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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Electric Brewing > Question about my dryer outlet and a 3500watt element (w pictures)
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Old 11-09-2010, 01:56 PM   #11
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The problem is that this is a 2 wire with ground outlet. There is no separate neutral. Ground has to be run to the equipment, but the GFCI breaker also requires a "neutral" in order to work. The only option is to tie the breaker "neutral" input to the ground. And it does provide protection, because I have verified that mine trips the breaker if there is an unbalanced load.
It sounded like a great idea. So what you are saying is that with my 2 wire and ground, hooking up the spa gfci would be in effect doing nothing?
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:21 PM   #12
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To answer the OP question:

Yes. That will work just fine.

There's a lot of things you need to do to make it work better, and a lot safer - But it'll work.

Breakers work fine for switching power on and off. It's not ideal, but how many commercial buildings turn their lights on and off with breakers?

A 3500 watt element will draw less than 15 amps on the 30 amp circuit. Good to go there.

I think 3500 watts on a 10 gallon boil is going to be a LOT of heat. You may be turning it on and off a lot since you're either 100% on, or off.

GFCI protection is generally considered required on this forum. And for damn good reason.
Just remember, if you become part of that circuit, you're gonna get one hell of a kick.

I would seriously consider replacing the 30 amp breaker in your main panel with a GFCI - Which, properly installed, will protect a 3-wire 240 volt circuit. GFCI's are capable of detecting voltage leaking from hot to ground just as well as hot to neutral. Hang on to your ass if you touch both hots! (though you'll have that problem on ANY 3 or 4 wire GFCI...)

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Originally Posted by Ecnerwal View Post
What does the primary pressure gauge on the tank tell us? That's right, the temperature. Put it on a scale if you want to know how much is in it...
Put some duct tape over the gauge - Or better yet - Replace the high pressure gauge with a plug - High pressure gauges are useless!
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:52 PM   #13
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Thanks SweetSounds, do you recommend hirin an electrician to replace the breaker? Looks like GFCI breakers are not cheap!

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Old 11-09-2010, 03:12 PM   #14
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Thanks SweetSounds, do you recommend hirin an electrician to replace the breaker? Looks like GFCI breakers are not cheap!
No, but neither is an ambulance ride with complimentary external defibrillator...

If you're not comfortable inside a 200 amp 240 volt panel, hire an electrician. It's not hard, and takes about 3 minutes. If you do it yourself, turn off the main and don't touch the shiny parts
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What does the primary pressure gauge on the tank tell us? That's right, the temperature. Put it on a scale if you want to know how much is in it...
Put some duct tape over the gauge - Or better yet - Replace the high pressure gauge with a plug - High pressure gauges are useless!
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Old 11-09-2010, 04:00 PM   #15
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If you do it yourself, turn off the main and don't touch the shiny parts
That's awesome, thanks for bringing some cheer to my day!

BREW ON!!
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Old 11-09-2010, 05:19 PM   #16
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To answer the OP question:

Yes. That will work just fine.

There's a lot of things you need to do to make it work better, and a lot safer - But it'll work.

Breakers work fine for switching power on and off. It's not ideal, but how many commercial buildings turn their lights on and off with breakers?

A 3500 watt element will draw less than 15 amps on the 30 amp circuit. Good to go there.

I think 3500 watts on a 10 gallon boil is going to be a LOT of heat. You may be turning it on and off a lot since you're either 100% on, or off.

GFCI protection is generally considered required on this forum. And for damn good reason.
Just remember, if you become part of that circuit, you're gonna get one hell of a kick.

I would seriously consider replacing the 30 amp breaker in your main panel with a GFCI - Which, properly installed, will protect a 3-wire 240 volt circuit. GFCI's are capable of detecting voltage leaking from hot to ground just as well as hot to neutral. Hang on to your ass if you touch both hots! (though you'll have that problem on ANY 3 or 4 wire GFCI...)

Just to be clear, I did expect that the OP would use some sort of switch or contactor after the GFCI breaker to switch on/off his element. You don't want to use the GFCI breaker for that purpose.

