Hot tub safety knowledge is crucial for any hot tub owner, and understanding how spa disconnects work is one of the first pieces of information you should learn to feel comfortable with.
Today, we're going to explain everything you need to know in our easy to understand guide.
What Is A Hot Tub Disconnect?
Hot tub disconnects are small breaker boxes that you will typically find around five to six feet from the edge of the hot tub.
Within the disconnect, you fill find a breaker, which provides you with the ability to cut the power quickly in case of emergency.
A disconnect is also what we refer to as a "GFCI breaker," which can cut the power in case there is any danger or error. IF you have a 220v hot tub model, then having a disconnect is a necessity.
In terms of electrical specifications for hot tubs, you will either be dealing with a 220v model or a 110v model. 110v models, otherwise known as plug and play hot tub models, simply connect into any standard outlet in your home. You can plug it in the same place where you would plug in a lamp or your television.
For 110v hot tub models that come with a box, you will find it within 50' of the unit at the least, as many codes require them to be close by.
220v hot tub models, which are the most common hot tub models around, will require some additional electrical modification for them to work. The power line for the hot tub will not run to the breaker panel directly. Rather, you will have to get a special, exclusive breaker panel that you only use for the hot tub.
The disconnect is the small breaker panel, which you will typically find placed pretty close to your hot tub, though far enough away that you won't splash it. A line will then run from that disconnect panel to your main breaker panel outdoors.
We like to think of the disconnect as an in-between point for your home's outdoor breaker panel and the electrical system for your hot tub. A line will come out of this small disconnect box to your hot tub, while another line will run to your home's breaker.
Within the disconnect, you will find breakers that are made very specifically for your spa.
These breakers are made to cut the power for your hot tub very quickly if necessary. However, your breaker that is within your panel will also have a GFCI, otherwise known as a ground fault circuit interrupter.
The GFCI is simply a larger version of your outlets that you probably have around your bathroom sinks or kitchen appliances. On the box, you will find a built-in breaker and a little reset button. If water comes into contact with the breaker, it will shut itself off.
Do note that a GFCI circuit breaker will cut the power automatically if there is a ground fault occurrence. In the case of having a hot tub, you might have water that splashes on your panel. However, there could also end up being a small leak on the underside of your hot tub that makes its way over to the disconnect.
Because your 220v hot tub draws more power than a 110v hot tub, the water can heat up much faster as well. This additional power allows you to use special features on your hot tub, such as speakers and lighting, all while running your jets at high speeds.
With your hot tub disconnect, you can disconnect your hot tub from your home's main power supply easily.
Does Your Hot Tub Require A Disconnect?
Having a disconnect for a hot tub is not completely necessary. This is true if you have a 110v hot tub. However, if you are someone that has a standard 220v hot tub model, then you will need to get a spa disconnect. Most spa disconnect units will come in capacities of either 50 amp or 60 amp.
If you have a hot tub with a large capacity, such as a seven-person model, or a hot tub that has more than one heater in it, you may need to get a disconnect with higher amperage.
However, for most hot tub models out there, a disconnect with a 50 amp capacity should get the job done. It is crucial that you take a look at your spa owner's manual so you know what your specific hot tub model requires.
How Far Should I Place My Hot Tub From The Circuit Breaker?
Remember, hot tubs require very particular electrical setups. A disconnect, according to the National Electrical Code, should sit within five feet of the hot tub.
Because hot tubs eventually require maintenance, having the breaker within close proximity is very important.
While you can have your disconnect be a breaker, it isn't a necessity. You can also get a switch if you'd like, though more often than not, a disconnect is a breaker. If you place it within five feet of your hot tub, you will fulfill requirements from the NEC.
As for how you place your breaker, as long as it is within five feet of your hot tub, there aren't any specific regulations. Of course, to be safe, you might want to check out the code for your particular city, as different cities and states have different code regulations. You may even consider getting in contact with your local electrician, as they should be able to tell you more about your local laws.
Can I Install A 240v Outlet Without A Permit?
No. You need a permit to install a 240v outlet in most cases.
Of course, as we said before, it is important that you check your local laws and regulations, as there might be some local areas where a permit is not required.
There are different permitting rules and regulations all over the United States, which is why we always recommend checking prior to performing any hot tub installation process. Even if you get in contact with a local licensed electrician and they tell you you don't need a permit, you should double-check to make sure.
Wiring A Hot Tub Disconnect
Before you start wiring your own hot tub disconnect, make sure to get in touch with a local electrician to make sure that are able to do it. Prior to getting in your hot tub, it is very important that you have all of the wiring checked.
As you probably already know, electrical power and water don't mesh together very well. It is important that you make sure to never fill a hot tub until you have finished wiring and inspecting it.
While we're going to provide you with simple steps to installing your hot tub disconnect, if you are not comfortable doing it and you're not a licensed electrician, we advise you not to do this yourself.
#1 Turn Off The Power
Start by turning the power off on your main circuit breaker.
#2 Mount Your Hot Tub Panel
Using the manual that came with your hot tub, mount your panel so that it is further than five feet from where you've placed your hot tub.
#3 Dig Your Conduit Trench
Before digging your conduit trench, look up local laws to see what the recommended depth is.
You'll also want to get in touch with your local utility company so that you don't actually dig into some pipes or cables in the ground.
Most conduit trenches are around eighteen inches deep in the ground.
Carefully run your conduit in the trench and connect it to your panels.
#4 Pull Your Wires
We recommend using copper wire with THHN. Whatever you do, we recommend avoiding aluminum wires at all costs.
To pull the wires from your hot tub panel, use fish tape. Leave around six inches of additional wire hanging outside of your spa panel. Take these wires and push them through your LB fitting to your home's circuit breaker panel.
#5 Wire Your Hot Tub Disconnect
Attach the black, white, and red wires to the bottom of your GFCI breaker before attaching the green wire to your ground bar.
Next, attach the wires from your breaker panel before attaching the red and black wires to your breaker. You must also make sure that the white wire is attached to the line neutral bar and the green wire is attached to the ground bar.
#6 Wire Your Hot Tub Control Panel
Use the wire coming from your hot tub disconnect and wire them to the wire to your hot tub control panel.
#7 Wire Your Disconnect To The Main Breaker Panel
Make sure that you have the main breaker off before wiring your disconnect, as there will be power running through your wire. Attach the red wire and black wire to the 240v GFCI circuit breaker.
Once you are done, make sure that you have a professional come out and inspect your hot tub.