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7 Reasons Your Hot Tub Is Tripping the Breaker

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You want to enjoy a relaxing soak in your hot, bubbling spa. But when you turn it on, nothing happens. If there’s no power coming to your hot tub, chances are good your ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breaker tripped. Since you’re reading this post, you may have already experienced a flipped breaker only to have it trip again soon after.

Don’t panic. A hot tub tripping a breaker isn’t an uncommon problem, and the potential causes are pretty easy to spot. You just have to know what to look for and where to look for it. Once you identify the problem, you may be surprised at how simple the fix is. A few repairs may require a professional touch, but that will depend on your electrical skill level.

Is It Really My Hot Tub Tripping the Breaker?

Near your hot tub, inside a metal box probably attached to the side of your house, is your hot tub GFCI breaker. It’s a black plastic switch which automatically flips when it experiences an electrical surge.

When the switch flips, it interrupts the electrical circuit, breaking conduction so no more electricity can pass through. In short (no pun intended), it prevents you from being electrocuted in your hot tub when someone has a few too many margaritas and accidentally knocks your stereo into the water.

Sometimes the breaker flips for reasons that have nothing to do with your radio. These common hot tub problems are pretty easy to troubleshoot on your own. Before you get started, grab a towel and a flashlight. They may make it much easier to find the problem.

Warning: Working with electricity, particularly around water, can be dangerous. Be sure there is no moisture where you’re working, and turn off the power supply when working directly with wiring to limit your risk of electric shock. If you’re not comfortable working with electricity, hire a pro to make the repairs.

1. Worn Hot Tub GFCI Breaker

Probably the most obvious reason your hot tub is tripping the breaker is the thing simply wore out. Age, power surges, and even a nearby lightning strike can render your breaker useless. Fortunately for you, it’s easy to determine whether your breaker is toast.

If you haven’t yet, try flipping it. Does it immediately trip again? If so, a worn or bad breaker could be your problem. To be certain, disconnect everything from the GFCI. Flip it back on. If the breaker trips, even with nothing connected to it, you need to replace the breaker.

2. Mmm Moist

Unfortunately, we’re not talking about moist cake, which would make this whole subject more bearable to discuss. One of the most hated words in the English language could also be the reason your hot tub is tripping the breaker. Pop open the breaker box, shine the flashlight around in there, and see if you find any moisture inside. Rain water, splashout, or flooding can introduce enough dampness to flip a hot tub GFCI.

The solution may be as easy as drying the inside of the breaker box with your towel, turning a fan or dehumidifier on near your outlet, and resetting the breaker once dry.

If the breaker flips even after it appears dry, you may need more extensive troubleshooting. If the breaker is encountering moisture often, you may need to replace the receptacle itself or move it farther from the spa.

3. Corrosion

This is inevitable. You can’t even get away from rust in outer space. It’s worth keeping an eye out for corrosion whenever you service your hot tub in order to limit the possibility of compounding problems.

Corrosion can cause components to malfunction, which could affect your water chemistry or cause further damage when they fail. Just imagine if you went on vacation and your filtration system failed to run per your programming. Ew.

Corrosion can occur near the hot tub GFCI or around spa components themselves. Inspect the breaker box, then inside your spa cabinet for any obvious signs of corrosion. Typically, you’ll see whitish powder or the appearance of rust around component connectors if corrosion is present. Carefully inspect wire connectors, ground wires, the control panel, and anywhere you can can see component wiring.

Repairing corrosion depends on where you’ve found it and how extensive it is. You may be able to clean off corroded connectors with a wire brush or electrical contact cleaner and simply reconnect them. You may need to replace wiring if the corrosion is too extensive. If dripping water is the cause of corrosion, you’ll definitely have to repair a leak inside your spa.

4. Loose or Damaged Wiring

While you’re looking for signs of corrosion, look for other signs of damage to component wiring, such as breaks or char marks. Also check all connections to ensure they’re snug.

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5. Naughty Components

All spas have at least a few electrical components, such as a heater. Even if you have an inflatable hot tub, it still has a control panel and heater.

If your hot tub is especially snazzy, it might also have towel warmers, a sound system, or interior lighting. If any one of your electrical components is misbehaving, it could be why the hot tub is tripping the breaker.

The simplest way to isolate a naughty hot tub component is to disconnect everything you can from the GFCI. Connect each component individually and flip the breaker. When it trips, you’ve got a winner.

Unfortunately, identifying the guilty component is only half the battle. You must also determine how the component is malfunctioning. Is the wiring bad? Did the component overheat? Is it grounded improperly? Is the device completely destroyed? This is more complex troubleshooting and may be best left in the hands of a professional.

6. Bad Heating Element

One of the most likely offending hot tub components is the heating element. Your spa heater assembly is a metal tube that contains a heating coil. The hot tub water passes through the housing to be heated. If the coil isn’t hot, the water won’t heat up. If something is causing the element to malfunction, the hot tub breaker will trip.

7. Flooded Air Blower or Ozonator

Is water flowing back into the air blower or ozonator? Then it’s likely your hot tub is tripping the breaker. You can troubleshoot this issue by disconnecting the blower or ozonator from the breaker and flipping it.

This issue can pop up if your check valve is bad or your hot tub is overfilled. In either case, water makes its way back through the check valve to the blower or ozonator. Drain some water, if necessary, then replace the bad check valve. If the blower is wet, you may also need to replace it.

Get Back to Soaking!

Whether you’ve got a plain Jane, an inflatable spa, or a hot tub that looks and sounds like you’re soaking in a night club, you’ll eventually experience electrical issues. The first sign of electrical problems is often the hot tub tripping the breaker. While it’s inconvenient when the GFCI trips, remember it’s there to protect you. It’s a symptom of a malfunctioning spa, just like a fever is a symptom of illness.

The tripped breaker gives you a starting point to identify and repair electrical problems right away, saving you further repairs and even preventing fire. Even when you can’t make repairs yourself, you’ll now be able to figure out what the probable cause is and maybe save yourself a few dollars hiring a repair professional. And then you can get back to enjoying your hot tub.

Happy Soaking!

Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1995. Since then, his mission is to make pool and hot tub care easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with water chemistry, cleaning, and troubleshooting.

Learn How to Keep Your Hot Tub Clean and Clear All Year

You'll save $100 right away with this easy-to-follow digital ebook and video course. This is the guide that hot tub manufacturer doesn’t provide you.

Click Here to Learn More
The Hot Tub Handbook

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