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Spa Circuit Breaker Mysteriously Tripping - Any Clues?


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I have a 2000 model Sweetwater Palermo 200 volt spa made by Sundance. I purchased it new and have had it running now at the same location with no changes made to it since 2000. It's been a great spa with only a few repairs needed over the years.

However, something puzzling just started to happen during the last couple weeks. 3 times for no apparent reason, the circuit breaker for the spa has tripped. The spa runs on its own dedicated 200 volt line and has an outdoor GFI installed. Nobody has gone near that to touch it nor the indoor circuit panel to "accidentally" pull the circuit.

I can't figure out why the circuit is randomly tripping. It's only happened 3 times in the last 3 weeks, but being that I live in Pennsylvania and the winter, cold, dampness and snow has arrived and will be here for a while, it's not the best time to have problems with the power shutting off. This is the first time I've had any tripping issues in the 12 years I've had the spa.

One other thing I noticed that just started to happen randomly as well is sometimes (maybe once out of every 20 times), when I push one of the buttons on the control panel (either for low jets or the other motor for high jets) the lights on the control panel (the ones that show the temperature, motor 1, motor 2, heat, and lighting) flash on and off for just a second. Could the control panel being going south on me and causing issues? (This is the kidney shaped decorative panel users use to control the jets, heat, and the temperature display).

Anybody have any ideas what the problem could be? My husband thinks it's probably the power company doing something at their end and since the circuit is so sensitive, it just trips. Could that be the issue? Any suggestions on how to prevent this from happening?

Thanks for your comments.

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Gfci's trip on leakage current.

There maybe an internal problem with the electrical on the tub or the gfci may be going bad.

I would start by replacing the gfci. If it still trips, there is an electrical issue with the tub.

I am a master electrician in northeast pa.

Let me know if there is anyhing else you need.

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My spa would trip after starting to run for about 10 seconds or so. My blower went bad and when it was plugged in it would cause the gfci to trip. I unplugged the blower from the power panel and havn't had a problem since. I don't know if this could even be remotely close for you but this is what happened to me.

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It's ALWAYS better to actually test things, to determine what the actual cause is, than just guessing and blindly replacing parts. I can't even begin to count the number of people that, while trying to save $100 service call charge, just start replacing parts, to the tune of $500+, only to eventually find the cause of the problem was a $50 part, that any qualified tech could have diagnosed and replaced in under 10 minutes.

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It's ALWAYS better to actually test things, to determine what the actual cause is, than just guessing and blindly replacing parts. I can't even begin to count the number of people that, while trying to save $100 service call charge, just start replacing parts, to the tune of $500+, only to eventually find the cause of the problem was a $50 part, that any qualified tech could have diagnosed and replaced in under 10 minutes.

The service guy I called about my problem offered to help me over the phone, he said the best thing to do is what Dr. Spa said, try testing all the items I first tried the pump 1 then pump 2 heater so on and so forth until I confirmed it was the blower he saved me alot of money.

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Thanks everyone for the advice. The problem with the circuit breaker tripping is so strange to me since I've had this spa for so many years with no problems. Recently I replaced the ozonator and high-speed pump and a few years back had the circulation pump replaced. I've never had an issue with the circuit breaker in the house tripping, so this does have me concerned. I'm just not sure how to tell what the issue is - in this day and age of scams, I don't know who to trust. Since it is an intermittant issue, I don't know if it's an electrical issue or a spa issue.

To add a little to my original post, in August I replaced the bulb and fuse for the ozonator. It seems to run fine and I never had a problem with the indoor circuit breaker tripping. In October, I replaced the high speed pump and did a water change in December. Even then, still no indoor circuit breaker tripping issue. The tripping of the indoor circuit breaker just started up in January and only did it about 4 times. Each time it tripped, the spa was not in use, but I do have the circulation pump set to run every 6 hours. I keep the temperature set at 97 and it has never gone above that.

The filter is a new clean filter and the spa is only used 2 or 3 times a week by one person. I do, however, keep the water on the high level. I read somewhere that if water is kept high in the spa, it can flow back toward the ozonator and cause tripping issues. Does this sound possible or true?

On a rare occasion, when sitting in the spa and I first turn on the high speed pump, the lights and display on the spa's control panel blink off for about 1/2 second, then come on again. I get no error messages displayed. Then, after 20 minutes of the high speed pump running, if I turn it back on again after it shuts off, there is no blinking of the lights on the control panel. It acts normally.

