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I noticed my pond aerator was connected with a standard breaker and swapped it out for a GFCI breaker. Now, when connected to the circuit, it always trips. When disconnected it does not trip.

My circuit...

  • Double pole GFCI breaker is connected to black and white conductors with Ground conductor to ground bar. Pigtail from breaker to neutral bar.

  • All conductors go to a simple Tork 1101 timer... the first conductor is connected to the power side of the timer. The 2nd conductor is connected to one leg of the pump. The ground conductor is connected to the ground of the pump. The switched side of the timer goes to the second leg of the pump. There is an individual neutral attached to the other leg of the timer.

Why does it always trip and how do I fix it???

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  • Find the bit with the fault. You fitted a device designed to detect faults and it has done what it is designed to do and found one, it does not have an idiot display telling you the answer... but start logically one part at a time.
    – Solar Mike
    May 15 at 19:12
  • When the breaker is connected directly to the pump (without the timer) it works fine. I believe something with how the timer is connected is causing the fault. The same setup with the non-GFCI breaker worked fine. Maybe something with the neutral brought to the timer from a different panel? How would I detect what is causing the fault? May 15 at 19:27
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Your use of GFCI is highly correct

Electric-shock drownings are an epidemic in the U.S. This is when someone goes dockside, or to a pond, or in a fountain, and is shocked by leakage current. Often, this takes out their rescuers, too, in a tragic daisy chain until a rescuer arrives who realizes this is an elecricity problem AND has rubberized waders OR knows how to shut off the power. By this time, the people in the water have drowned.

So you are absolutely correct to get this under GFCI protection. As it happens, your GFCI immediately tripped because you do, in fact, have a ground fault. I suspect you had always been one simple "loose wire" away from catastrophe, but now you have caught that.

The GFCI-end wiring is correct. The only error is that 240V is supplied as 2 hot wires, and since you are tasking the white wire to carry "hot", you MUST re-mark it a hot color - black is fine. Spiral of electrical tape, sharpie, shrink tube... whatever. In reverse order of durability.

Bootlegging neutral for the timer, not so correct

Neutral is not ground. That is an axiom you must memorize. Neutral and ground must be kept separate at all points past the main disconnect switch (typically main breaker).

The timer you specified is a 120V timer. Here's how it was already wired:

  • Timer ground to ground
  • Timer HOT to one of the two hot wires that provide the 240V
  • Timer NEUTRAL to ?????? (you did not say)

Most of us know what was done. Neutral does not exist in the box since you are using the /2 cable for both hot wires.... so timer NEUTRAL was bootlegged off safety ground. That will "work" as long as nothing goes wrong. If something goes wrong, it will electrify the timer chassis, and the water, and everything connected to the water. So... bad plan.

It's tripping the GFCI because the timer's current is coming off a hot and being returned to ground.

You are at an impasse.

To continue using this model of timer, you will either need to trench /3 cable from the house (no thanks), or install a transformer to provide a locally derived service here (and have the inspector approve that). It can be quite small - just a few watts as it only needs to power the timer motor.

Or, you can replace this timer with a 240V model which draws hot and hot, and does not need neutral.

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  • Thank you so much for the great answer. Fortunately this pump is not in the water, but potentially dangerous none the less. Will a Tork DTU40 suffice? It seems correct to me. But I'm no expert. This video seems to indicate 2 hots... youtu.be/5CnaDc5ap5o May 15 at 20:24
  • Yes the DTU40 seems to be appropriate. It supports a 240V pump up to 2 HP.
    – longneck
    May 15 at 20:51
  • Thank you all so much. DTU40 has been ordered!! May 15 at 21:19
  • Yeah really, any timer will work as long as it's 240V... even a different model of Tork 1101. They make a 277V version, so I'm sure they make a 240V one. May 16 at 1:44

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