Using ground probes in aquariums

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Discussion' started by Brew12, Oct 20, 2016.

  1. powers2001

    powers2001 started reefing 1999 Build Thread Contributor

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  2. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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  3. jasonrusso

    jasonrusso Well-Known Member

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  4. GoPitt88

    GoPitt88 Well-Known Member

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    Any recommendations for a good ground probe?
     
  5. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Ground probes are one of the few things in the hobby where just about any brand will do. Just make sure the probe itself is titanium and that it has a household plug on it. Some just have a ring terminal which is fine, but makes it a little harder to use. Some of them have both a plug and a ring terminal so you have options on how to install it.
     
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  6. GoPitt88

    GoPitt88 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks!! I just ordered the Rio Rid-Volt Titanium Grounding Probe and (2) Tower Manufacturing 5 Outlet GFCI Adapters from Amazon Prime. After reading your post, I got to thinking that all of my equipment and fish and coral are unprotected. I have a lot of $$ invested in this awesome hobby, and I'd hate to lose it all for an electrical failure on a heater. I spend just $57 for peace of mind :) Thanks for starting this topic!!!!!!!
     
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  7. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Glad to help!
     
  8. Grey Guy

    Grey Guy Well-Known Member

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    It's hard to say what would happen. But the ground probe should work independently from the GFCI. The GFCI senses the imbalance, between power and neutral. When a ground occurs, there is an imbalance that is supposed to trip the GFCI. However, since all grounds are common, I don't think your GFCI will see the ground probe. My concern is, if you have a short, why isn't the GFCI tripping?
     
  9. Grey Guy

    Grey Guy Well-Known Member

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    What I meant by a ground occurring, is when voltage goes to ground. When voltage goes to ground it causes an imbalance that is supposed to trip the GFCI.
     
  10. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    You are correct that they will both function independent of each other, but they compliment each other very well.

    I'll try to explain a situation where a GFCI won't necessarily trip on a failure.
    Let's say the plastic in a motor housing cracks off and exposes copper windings. The big glass or acrylic box that is our tank/sump is an excellent insulator so there may not be a path to ground. Instead, we may just get extra current going around the windings or using the neutral as a ground path. Since current flow in and out would still be balanced, the GFCI will not trip. You would need 15 amps of current or more in order to trip the breaker. With a ground probe installed, some current would flow through it as soon as the winding was exposed. This would create an unbalance and immediately trip the GFCI.

    Does that help?
     
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  11. Charterreefer

    Charterreefer Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for explaining how a GFCI actually works. I have had mine trip after a power failure (when the power came back on) which was scary since I was going on vacation in a few days and more thunder storms were coming through (creating the potential for more power failures). It actually failed/broke the day before I left so I plugged my metal halides into a different outlet until I came back. It's a 20 amp circuit and I have about 16 amps going through it at the peak time during the day ( four sockets coming out of box). Can they trip if there is a heavy load on them, in the situation I described?
     
  12. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Metal Halide and T5 lamps both use ballasts to start them and the surge these cause when starting can trip older GFCI's. That could be what you had happen. Newer GFCI's are designed to help prevent this from happening.

    Heavy load has no impact on a GFCI. The GFCI sensor has no ability to see what total load is on the system. A GFCI gets the same exact signal if the Hot is at .1 amps and Neutral is at 0 amps as it does if the Hot is at 16.1 and the Neutral at 16 amps.

    One think you do want to consider is at least one or two time a year to pull the cover off those outlets and inspect them for corrosion. You can generate some high heat with that much load if you start developing a bad connection.
     
  13. chef choy

    chef choy Active Member

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    So, just ran into an instance that I have thought about for years, but never proven. Had a friend the other day, tank in the basement......told me that he got shocked when he stuck his hand in the tank. I told him (over the phone) to unplug everything from the tank.....probes and all. He did, and said that he was still getting shocked.......less now, but still a little. I said impossible if EVERYTHING was unplugged. He then said the only other cord is the grounding probe. I told him to take that out too, just to see. He said the voltage was then gone. We started plugging things back in, and determined that the reactor feed pump was some of the issue......but also still getting electricity from the grounding probe. Is it possible, his tank being right next to the breaker box, that something else in the house is sending electricity down the ground and his tank is the "path of least resistance" since his actual ground is further down the line, and this grounding probe is putting electricity into the tank? If not, can someone explain how the grounding probe is adding electricity to the tank?
     
  14. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    The only way that can happen is if the ground probe does not actually provide a good path to ground. The most likely time to see this is if you plug the ground probe into a power strip. If the ground bar in the power strip corrodes apart or develops too high a resistance it is possible for the ground probe to be at some potential other than ground. It is possible to see this on wall outlets, too, but is less common. If you pull the outlet cover and don't see obvious signs of problems on the ground connection to the outlet it may be worth changing out the receptacles.

    The one other way you may see this is in older houses that don't have grounded receptacles. Unfortunately, it is common for people to put in receptacles with a ground into their house to replace an old ungrounded one and have nothing to connect the ground too. It isn't against code to do this since ungrounded receptacles can be hard to obtain, but they should be clearly marked as ungrounded and nothing with a ground prong should be used in that receptacle.
     
  15. Palyzoa

    Palyzoa Well-Known Member ETRC Member Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    So a ground probe should always be plugged into the wall outlet to work properly, rather than plugged into a power strip or apex?
     
  16. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    That is always my preference. If you have a high quality power strip and keep it maintained, it should be fine plugged in there, too. IMO using an Apex slot is a waste of a programmable outlet.
     
  17. Palyzoa

    Palyzoa Well-Known Member ETRC Member Build Thread Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    I agree that it would be a waste of a programable outlet. Thanks for the reply!
     
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  18. powers2001

    powers2001 started reefing 1999 Build Thread Contributor

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    I purchased these two GFCIs and plugged them into my Apex, then plugged an Eheim Jager 250 watt heater into each of them. I've only had them in for a day and already they've tripped 2 or 3 times. Could the heaters be faulty?
     
  19. Brew12

    Brew12 Electrical Gru R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    I'm not sure how you have your system is hooked up. Any chance you can run the heaters off of outlets 4 and 8? The triacs that gate on 1-3, and 4-7 could be causing the problem with the GFCI device. I doubt both heaters are bad, especially if they aren't tripping every time they cycle on.
    Another way to verify this would be to plug the GFCI units into a regular outlet and let the heaters turn on. You could even do this in a bucket of fresh or old tank water if you put a ground probe in the bucket. If they don't trip the GFCI in a bucket of salt water with a ground probe in it, the heater isn't bad.
     
  20. jasonrusso

    jasonrusso Well-Known Member

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    What happens if you plug the Apex into a gfci? You are only isolating the heaters the way you have it.
     
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