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I recently replaced my sump pump in one of my two sump pits. To comply with codes, I replaced the outlet with a GFCI type outlet. Unfortunately, once I turn the power back on, the GFCI trips immediately. I eventually gave up and put the single 20amp receptacle back and the pump is working fine.

I've done some searching online and couldn't seem to get a consistent answer. Is this a sign that there is a fault with the pump? Is the nature of a sump pump such that some current will leak to ground? Ultimately, is it safe to use a single, dedicated receptacle in this application? Finally, do local codes even account for this circumstance?

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Have you checked the pump for a ground-fault? –  Tester101 Oct 19 '13 at 12:21
    
Does the outlet trip when you plug anything else into it? –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Oct 19 '13 at 17:51
    
@BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft - yes. When the GFCI was still installed, I plugged a treadmill into it with no issue. –  SBerg413 Oct 19 '13 at 17:54
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If the leakage exists between hot wire and water, in the event of a flood the pump is working on, the water itself could be hit with line voltage. Stepping in such water can make you part of the electrical paths to ground, especially if you touch others things that are better grounded. So it is better to determine the cause of the fault before defeating the safety. –  Skaperen Oct 19 '13 at 21:22
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1 Answer

up vote 4 down vote accepted

There used to be an exception to the code, that said that a sump pump didn't have to be on a GFCI if it was on a dedicated circuit, and it was connected using a single receptacle*. And by "single receptacle" they meant a non-duplex receptacle. One like this...

enter image description here

With that said, "officially" there should be no problem with having a sump pump on a GFCI circuit. Unofficially, there are sometimes problems with sump pumps on GFCI circuits. The manufacturers are supposed to reduce or eliminate any leakage current, However, nobody sent the memo to manufacturers so they don't always get it right. Because of this, you may find that a sump pump does trip a GFCI from time to time.

If the GFCI was tripping every time, and immediately. You'll want to first verify that:

  • There is not a ground-fault in the sump pump.
  • The GFCI wiring is correct.
  • The GFCI is not faulty.
  • The GFCI was manufactured within the past 3-4 years.
  • The GFCI is rated for the proper current draw.
  • The circuit wiring is correct.

If all of this checks out, you may wan to consider using a single receptacle to connect the sump pump. While it's not up to code, a slight electric shock hazard may be preferable to a flooded house. Though a house flooded with electrified water, might not be the best thing ever.

WARNING:

It is not safe, or up to current code to install a sump pump using a non-GFCI receptacle. And I am not telling you to do so.

I will say that a sump pump installation does not require the circuit to which the pump is connected to be upgraded, if the pump is connected to the circuit in a cord and plug configuration.

*citation needed

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thanks for this thorough answer. This info seems to match up with other info I've found online and from questions that I asked an electrician neighbor of mine. The brand of pump I purchased is a Zoeller, which was recommended to me "off the record" from the tech from the french drains installer. It doesn't exactly look high-tech, but they're supposed to last forever. The pump is on a dedicated circuit with the proper single receptacle. I used a circuit tester, which checked out OK. The GFCI was brand new. I'm going to go back and double check all of this. –  SBerg413 Oct 19 '13 at 13:32
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Zoeller is a good brand. However a pump that trips a properly working GFCI immediately is defective. Check: do both your pumps trip the GFCI? That said many installers won't place a GFCI on a sump for a different reason: condensation & moisture. There's a safety tradeoff: the GFCI protects anyone working in the wet area. The sump protects the house against mold and damage. Which is more important? Myself I'd rather be careful to turn the circuit off when working on the sump, rather than risk needing to enter a completely flooded basement because a needless GFCI trip. –  Bryce Oct 19 '13 at 18:01
    
@Bryce - that is an excellent point. –  SBerg413 Oct 19 '13 at 18:04
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