Thermal Reckoning, a Fire in the making...

  1. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Partner Member Article Contributor

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    It might, but it might not. GFCI's work on a very simple premise. They compare the current flowing through the hot leg with the amount of current flowing in the neutral. If the currents don't match, the unit trips as this implies some current must be flowing to ground. (It's a Kirchoff's current law thing)

    If you have a short between the hot and neutral a GFCI will not trip. If you have a short between the hot and ground it will trip.

    A GFCI will not trip to protect you from a high resistance connection or an overload. Remember, your outlet is only rated to 15 amps and your power strip may be rated to less than that. Odds are you have a 20 amp breaker feeding it. This means your power strip can start a fire if you are running 18 amps through it and your breaker may not trip. I can't stress how important it is to know how much load you put on a circuit. If you can't measure it, all electrical components should have a Watt rating listed. Your 15 amp outlet is rated for 1800 Watts. Take the time to do the math to ensure that if everything you have plugged in would turn on at once that you wouldn't exceed this rating.

    One more important thought on GFCI's. GFCI Outlets should be tested monthly!!! They put that test and reset button on there for a reason. It is not at all uncommon for a GFCI outlet to fail. Newer GFCI's are designed to fail off however older designs would fail energized. Lightning strikes and power surges can easily destroy a GFCI outlets sensing circuit. I've only had 1 go bad on my 10 year old home but my brother has an older house and over half of his didn't work when I checked them while visiting.
     
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  2. capted

    capted New Member

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    New to this site and I'm loving it!!! I just wanted to mention adding a ACFI breaker to the tank circuit would also help with arcing and flame ups. You can also buy a cheap plug in gfci checker to check both proper wiring and function...
     
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  3. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Partner Member Article Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum, Capted! Excellent advice on a first post!
     
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  4. capted

    capted New Member

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    Thank you!
     
  5. cj in sac ca

    cj in sac ca Well-Known Member

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    Awesome write up!!! Having been on volunteer FIre department seen my share of electrical fires not dun at all.
    Great tips for everyone to hopefully live but and be safe.... N ounce of prevention is worth more then a pnd of cure
     
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  6. Beej1254

    Beej1254 Well-Known Member

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    ***didnt realize this was the same post I already asked this question on. I see the responses that I got before


    I do like the idea of placing all my power bars and Eb8 into a closet. I actually have one about 1.5ft from my tank that I could put everything in. One problem though is most of my equipment power cords won't reach in there...

    I've always heard you never daisy chain extension cords and power strips/surge protectors. So what's the solution? I would really appreciate some help as I would move all my stuff tomorrow.
     
  7. capted

    capted New Member

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    Not sure about daisy chaining extension cords but I know you are not suppose to daisy chain power strips.
     
  8. Beej1254

    Beej1254 Well-Known Member

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    I keep thinking..id need extension cords for my EB8 to get to the closet, then one for the surge protector, then extension cords for ALL of my equipment? It would be so nice to out all of this into the closet. But then again I also like the idea of putting in a divider under the tank. I've really been worried about electrical safety lately. I want to do something before it's too late
     
  9. DebbieCorker

    DebbieCorker Member

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    I remember the first marine tank I built. It was a converted tropical tank. I put a cheap hang-on skimmer on it, with it hanging over a multiple electrical extension cable. Not knowing what I was doing, the skimmer flooded straight away onto the cables and blew the electrics to entire house. Good lesson for me. I'm now a tad OCD with electrics and everything gets threaded out and away from tank n sump. Live n learn.
     
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  10. LoneStarReef

    LoneStarReef Active Member

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    Agreed. I am in the midst of a design stage of a 90 or 125 build in my office and have the perfect opportunity to put the electrical in a closet right next to the tank but I am unsure if all my cords will reach. Any other ideas/thoughts?
     
  11. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Partner Member Article Contributor

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    Ideally, you would never combine a power strip with extension cords. However, I am still looking for that ideal world to live in. Here is my real world advice for those who aren't setting up a tank where OSHA can come visit.

    If you must use an extension cord to feed a power strip, make sure the cord is rated to at least the rating of the outlet (typically 15 amps). Never connect 2 extension cords in series if at all possible. If you connect a 15A extension cord with another 15A extension cord your total system is now rated for less than 15 Amps. The voltage drop over a distance is part of the current rating.