As for replacing the breaker in his panel with a GFCI breaker, I'm assuming that this is probably a dryer outlet he's plugging into and a GFCI breaker may possibly trip when/if he plugs his dryer back in. If he's not using the outlet for any other purpose than his heating element, then I agree that putting a GFCI breaker in the panel is the best solution (though it may be more expensive than the spa disconnect box).
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Old 11-09-2010, 05:36 PM   #17
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I think 3500 watts on a 10 gallon boil is going to be a LOT of heat. You may be turning it on and off a lot since you're either 100% on, or off.
I run a 5500W element at about 60-70%. I think a 3500w at 100% would be about perfect for a 10 gallon boil.
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Old 11-09-2010, 06:22 PM   #18
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Just to be clear, I did expect that the OP would use some sort of switch or contactor after the GFCI breaker to switch on/off his element. You don't want to use the GFCI breaker for that purpose.

As for replacing the breaker in his panel with a GFCI breaker, I'm assuming that this is probably a dryer outlet he's plugging into and a GFCI breaker may possibly trip when/if he plugs his dryer back in. If he's not using the outlet for any other purpose than his heating element, then I agree that putting a GFCI breaker in the panel is the best solution (though it may be more expensive than the spa disconnect box).
A dryer should never trip a GFCI by a ground leak. If it does, there's something wrong with the dryer, not the GFCI.

It's not ideal to switch an element with the breaker, but in industrial lighting and a great many other tasks, the breaker is commonly used as a disconnect.

That doesn't make it a good idea, however.
I would hope that OP would install a GFCI breaker in the panel, and when $$ allows move to a PWM solution - As it can be built for about $50.00 and give 0-100% control of the element.
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Originally Posted by Ecnerwal View Post
What does the primary pressure gauge on the tank tell us? That's right, the temperature. Put it on a scale if you want to know how much is in it...
Put some duct tape over the gauge - Or better yet - Replace the high pressure gauge with a plug - High pressure gauges are useless!
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Old 11-09-2010, 07:18 PM   #19
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A dryer should never trip a GFCI by a ground leak. If it does, there's something wrong with the dryer, not the GFCI.

It's not ideal to switch an element with the breaker, but in industrial lighting and a great many other tasks, the breaker is commonly used as a disconnect.

That doesn't make it a good idea, however.
I would hope that OP would install a GFCI breaker in the panel, and when $$ allows move to a PWM solution - As it can be built for about $50.00 and give 0-100% control of the element.
I have heard that some older model 2 wire + ground dryers which used 120 volts for low current control circuitry used the ground wire as a "neutral" for this purpose (I think this is no longer allowed). If the OP has one of these dryers, it would certainly trip the GFCI, even if there is nothing wrong with the dryer.

I advise against using the GFCI breaker in the spa disconnect box to cycle power on the element for two reasons:
* Safety - opening the box exposes hot condutors close to where you have to reach to turn on/off the breaker.
* Added wear on an expensive GFCI breaker leading to early failure
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Old 11-09-2010, 07:46 PM   #20
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Quote:
I have heard that some older model 2 wire + ground dryers which used 120 volts for low current control circuitry used the ground wire as a "neutral" for this purpose (I think this is no longer allowed). If the OP has one of these dryers, it would certainly trip the GFCI, even if there is nothing wrong with the dryer.
True - If it's got 120v devices it'll trip the GFCI.

Quote:
I advise against using the GFCI breaker in the spa disconnect box to cycle power on the element for two reasons:
* Safety - opening the box exposes hot condutors close to where you have to reach to turn on/off the breaker.
* Added wear on an expensive GFCI breaker leading to early failure
Spa panels are the disconnect for a hot tub. Clearly it's not a great idea to sit there and flip a breaker on and off really fast. But a "Spa disconnect" is just that - A disconnect.
And opening a spa panel to access the breaker is no more dangerous than opening the door on your main panel at home. All the shiny parts are well protected...

We all know that it's a bad idea to use a GFCI this way. It's not particularly dangerous, though IMO, unless you're hands are dripping with wart and you're standing in a pile of water.

Electric rigs are inherently dangerous. It's a lot of power to try to fry yourself with. So are the 20 pound tanks of explosive gas we keep 6 inches under our barbecue grills. Risks can be mitigated with proper procedures, even in the lack of proper equipment.
If someone asked me if they could plumb a gas rig with copper pipe, the answer would be yes. Because they can. Doesn't make it a good idea, however, and I think we've made that abundantly clear to OP...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecnerwal View Post
What does the primary pressure gauge on the tank tell us? That's right, the temperature. Put it on a scale if you want to know how much is in it...
Put some duct tape over the gauge - Or better yet - Replace the high pressure gauge with a plug - High pressure gauges are useless!
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