To GFCI or not to GFCI When Installing a Sump Pump …
Yes, that really is a good question. But first, let’s make sure you all know what I’m talking about when I say “GFCI”. The acronym GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. You’d probably recognize a GFCI protected electrical outlet – it’ll have the little black and red TEST & RESET buttons… The purpose of a GFCI device is to protect people from electrocution. They have very sensitive current monitors, and when any current fails to return to the outlet (such as current that is electrocuting a person), the device trips off almost instantly. Great for protecting people, but not so great at protecting your home when the GFCI outlet trips off for no good reason. Which is exactly what happened to me yesterday!
There is somewhat of a debate over whether or not to use a GFCI outlet for a sump pump. Some would argue that since we’re plugging equipment into an outlet, and that equipment is going to be SUBMERGED IN WATER, that it’s a good idea to have a GFCI to protect someone in case that submerged device has a problem. Many local codes require GFCI outlets in basement mechanical areas, while some prohibit GFCI outlets for sump pumps. Some pump manufacturers recommend using a GFCI outlet, while others recommend against using one. My local plumbing inspector in Gurnee is upset that our codes require GFCI – his personal opinion is that they should be prohibited.
Why is it such an issue? NUISANCE TRIPPING is the reason. GFCI outlets tend to be sensitive, and sometimes they trip off for no apparent reason. I have one in my master bathroom, and about every 20th time I turn off the bathroom lights, I hear a “click” and the GFCI has tripped off. No more lights until I push the reset button! That’s not such a big deal when you’re talking about a bathroom light, but it IS a big deal when you’re talking about the power source for your sump pump equipment!!
The bottom line is, no matter what kind of electrical circuit you have, YOU NEED A BACKUP PUMP SYSTEM! Once again, my trusty Pro Series 2400 battery backup saved the day yesterday. The GFCI tripped off (who knows why), my pump system sensed it, it alerted my home security company, and they called me (I think they’re actually getting tired of all the recent pump alarms, but what can I say, MY SYSTEMS ARE WORKING JUST LIKE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO!) Then, it ran to pump the water out and keep my basement dry. Twice this month, my backup pump system saved me from a flood!
Don’t fall victim to the inevitable failure of your primary sump pump. Make sure you have a good backup system, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from NOT worrying about flooding!