I've tried to notice when the indoor circuit breaker trips, but being in PA, it's been cold all month and snowy/freezing rain, so it's hard to tell if it's a weather related matter.

As money is tight, I don't mind calling the spa tech on this, but I'd like to try to troubleshoot the issue if possible to save where I can. Also, if this is something that can be a matter of 5 or 6 things causing it, the more I eliminate, wouldn't it be better then to call the tech with a narrowed down list?

Thanks everyone for your help.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's pretty rare for it to be the GFCI, most commonly it is the heater element. In the case of a blower tripping it, it is due to the check valve in the blower line failing and water getting into the blower.

I would disconnect both heater leads and run the spa for a couple of days and see if it trips.

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It sounds like the GFCI is not tripping, but the circuit breaker in the house that feeds the GFCI breaker is tripping.

Circuit breakers can go bad and regular circuit breakers are not expensive. The first thing I'd do would be to change out the circuit breaker.

The GFCI breaker should be rated for a lower current than the breaker that feeds it, if it were a problem with the spa, the GFCI breaker would be tripping, not the breaker feeding the GFCI.

Dave

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First be specific, it it the inner house breaker tripping, or the external GFCI breaker?

If it is the internal breaker, it is likely the breaker, and could be caused by poor connections (consequently the power fluctuations) at the breaker and/or undersized wire.

If you have never changed a 240 volt breaker, don't start now, get an electrician to do it, doing it poorly can kill you.

If it is the external GFI breaker tripping, it is highly unlikely it is the breaker, it is most likely a heater element, blower (if you have one) or the ozonator.

If it is the external GFI breaker tripping, unplug your ozonator and blower - follow the wire from these devices back to the control panel and disconnect them.

Playing "parts roulette" by randomly replacing things without diagnosing the problem leads to wasted money -- unless you feel lucky.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone - thanks for the responses. I guess I need to explain a little further and why this is so confusing to me. The Sweetwater (by Sundance) Palermo spa is from 2000. I've always had it running and never shut down except for water changes and minor repairs that just come with age (all done by authorized Sundance repairman).

The spa has an outdoor cut off for the power which isn't a GFCI with a pop-type switch as in other GFCI outlets. The one I have is a metal box where the power lines runs into it and it is mounted on the brick on the outside of my house. When you lift the lid of the metal box, there's a copper plate with a plastic handle. When you pull this completely out of the box, the power is cut to the spa.

In addition, my indoor circuit breaker box for my house's electric service has a GFCI breaker included in the box (down at the bottom of the box). This is where the problem is occuring and only randomly with no set pattern. I've never had this indoor breaker pop since I've had the spa for 12 years. Recent repairs to the spa were a new light bulb for the original Sundance ozonator (replaced in September of 2012) and a new 2-speed original Sundance motor/pump (replaced in October 2012), by Sundance repairman. The spa ran well for 3 months, with the ozonator, 2 speed motor/pump, 1-speed circulation pump, and heater all running at the same time and no problems at all.

Then in January 2013, once a week for 3 weeks in a row, the indoor breaker popped. We reset the breaker and all was fine each time. We did nothing different to the spa nor the electrical service to the house. Throughout February, we had no issues at all. Then this past Friday, the indoor breaker popped again for no reason.

What is confusing me is why does this do it randomly? If it were something wrong with the spa (like a ozonator, heater, blower, etc.), wouldn't it happen all the time? Why would it run fine for 3 weeks then one day pop the breaker, then run again fine for another week or two before popping again? If it were the indoor GFCI, wouldn't it just break and not work versus working part of the time? I'm not an electrician or versed in spa repair, but from the responses I've received, it seems like it could be a bunch of different things, one of which (the indoor GFCI) isn't even related to the spa repairman. I don't mind calling out the repairman for service, but I hate to see him coming 3 or 4 times and replacing various parts and then going 3 or 4 weeks with no problems, then having it blow the circuit breaker again. I guess my problem is that the repairman can replace something and the spa runs great for 3 or 4 weeks, then it starts acting up again.

This all just has me really confused, so I hope I explained it further to all of you to help narrow down why this might be happening. Thanks for all of your suggestions and ideas.

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It sounds like you need an electrician rather than a spa tech. Your indoor GFCI may be bad and is just tripping randomly, they do go bad.

Dave

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A heater element in the early stages of failure from corrosion will cause inconsistant and apparently random GFI trips.

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