Hot Tub Wiring
Owning a hot tub is a wonderful chance to relax, unwind and forget about the anxieties of life. However, you need the hot tub fully installed and ready to use first!
Quite often when people look at the wiring specifications, it seems extremely complicated, and as a result, can seem like a daunting task.
This article will clarify the ins and outs of wiring a hot tub. By the end of this article, you will understand exactly what needs to be done in order to get your new hot tub properly set up.
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Before You Start
Before you start getting everything together to wire a hot tub, and before you even buy the hot tub, you should check the specific hot tub electrical requirements so you know exactly what kind of installation will be required. Another great step to take is to first check your home's voltage to determine what type of hot tub will work in your space.
For example, if you were to purchase a plug-and-play hot tub then you wouldn't have to worry about wiring at all, since these hot tubs have a 120-volt power requirement and can plug directly into a normal outlet.
However, you might have your eye on a more luxurious hot tub that has 220, 230, or 240-volt power requirements. These need to be wired directly to your breaker. This is what we will mainly focus on because this is where a little know-how can go a long way.
Who Should Do The Wiring?
Though we'll be walking you through the hot tub installation process of wiring it up to your breaker, it should be noted that this kind of electrical work should only be performed by an experienced and licensed electrician within your local area.
When it comes to hot tubs, many tasks can be undertaken by the homeowner, but when it comes to electricity there is no messing around. A rookie mistake could lead to fire, injury, or even death.
Additionally, different areas have varying laws and regulations regarding hot tubs that have to be followed. If your hot tub is not installed up to code then this can cause an array of problems down the line. Along this same line of thought, you should also contact your local code enforcement agency to make sure you get all the correct permissions, etc. before you install your hot tub.
Hot Tub Wiring Terms And Components
For those not familiar with how home electrics work, we'll go over some basic components that your hot tub wiring will include and need. That way, when we talk about them you will know exactly what we are referring to.
If you were to go with a plug-and-play option you would need a normal power outlet to connect it to. However, even the regulations for a wired hot tub dictate that you would legally need to install an additional power outlet that is not connected up to the spa itself. This can be installed 10-20 feet away from your hot tub.
This is the box that will have a swinging door and will contain your circuit breaker. However different panels have different interior components and abilities so you need to make sure that your service panel has the capability to connect up to your 220-240 volt breaker and that it has enough current to support your hot tub's power requirements.
A circuit breaker is something that all wired hot tubs except the plug and play options will require. You will need to add a separate circuit breaker on your electrical breaker panel for your hot tub and it will need to run dedicated power to your cozy little spa investment.
Your licensed electrician should be able to tell you which breaker you need but you should make sure that it matches up with the size of your service panel or you will have to buy one of them again.
GFCI Shut Off Box
GFCIBreaker stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. Though codes can vary from state to state the national code dictates that every spa must have a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt). This is a device that works as an emergency shut-off to your electrical system connecting to the spa.
However, this is not the only requirement. You also need to add a secondary backup in case the GFCI fails to shut it down. This is where the GFCI shut-off box comes into play. This countermeasure should be installed at least 5-6 feet away from the hot tub.
The hot tub wiring you go with will depend on the electrical current that will be passing through it. Smaller wires tend to be slightly more hazardous, can be more likely to start a fire, and can also cause some damage to your hot tub components. Therefore, larger wires are preferable.
You should also be careful to make sure that you or your electrician are not using aluminum wire. Instead, a fairly decent option would be 6-AWG copper wiring.
A conduit is a pipe that will have your hot tub electrics run through it and will protect the electrics from the water and other exterior elements. Not all hot tubs require an indoor and outdoor conduit but the majority of those that are used outdoors will need it.
It is usually recommended that if your ground wire is longer than 6 feet then you should use a non-metallic conduit as opposed to an intermediate metal conduit.
Some areas have strict laws regarding the material of your conduit so this should also be checked with your local enforcement agency before you purchase it. They should also be able to let you know how far down it needs to be buried and any other rules or codes that you need to follow.
Installing The Hot Tub Wiring
As with any electrical work, the first and most important thing to do when wiring a hot tub outdoors is to turn your home power supply off. Make sure that there is no active current before you go in and start moving things around.
Once you have checked your home electrical requirements and know that it can handle the load, you can install your service panel up to 5
feet away from your hot tub. This will be essential to avoid false tripping which is what can happen when you install your GFCI straight to the spa. Follow your local guidelines until this step is complete.
