Quick electrical question

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Silvergryphon

New member
Where my 90g tank is going in my apartment I have a couple problems. I don't have any GFCI outlets, and outlet I'll be using is about 6ft from the tank itself.

I bought a GFCI outlet, the box to set it in, and a extension cord (rated to 16 amps) to make a portable outlet that'll be attached on the back of my stand. Can I wire the two outlets in the GFCI in series (Main wires into the bottom socket, then same wire sized jumpers to the top one), or will I have get another extension cord and wire them individually. My ultimate goal is to have this be my outlet for my two power strips, reducing the need to have cords stretched out from behind the tank. One cable looks better than a bunch.

Thoughts?
 

Mark Bianco

New member
No matter if you use one or two the thing you need to do is not overate the circuit you are plugging it into. Most houses are wired for 15 amps so you will not be able to use anything over that. Just figure up the total amperage of the equiptment and anything on that circuit
 

Paul B

Premium Member
I don't quite understand your question (and I an an electrician)
You just need to wire the GFCI on the back on the screws that read "line" and both outlets on it will be protected. That extension cord needs to have 3 wires in it so it will be grounded. There is a green screw on the GFCI for the green wire.
As was said, that extension cord is a lamp cord and not heavy enough for almost anything but if you have a small tank that is using less than about 12 amps, it will be fine. You can get a heavier air conditioning extension cord that will be able to handle any load you put on it as they are made of the same size wire as your house wiring usually up to 20 amps. But that cord costs more than your GFCI. You can also buy that cord with a GFCI already connected to it which would be the safest way to go besides changing the outlet in the wall.
 

Silvergryphon

New member
Basically the idea is to have an outlet box on the end of an extension cord/cable. I got the idea from work as most of our electrical outlets are set in the ceiling, and the copier machines are plugged into a outlet box on the end of a power cable. What I wasn't sure of is if I needed two cords (one for each plug on the outlet) of if it could be wired to the same cord (both outlets powered off one cord.) I would change the outlet in the wall but we rent and I doubt they would be happy with me messing with the electrical.

As for load, I plan on plugging two surge protectors in (one for each outlet) and trying to divide the load between them as much as possible. MH Ballast (for 2x 250W) on one, the T-12 ballast on the other, then dividing up the power heads, skimmer, return pump, etc between the two.

After talking about this with a couple guys at work they recommended bumping the cable up to 12/3, but neither of them knew if it was better to wire each plug in the outlet seperately or not.
 

modder man

New member
Most outlets like that are connected with little metal tabs. You would not have to make little jumpers. Unless you broke them metal tab jumpers built in. That said you would be much better off to replace the outlet in the wall with the GFCI one, then just run your power strips from the walls. Using an extension cord with an outlet like that violates fire code.
 

Silvergryphon

New member
Really? We have them in a few spots in our facility at work and it has never been an audit finding (internal, ISO, FAA/DOT, etc)
 

hllywd

Premier World Traveler
The extension cord needs to be the same rating as the circuit. Period. You're planning to run equipment that may, or may not push the limits of a 15 or 20 amp circuit, you need to check the breaker/fuse box to see what the circuit is rated for and match everything downstream to that rating (or exceed it). 14/3 works for 15A, 12/3 for 20A, 16 guage wire is not acceptable since you could easily overload the cord in a higher amperage circuit creating a fire hazard.

Both outlets in the GFCI receptacle will normally be energized with one power source, no jumpers, or modifications necessary. You could use a double box on the end of the cord adding a separate, ordinary receptacle which the GFCI would protect as well (4 protected outlets total). Another thing you may consider is building a second GFCI cord if you can reach another circuit for some redundancy in your system, for example if your return pump circuit tripped, your powerheads on the other circuit would continue to function...

With all that said, there are many ready made options.
An Amazon example with a quick search: http://www.amazon.com/Yellow-Jacket...384186601&sr=8-7&keywords=gfci+extension+cord
I suspect you'll be in the vicinity of this cost + the DIY if you make your own.
 

uncleof6

New member
Most outlets like that are connected with little metal tabs. You would not have to make little jumpers. Unless you broke them metal tab jumpers built in. That said you would be much better off to replace the outlet in the wall with the GFCI one, then just run your power strips from the walls. Using an extension cord with an outlet like that violates fire code.

Really? We have them in a few spots in our facility at work and it has never been an audit finding (internal, ISO, FAA/DOT, etc)

Yes really. Does not matter what you have going on at work, and internal, ISO, FAA/DOT do not have anything to do wtih it. It is OSHA, in some situations; the NFPA, local and state building and electrical authorities having jurisdiction in most any location/situation. Any issue arising from the illegal use of extension cords, as well as multi-outlet devices (power strips) will result in fines that would boggle your mind, not to mention litigation resulting from any injury, death, or loss resulting from the use of same. One would think that a "company" would be more responsible than that, but...