    Never run an extension cord under carpets or against heat sources. Part of the current rating is based on the cords ability to dissipate heat assuming the unit is in open air. If you trap the heat, it can catch on fire.

    Now more specifically to your question. It is much less of an issue to plug an extension cord into a power strip to power a remote load. Odds are your individual loads are fairly low current. You can get in trouble if you use an extension cord with multiple receptacles on it but even that is unlikely. Just make sure that the total load on the extension cord is below the cords rating. If you bundle the extension cords together to create a cleaner look I would recommend reducing the cords current rating by 50% since it will not be able to radiate heat as effectively.

    Hope that helps.
     
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  12. Beej1254

    Beej1254 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for taking the time out to explain that for me, and for anyone else who may have needed it. So it seems like this is definitely an option for me, and probably better then leaving my power strip/eb8 under the tank with my sump. But now what to do about further protecting the wall outlet directly behind my tank?..

    Edit: Can you install those outdoor protective covers on an inside socket?

    Ugh.
     
  13. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Partner Member Article Contributor

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    I am not aware of any outdoor cover that be installed directly onto an indoor receptacle. Not saying they aren't out there (I'm industrial, not residential) but I am not aware of any. If you will not be using that outlet anymore the best answer would be to remove/bypass it and cover it with a blank. This way it would be easy to put the outlet back in service if you ever wanted to use it again. Very easy to do with a screwdriver and a few wire nuts.

    If you will need to use the outlet I would recommend installing a GFCI device for it. In my opinion, changing out the breaker that feeds it to a GFCI is the best answer. My second best option would be to install a GFCI outlet in a receptacle that is before this one in the chain. Typically, multiple outlets are fed from each breaker and are daisy chained. A GFCI receptacle in the first outlet will protect the entire chain. My last option would be to install a GFCI receptacle in that outlet. You may not be protected in this last case salt water/creep shorts out the incoming side of the receptacle.
     
  14. Beej1254

    Beej1254 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks again for all your information. I live in a townhouse and I'm not exactly sure how much freedom I'll have of changing things, at least in terms of the breaker box. (If that doesn't make sense excuse me because I know zero about this). My landlord however is all for me installing a GFCI into this receptacle behind my tank, and bought one for me. I'm not sure how to determine where in the circuit this receptacle is either.

    I'm heading out to grab a grounding probe, and I was also wondering your thoughts on a separator/false wall between my power strip/eb8 and my sump? I don't know if this will really benefit at all as it'll still leave everything under the tank? I guess my thoughts are that it will provide some protection.
     
  15. Frop

    Frop Well-Known Member

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    Ya.. I have my fresh water next to my saltwater tank. I feel like that's what my cords look like under the freshwater tank.. I've spilled water next to or on my cords before... Stupid water changes with the hose slipping out... hehe
     
  16. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Partner Member Article Contributor

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    Sorry about the delay getting back to you.

    I think a false wall is an excellent idea. If you mount your power strip high on the false wall and bring your cords in through holes drilled below the power strip you will ensure you always have a drip loop and your power strip will be protected from any spray. I will be using 2 false walls on my tank. 1 wall will have my GFCI loads for my heaters, lights, skimmer, and sump return pump.

    My other wall will be non GFCI with a battery backup for my powerheads, controller, and other critical loads. I have selected the Vortech MP40 powerheads since the motors are mounted outside the tank. This adds a huge safety factor allowing me to provide protection for both me and my fish if my GFCI trips.
     
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  17. Beej1254

    Beej1254 Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like a plan to me! I'll be going to the hardware store tomorrow afternoon. So now I've got my grounding probes(installed Wednesday, gfci on Wednesday, and setting up the false wall and running wire.

    Thanks for all the great advice Brew12!

    I'm definitely the type to keep my tank as low cost as possible. I got an apex as a gift for my system that I barely use. Vortech pumps are probably the only higher cost item I could justify buying for myself.
     
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  18. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Partner Member Article Contributor

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    Glad to help. I may not know squat about aquariums but I know electricity!
     
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  19. 143MPCo

    143MPCo ASSIST PROTECT DEFEND Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award Reef Squad Leader CTARS Member Partner Member Article Contributor

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    I beg to differ with that statement!:)
     
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  20. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Partner Member Article Contributor

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    You don't think I know anything about electricity, either? :confused::(

    :p:p:p:p:p
     
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