Next, dig a trench at the correct local code depth so that you will be able to place your conduit inside it. Be careful to avoid any other pipelines or electrical cables while digging.
Once the conduit is in, you can run the main wiring through it which is much easier when assisted by a second person to push/pull from one end. If wiring from indoors, you should drill through the wall and it should connect close to your electrical breaker panel.
It is important to note that your breaker panel, spa panel, and trench should also have Conduit covering for complete protection and you can use LB fittings to connect to indoor conduits as well as sweep fittings for lesser curves.
A lot can go wrong here, so we recommend following each step in order for the best results.
First get both your red and black load wiring and link them up to the circuit breaker.
Find the white-neutral and green ground wires and attach them to the neutral service bar.
Connect up your 4-wire (1 ground, 1 neutral, 2 hot) through a conduit and directly to your GFCI breaker box.
On the GFCI breaker, you should connect up the black load wire to "line in 1" and the red load wires will then go to the "line in 2".
The green ground wire and white wires mentioned previously now need to be connected up to the GFCI. The white neutral connects to the neutral GFCI bar and the green ground wire attaches up to the bus bar.
You should use your white pigtail left over to connect to the neutral bar within the GFCI.
Note: If you have a 240-volt system then the black and red wires need to be connected from the grounding bus bar to load out 2 & 1.
Now that everything is connected, give it a good review. Make sure there are no hazards, no loose wires, nothing exposed, and nothing incorrectly placed. Once you have done that you can rest easy knowing that it's all done correctly and safely in accordance with your local codes.
Hot Tub Wiring Mistakes
Though we may try our best, none of us are perfect. Any of us could easily make a simple mistake when it comes to wired hot tubs. Even your electrician might fall victim to some of these errors. To help you avoid them we are going to highlight some of the most common mistakes that can be easily avoided.
Emergency Shutoff Faults
Some people simply forget or ignore the requirement to have an emergency shutoff just as they sometimes ignore the GFCI requirement. However, this is 100% necessary and should be at least 5 feet away from your hot tub.
Conduit Pipe Mistakes
When digging a trench for a conduit some people go ahead and just dig it without checking with the local authorities and their guidelines first. This can result in hitting plumbing pipes, other electrical sources, gas lines, and more. It also means that they might place all their piping in and then realize that they have to dig the hole 6 inches deeper which is a lot of work that could be easily avoided by checking with the local enforcement agency before you start.
Bonding & Waterproofing
The cause of constant breaker trips is poor bonding or waterproofing of the electrical components. Everything needs to be weatherproofed and protected from moisture.
Slight dampness exposure could cause shorts and errors but more serious cases could include electric shocks or electrocutions. Remember that electrics don't mix well with water and these electrics are going to be around a lot of it.
Make sure your hot tub is grounded at all times. This way the hot tub electricals will always be rooted to the ground in case of an emergency. A lot of electric glitches and surges are a result of improper or lack of grounding, so it's something to take seriously to ensure the long-term survival and functionality of your spa.
Natural gas hot tubs are a popular alternative. They have their own set of pros and cons and are worth considering. See our natural gas hot tub vs electric guide to help you decide.
Conclusion - How To Wire a Hot Tub Safely
Now comes the fun part. You can turn your power supply back on. However, don't forget to also turn on your brand new breaker you installed, or it simply will not work.
Once wired, you get to enjoy all the relaxation and hydrotherapy benefits that a hot tub can bring. Although more work is involved initially when wiring a hot tub, as opposed to the plug-and-play option, there is a major advantage. You can heat up your spa in a much quicker time frame, ideal for those that want a last-minute dip.
It also is a better option for those that live in colder climates. Sometimes the smaller 110-volt plug-and-play spas simply lack the necessary power to counteract the weather. Since you put in the effort to get a wired version that is between 220-240 volts, you can enjoy your hot tub no matter the climate.
Make sure to read up on the National Electrical Code before starting on your wired hot tub. The National Electrical Code will provide you with information surrounding wired hot tubs and all you need to know about working safely.
Note: For those not feeling confident in doing this type of electrical work themselves, hiring a professional is the best alternative route. To get connected with experienced licensed electricians, simply fill out the form provided below. It's completely free.
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About The Author
Bobby Gifford // Staff Writer
Bobby Gifford has over 17 years of experience with hot tubs and swimming pools. He has owned one pool and several hot tub brands over the years and has a wide scope of knowledge including buying information, maintenance and industry trends.