The applicable concepts here are the extension cords in continuous use, (more than 3 hours) and multi-outlet devices used inconsistent with their labeling. (being labeled in most all cases: Not for continuous use.)

I have yet to see an aquarium installation that does not violate NFPA, NEC, and/or state and local building codes in some way. Hobbyists have a nack for thumbing their nose at things that make what they are doing inadvisable, becasue "everyone" does it.

That is all well and good, and of course the "compliance cops" won't be around to inspect/approve the death trap that has been put together. (not everything is a "death trap", just sayin.

They won't be around that is, till something burns down or someone gets hurt. Then the NFPA, Fire Marshall, and homicide detectives will take a great interest in what was going on.

The logic is pretty simple. The most common "residential" accident is caused by extension cords (broken ankles, legs, arms, necks) (source NFPA) and the most common cause of loss/injury/death associated with aquariums is due to fire caused by the mis-use of multi-outlet devices. (Source: Arson.org,) rather than electrical shock that most obsess over, (indicated by the directed use of GFCI recepticals—regardless of what laws/regulations/codes are violated to include them.)

The NEC forbids the use of extension cords (in any occupancy commercial/residential/special) for more than three hours (continuous use,) and by inference—use of a (mulit-outlet device) listed item inconsitant with its labeling (ul listing) although there are specific prohibitions concerning multi-outlet devices attached to the structure, or a workbench, desk etc. which would include your aquarium stand in an investigation.

The point is not "don't do it, because it is illegal." That would accomplish little. Rather the point is: Just because the facility where you work does it, your next door neighbor does it, reefers x, y, and z, do it—does not make it legal, safe, or advisable.

I would advise that you hire a competent electrician to evaluate the situation, and install a suitable number of code compliant outlets to serve your needs as outlined in the NEC. Sure, no one is going to care what you do, except (depending on the nature of the incident) the Fire Marshall, homicide detectives (if it is that serious,) arson investigators, and your insurance company who will refuse to pay due to the violations. (The whole point of these types of investigations is to get the insurance company off the hook.) What are the odds? Well, sufficient for the NFPA to be concerned anyway.
 

madean

New member
I could be wrong here but I believe the original post had an idea of splitting the load with two power strips. I would like to point out that regardless of how many power strips you use you are not splitting the load on that circuit. That circuit is still taking the whole load of the aquarium. Hypothetically if you used one power strip on one outlet and another on another outlet that was fed from a different circuit breaker in your panel then you could split the load potentially.
But like uncleof6 said most aquariums violate code. Realistically you should have an outlet for every piece of equipment and not on an extension cord. Also the circuits should be designed for the load and never over loaded. But who has 4-10 outlets behind their aquarium right?
 

madean

New member
I could be wrong here but I believe the original post had an idea of splitting the load with two power strips. I would like to point out that regardless of how many power strips you use you are not splitting the load on that circuit. That circuit is still taking the whole load of the aquarium. Hypothetically if you used one power strip on one outlet and another on another outlet that was fed from a different circuit breaker in your panel then you could split the load potentially.
But like uncleof6 said most aquariums violate code. Realistically you should have an outlet for every piece of equipment and not on an extension cord. Also the circuits should be designed for the load and never over loaded. But who has 4-10 outlets behind their aquarium right?
 

BeanAnimal

Premium Member
I could be wrong here but I believe the original post had an idea of splitting the load with two power strips.

It still makes good sense to split the load to multiple separate GFCIs so that one faulting device does not take the entire system down.

In my case, I have (3) 20A branch circuits that feed 6 GFCIs. Further isolating my equipment, each GFCI feeds (3) load circuit breakers appropriately sized for each individual load. Overkill? Likely, but I sleep well :)
 

SGT_York

New member
The code violation is plugging an extension cord into an extension cord. Replacing the original outlet with a GFCI and running two surge protectors is the best fit for now. When you own your own home consider improving the electrical situation for future tanks, you can't modify your apartment now. Get good quality protectors 15 amp minimum. They have thicker wires and are far more robust.

Nothing wrong with relocating a box using code materials but I'm willing to bet your work has hard wired boxes hanging from the ceiling not extension cords (I.E. they don't plug into another outlet)

As a side note!
He's in an apartment there is no option of splitting the circuit unless he runs long extension cords, certainly don't give someone advice to install additional circuits in an apartment! Secondly it's a 90 Gallon tank he won't be pulling 40 amps. On that note will you need/have a chiller? (the correct response is no!)

