #1
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Default Idea for switching to electric

I intend to switch over to full electric next year. The intention is a PID setup with one element in the HLT/Kettle. I will be using my cooler for a MLT and do not intend for a HERMS setup yet.

First point, I am not an electrician nor do I know electrical codes but I do understand electricity and the actual wiring as my job involves in depth understanding of these. So I do not need the responses muddied up with how dangerous water and electricity are nor how an electrician should be called.

I am living in a rented house. I rent from my uncle and could change electrical if necessary but it would entitle spending my own cash for a place I may only be in for another year or so.

The idea is to use the existing outlet for the stove to plug in the control box for the element since it will only be 1 element. The outlet for this breaker is 240v 50a. I can not tell what gauge the wire is as the sheathing does not have the ga. listed. The house is over 70 years old but I can tell for sure that this circuit is not nearly as old.

Question 1: Is it alright to use just a 3 wire connection even if it does not have a dedicated ground since the neutral on a 240v really is the exact same thing as a ground?

I understand the ground is an extra protection measure but in this case it is simply a redundant measure. If necessary it will be easy as pie for me to run a ground strap or rewire to go 4 wire connection.

Question 2: During the summer it would be nice to brew outside. Can someone help with the requirements for wire gauge vs length of run? I am looking at an initial run from breaker to outlet of 25ft then another 20ft from outlet to control panel.

Question 3: Will the GFCI breaker affect operation of the stove? I understand the answer to this is a resounding no in theory but but we all know how touchy a GFCI can be.


I thank you all for reading this long post and helping me on the journey.

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Old 07-23-2011, 05:31 AM   #2
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Q1: You really need a separate ground. Current actually flows through the neutral wire, so if it was ever compromised and something provided a path to ground, ie. you, thats where the current would flow.

Q2: At 45' you don't need to be concerned with upping the wire size. 10 AWG would be fine for a 5500W (assuming) element.

Q3: You are right, in theory, no, the GFCI should not affect the stove operation, but in my experience resistive loads can be a bit finicky at times when run off a GFCI. Sometimes there is no problem and they work forever with no problem, other times there could be a high resistance short and you will experience nuisance tripping.

I guess the question is whether the stove has a 3 wire or 4 wire feed. If it's a 3 wire, you need to add an outlet anyway. If it's a four wire, then you could try a GFCI breaker on the stove to see if it works, then add an outlet if necessary.

Hope this helps.

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Old 07-23-2011, 05:22 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply nm999.

It is 3 wire so as I initially assumed I would have to switch to 4 wire. Now the million dollar question is:

Since this house has such old electrical can I run a separate ground strap straight to where some of the other grounds attach to the water pipes? Reality is that I would be safer doing this than just having 3 wire anyway so I understand it may not be what code calls for but it seems like the easiest way to switch over to a 4 wire connection. I would do this because in that case I would not have to run new rope back to the breaker box. Even though it would be incredibly easy to do in this house as everything is completely exposed. I am simply trying to do this in a safe way for a short time period and removing what I did before I leave so that no one has to deal with code issues or other safety factors due to unconventional wiring.

I think I will end up doing this in this particular house since I could remove the GFCI breaker when I leave and put back the original and then install the breaker where I end up moving to.

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Old 07-23-2011, 06:29 PM   #4
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I am certainly not even close to an electrician, but I have been researching my own electric build, and here are a few observations.

1) The wire gauge needed is dictated by the circuit breaker that is protecting the wire. If you have a 50 amp breaker, I believe you need 6 gauge, but I know 10 gauge is not sufficient.

2) If you only have 3 wires (no ground), you can wire a $49 Home Depot spa panel (3 wires in, 4 wires out) to power your brewery. P-J has posted schematics for this many times. The spa panel will give you your GFCI, and is generally much cheaper than a GFCI breaker (go figure). You can avoid introducing a new variable to the wiring for your current stove. You will be limited to 240V, though, and cannot try to split off 120V by using a hot and the neutral.

Somebody more knowledgeable than I will likely chime in, but this seems like the simplest way to go in a location that you expect to move out of soon.

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Old 07-23-2011, 06:35 PM   #5
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read this thread.

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Old 07-23-2011, 07:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rollinred View Post
Even though it would be incredibly easy to do in this house as everything is completely exposed.
If it's easy enough then just do it right and be done with it.
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Old 07-23-2011, 08:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffmeh View Post

1) The wire gauge needed is dictated by the circuit breaker that is protecting the wire. If you have a 50 amp breaker, I believe you need 6 gauge, but I know 10 gauge is not sufficient.
A 5500W element would need 10AWG wire and a 30A breaker.

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2) If you only have 3 wires (no ground), you can wire a $49 Home Depot spa panel (3 wires in, 4 wires out) to power your brewery.
There still won't be a proper equipment ground. If the neutral wire feeding the spa box was ever compromised then the current would look for another path to ground.
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Old 07-23-2011, 09:28 PM   #8
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There still won't be a proper equipment ground. If the neutral wire feeding the spa box was ever compromised then the current would look for another path to ground.
???? Please explain that. I have no idea where you are going with this idea.

Thanks.

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Old 07-23-2011, 09:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffmeh View Post
...
2) If you only have 3 wires (no ground), you can wire a $49 Home Depot spa panel (3 wires in, 4 wires out) to power your brewery. P-J has posted schematics for this many times. The spa panel will give you your GFCI, and is generally much cheaper than a GFCI breaker (go figure). You can avoid introducing a new variable to the wiring for your current stove. You will be limited to 240V, though, and cannot try to split off 120V by using a hot and the neutral.
...
I just wanted to chime in with this. Your point (underlined) is not quite true. Just a little info on this: It is entirely dependent on when the wiring was done as it applies to the NEC code being the "Judge". Any circuit terminated in an outlet can be (more or less) detailed to your requirement. (HEY, keep it within reason.!)

With the circuit you mention (pre mid 1995?) , the Spa Panel allows one to generate a seperate neutral and ground circuit. With that said, 120V could & would be available along with the 240V.

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Old 07-23-2011, 10:02 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nm999 View Post
A 5500W element would need 10AWG wire and a 30A breaker.



There still won't be a proper equipment ground. If the neutral wire feeding the spa box was ever compromised then the current would look for another path to ground.
Agreed, if a 30A breaker then 10AWG wire. If he already has a 50A breaker then 6AWG, right?

The spa panel doesn't solve the 3-wire versus 4-wire 240V issue. But 3-wire 240V is grandfathered by code, and the spa panel is a way to get a GFCI which turns out for no obvious reason to be much less expensive than a new GFCI breaker. With what I am planning, I need a new 30 amp breaker. A GFCI breaker is around $100, and a regular one is $10. The GE GFCI spa panel at Home Depot is $49. I am going to run 4 wires from the breaker to the spa panel (my existing wiring is 12/3), but if I already had the 30A breaker with 10/3 (or 10/2 + ground) I could at least get a GFCI from the spa panel, without running 10/4 (or 10/3 + ground) from the breaker.

I do agree with your "do it right" sentiment, but if I were renting and already had a 30A breaker with 10/3 AWG, I might just go with the spa panel for a GFCI. As it is, I'm going with the spa panel because it is a much less expensive way to get a GFCI, and it is a somewhat portable GFCI at that.

Again, I am no expert here, but this is my understanding. Since P-J has chimed in, I'm certain from reading his posts that he can correct me if I mis-stated anything.
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