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GFCI for Sump? or No

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Oct 9, 2010
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GFCI for Sump? or No

So, my basement was finished by an idiot. I undid a lot of the outright unsafe stuff, but I am looking to finish things as properly as possible.

One of the problems I'm trying to "solve" is my sump-pump (more accurately, my 3 sump pumps; 1 is water powered though). One sump (3/4HP) is currently connected to the single outlet, with the second (1/2HP) as standby (not plugged in). The circuit it is connected to is in the basement, meaning if the breaker blows, I wouldn't likely realise it quickly. The plan is to run a new 14/3 circuit from the box to the sumps, so I can connect both on their own circuits, and I then have a legitimate functioning backup.

I am curious if the sumps should have their own GFCI outlets, or possibly an even more exotic breaker. The current plan is to use a normal quad 15A breaker with the two sumps as the linked breakers. If this matters, the sumps are in a cellar that is separated from the house with a fire-rated door. The cellar has the city water supply in it, which feeds the house + a water powered sump in the pit, and there is also only a single electrical circuit controlling the lights and the single sump (so, if I do my plan, the cellar will then have 3 circuits). The existing outlet is about 3' off the ground, and about 4.5' from the pit. The cellar consistently sits around 55F, and 50% humidity.

If I can use GFCIs, I plan to daisy-chain a single commonly used lighting circuit from each, so I visually know if either GFCI has failed/tripped. The other option is to have the GFCIs outside of the cellar, then daisy-chain the cellar-outlets as regular outlets.
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Dec 6, 2020
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I don't have a copy of the current electrical code so I can't speak to whether you're required to have GFCI protection on a sump pump. GFCI and AFCI requirements have changed within the past few years (i.e. more recently than most DIY simplified guidebooks have been written) so the only definitive answer will be in the current CEC.

I do know, however, that you can get power failure alarms, and high water level alarms, specifically to alert somebody in the event a circuit trips or a pump fails. You could install power failure alarms on both pump circuits, a high water level alarm in the sump, and wire each alarm to separate buzzers in the house proper. If something stops working, you will know about it, even if it happens at night when you have your indoor lights off.
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Oct 15, 2007
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Sump pump must be on a dedicated breaker and plugged into a single receptacle . It is exempt from requiring Arc fault protection and It must only be gfci protected If the location of the sump pump receptacle requires GFCI.
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If you are running them on a single 14/3 line the breakers need to be tied together at the panel to meet code. I guess you can consider it a backup if the failure doesn't cause the breaker to trip - but if it does trip the breaker, the second pump will also turn off - is that what you want?

I'd think it makes more sense to run a separate 14/2 circuit for the backup pump, that way you don't need to tie the breakers together, and failure of one won't turn off the other.
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Jun 21, 2003
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Isn’t a proper standby pump one with battery backup for when you have power outages?

Going your route I would do as someone said above and do 2 separate 14/2 runs so that if for some reason one trips you don’t just lose both anyways. Your method seems a little riskier in that regard.

As also mentioned above I would consider an audible alarm for the sump on power loss. Lights as an indicator are nice, but not super helpful in the middle of the night or during a stretch with no one in the basement.
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middleofnowhere wrote: ... I do know, however, that you can get power failure alarms, and high water level alarms, specifically to alert somebody in the event a circuit trips or a pump fails. You could install power failure alarms on both pump circuits, a high water level alarm in the sump, and wire each alarm to separate buzzers in the house proper. If something stops working, you will know about it, even if it happens at night when you have your indoor lights off.
I do have the high water alarms, and I have a "power failure" alarm on the outlet as well. They are currently inside the cellar, where I can hear them, but they're not very loud. I could move those alarms to the main floor, so that's a great suggestion.
cliff wrote: If you are running them on a single 14/3 line the breakers need to be tied together at the panel to meet code. I guess you can consider it a backup if the failure doesn't cause the breaker to trip - but if it does trip the breaker, the second pump will also turn off - is that what you want?