Please ensure you run through the electrical calculators to ensure you are not pushing 15(could be 20 check your breaker) amps guess up when in doubt.

To answer the outlet question it makes little difference if they are installed into one or two locations in the same outlet, the GFCI will trip them both, the only benefit is if the surge protector trips only one will go out.
 

SGT_York

New member
Also,

OSHA doesn't apply to your home only to the manufacturing areas of your home if you have a business, an aquarium is outside the legal boundaries of the OSH act.
"The scope of the inspection in an employee's home will be limited to the employee's work activities. The OSH Act does not apply to an employee's house or furnishings."
https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=2254

There is no continuous use of power strip NEC regulation (maybe inside California!) certainly not inside the NEC, nearly every business cubicle in the country has them or some kind or armored whip harness. They cannot be a tripping hazard, but for continuous use for computers is 100% legal They cannot be PERMANENT that is NEC, but they can be used continuously.

In regards to the regulation NEC does not apply to temporary electrical setups, It should be used to calculate the load capacity but is not legally binding in a home, past the outlet, that was constructed to code and the permanent fixtures have not been modified. No insurance has successfully denied payment due to overloading of outlets, There are some that were denied due to code violations in the permanent electrical devices such as double tapping a circuit breaker or covering a live box. You SHOULD separate the motors from the lighting but that is not codified for temporary items (permanent like a well pump yes, not for an aquarium)
If you know of a case please provide the case number. When you read the details the insurance companies always finds a problem in the "walls" that makes it outside of code. Without successfully convincing this point the insured always win. Inside wall code violations put the civil fault with the contractor that broke the code. (of course they are always bankrupt and now out of business) Citizens are protected in that their code inspected home should trip prior to starting a fire, if you home burns because you plugged in too many things it is considered a fault of the breaker not the homeowner which makes the insurance pay. Adding permanent items like well pump needs to be inspected or insurance may have a scapegoat.

FYI my aquarium stand has a built in NEC compliant distribution system that uses armored cable hardwired into two former outlets with a proper covering.
 
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BeanAnimal

Premium Member
In context to the OP and the fact that this is an apartment....

I would NOT remove the wall receptacle and replace it with a GFCI, even if an electrician was available to do the work. I WOULD build a GFCI power snake with 2 or more GFCI receptacles and plug it into the existing wall receptacle.

A very nice power snake can be built with a 4x4 PVC box, bubble cover and waterproof cord grip and 5-15P plug. Both HD and Lowes sell 12/3 SJOOW by the foot.
 

Merman1983

New member
Yes, you can. Wire a standard receptacle in series with the GFI, (load side). Your power coming in will go to the "line" side on the back of the GFI,(black wire or "hot" to dark screw, and white wire or "neutral" to silver screw), and your standard receptacle can be wired to "load" side of the GFI. This will protect the standard receptacle, (up to 7 plugs), as long as you're not overloading the circuit. That way you only have to buy one GFI receptacle. You can test them buy pressing the test button on the GFI, and notice that all plugs should power off.
 

Merman1983

New member
They also sell GFCI circuit breakers. You can find out the type of electrical panbel you have and call an electrician to change the breaker if you're not sure how to do it.
 

BeanAnimal

Premium Member
That way you only have to buy one GFI receptacle. ....


They also sell GFCI circuit breakers. You can find out the type of electrical panbel you have and call an electrician to change the breaker if you're not sure how to do it.

A few thoughts (welcome to RC BTW).....

A) It is usually best to respond in context, after reading the comments in the thread, as often times much of the ground you wish to cover has already been covered, or the conversation has evolved past what your comments address. This is one of those cases :)

B) While at first blush, a single GFCI receptacle (or circuit breaker) with downstream slaves is an attractive shortcut, it is not well suited for our types of setups. Placing all of your equipment on a single GFCI creates a situation where a single faulting device or nuisance trip will bring down the entire system. It is a much better idea to use multiple GFCIs in parallel, allowing critical equipment to be isolated.
 

Merman1983

New member
Thanks for the criticism BeanAnimal, but just so you know:
A) I had read all of the comments before posting, and I was answering a specific question, as it was worded by the OP. And:
B)Please don't assume that I'm an idiot because I was answering a specific question, exactly the way it was asked. Did the OP mention what type of equipment he was using or how many devices? No, he didn't. For all we know he was powering a light and air stone.
Thank you and have a nice day.
 

sleepydoc

Team RC
They also sell GFCI circuit breakers. You can find out the type of electrical panbel you have and call an electrician to change the breaker if you're not sure how to do it.

NEC requires arc fault interrupt breakers, so this wouldn't be code in a living space. It also likely wouldn't be an option for the OP as he lives an an apartment.
 
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