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Old 03-16-2010, 02:44 AM   #1
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Default Heating Elements and GFCI

My HLT and BK each have standard 240v 4500w elements attached to 3 wire dryer cord (two hots to the element, ground to the keggle). I had an electrician over to add a 240v outlet near my brewstand, and asked him to put in a 30A GFCI breaker in the panel, upstream. He said, yeah sure, but without a neutral, the GFCI won't do you any good. Based on my (minimal) understanding of GFCI breakers, he's right.

So, my question is, if that's the case, why does everyone seem to feel that a GFCI breaker is helpful in a setup like this?

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Old 03-16-2010, 02:54 AM   #2
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peace of mind I believe I just talked to a Electrician Company Owner today that is a customer of mine he said its pointless.. after I get My controller he said he would show me how the correct way to wire it up using 2 circuits a 120v and 220v for the element.. no gfci and safe.
I'll post a diagram after I see how its done right, might be a week

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Old 03-16-2010, 02:57 AM   #3
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Thanks Hank9, I'll look forward to seeing your diagram!

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Old 03-16-2010, 03:39 AM   #4
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It is my understanding that if the current on the 2 hot legs of a 220v GFCI breaker aren't equal that it trips. The only way (I think) to trip a non-GFCI breaker would be to exceed its rated current... So I'm guessing that a non-GFCI breaker would trip once it exceeded its rated current to ground, hopefully not in a path through you.

They must be required in wet areas for a reason I would think.

I'm not an electrician, but I have a deep respect for the dangers of electricity.

I found this here... and it sounds correct to me:

GFCI protection works on detecting any current that does not return through
its intended path. With a single pole breaker, this means measuring the
current through the hot and the neutral to detect a difference. With a two
pole breaker, current in one hot must return through either the other hot,
or the neutral, or split between the two. GFCI protection involves measuring
all three to make sure everything works out even.


I really don't think that skipping GFCI is the best place to pinch pennies on a project involving large amounts of liquid and electricity.

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Old 03-16-2010, 04:13 AM   #5
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Both of you need new electricians. Because either they want to kill you, or they do not know much about GFCI.

You do NOT need a neutral for a GFCI to work

YOU CANNOT get the same protection as a GFCI, without a GFCI

This is a scary thread.

Good luck!

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Old 03-16-2010, 04:28 AM   #6
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I bought my house in 2000, from a guy who's brother is an electrician. The electrician brother did a lot of half-assed stuff in this house that wasn't up to code. He installed the hot tub on a non-GFCI circuit.

I was left to think that some electricians get a little overly cocky when it comes to electrical safety. Surely not all, but any electrician who views GFCI as "peace of mind" would fall in to that category in my book. You don't read a lot about people being killed by standard household electrical current, but it happens quite a bit.
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Old 03-16-2010, 04:35 AM   #7
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This is just amazing to me, it is like a train wreck. I hope they both get new electricians.

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Old 03-16-2010, 06:02 AM   #8
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How a GFCI works:

http://www.codecheck.com/cc/gfci_principal.htm

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Old 03-16-2010, 10:41 AM   #9
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**I'm not an electrician** You should only believe the first line after this:
Install the GFCI.

In the above link, regarding 220v GFCI function, it says:
"GFCIs for 220 VAC applications need to monitor both Hots as well as the Neutral. The principles are basically the same: the sum of the currents in Hot1 + Hot2 + Neutral should be zero unless a fault exists.

To detect a grounded neutral fault, a separate drive coil is continuously energized and injects a small 120 Hz signal into the current carrying conductors. If a low resistance path exists between N and G downstream of the GFCI, this completes a loop (in conjunction with the normal connection between N and G at the service panel) and enough current flows to again trip the GFCI's internal circuit breaker."
You can also reference the WIKI Here:

From my research:
On a 3 wire 240v circuit, the GFCI measures H1 + H2, and compares it to Neutral. That's why it won't trip when you have 15 amps on one leg and 20 amps on the other.
If you touch H1 and Neutral, you'll add to that load. H1 + H2 - Neutral still = 0, and the GFCI May not trip. This is bad

THIS is the important part:
If your body is the short between H1 OR H2 to GROUND (This is Earth! Or you touch anything - grounded metal/conduit/shelf/anything else near your rig), you cause a ground fault. Even on a 3-wire 240 circuit. The GFCI trips. This could save your life, and for that alone it's worth installing one.

Just do it.

I can see the eulogy... "He spent $2187 on the brew rig, and $7 on the breaker"

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Last edited by SweetSounds; 03-16-2010 at 10:48 AM.
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Old 03-16-2010, 02:23 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone for your resoponses. Just want to make one thing clear: I'm not trying to save $$$ by not putting in a GFCI breaker. I take safety very seriously. My concern is that, if a neutral is required for a GFCI to work, adding one to my setup would simply provide a false sense of security, which is dangerous in and of itself. If a GFCI will work with a three-wire setup, I will definitely put one in.

I discussed this at length with my electrician, to make sure I understood what he was saying. He actually called another electrician in his office to double check his knowledge, and they both agreed. Given your responses, I'm going to continue to research this, though.

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