I'd think it makes more sense to run a separate 14/2 circuit for the backup pump, that way you don't need to tie the breakers together, and failure of one won't turn off the other.
This is actually hilarious: yeah, blowing one would take out the other, making the whole thing pointless. I feel like a dope. Yes, two 14/2 makes a lot more sense, and actually simplifies wiring slightly as well for me to boot.
ChicoQuente wrote: Isn’t a proper standby pump one with battery backup for when you have power outages?

Going your route I would do as someone said above and do 2 separate 14/2 runs so that if for some reason one trips you don’t just lose both anyways. Your method seems a little riskier in that regard.

As also mentioned above I would consider an audible alarm for the sump on power loss. Lights as an indicator are nice, but not super helpful in the middle of the night or during a stretch with no one in the basement.
"Proper" would be a battery backup; yes. At present, I have my "new" submersible pump that replaces my very old pedestal pump. The pedestal pump is to be replaced, but currently acts as #2. This pump will become a battery backup pump. #3 is water powered.

My house is essentially built in a marsh, so water table is a big issue. The triplication of pumps is not simply to deal with a power outage, but also to deal with any random other issues. Basically, I always need 2 pumps available regardless:
- Power is on? 3 pumps
- Toothpick jams a pump and blows a breaker? 2 pumps
- Power is out? 1 pump ("soon" to be 2 pumps)

At present, the 2nd pump is not too useful (it's not plugged in normally, flow rate isn't great, and it's extremely loud). These suggestions in this thread should make that no longer the case, and will make getting on top of finding a battery backup pump make a lot more sense. Though I haven't looked at battery powered pumps lately, they did seem to be inadequate flow-wise. I'll re-look into it though, it's probably time.
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I think if I needed three sump pumps, one water powered etc. etc. etc. I wouldn't have a finished basement.
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Apr 8, 2013
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torontotim wrote: I think if I needed three sump pumps, one water powered etc. etc. etc. I wouldn't have a finished basement.
Yes, although some people like myself couldn't insure our basements for water damage after the rain storm that hit west Toronto in 2013. My insurance company refused coverage even though I'd never submitted a claim. It's extra peace of mind especially if you can't obtain insurance or the extra coverage is expensive.
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torontotim wrote: I think if I needed three sump pumps, one water powered etc. etc. etc. I wouldn't have a finished basement.
I dont "need" more than one (by what seems to be your definition). I just like being proactive instead of reactive, especially when being proactive is so insanely cheap. I personally know dozens of people who didnt prepare for the worst to happen, and we're burned by a failed sump pump. $40k damage in a basement that "has never flooded in 40 years". To me, the $500 is wisely spent, if only so I dont have to mop the basement.
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Jan 22, 2021
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When we wire our homes the sump pump share its line with a highly visible light such as an interior entrance light. This way if the breaker breaks you’ll know to look into it. Same goes for fire alarms on another light source.
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datamy wrote: When we wire our homes the sump pump share its line with a highly visible light such as an interior entrance light. This way if the breaker breaks you’ll know to look into it. Same goes for fire alarms on another light source.
This was the plan, but I am debating now, as this would make the circuits "not dedicated". I think the alarms will be plenty, but I'll probably just wire them such that I can tie off of the circuits if I change my mind later. My master bedroom is super close to the sumps, so the primary I can wire to that circuit "easily". Separating that room from the master bath is on the to-do list anyways.

The fire alarms are already this way now: kitchen light.
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Jan 22, 2021
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ChubChub wrote: This was the plan, but I am debating now, as this would make the circuits "not dedicated". I think the alarms will be plenty, but I'll probably just wire them such that I can tie off of the circuits if I change my mind later. My master bedroom is super close to the sumps, so the primary I can wire to that circuit "easily". Separating that room from the master bath is on the to-do list anyways.

The fire alarms are already this way now: kitchen light.
No reason to make it dedicated for the sake of being dedicated.

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