Jacuzzi GFCI requirements in 1985

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tlbr

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Oregon
My home was built in 1985 with a Jacuzzi whirlpool bathtub. A final electrical inspection was never completed, even when I bought the home in 1998. Now, I'm trying to sell the home and I'm told I must have the tub in a GFCI breaker.

I've attempted to install such a breaker but it trips immediately when I apply power to the tub. Jacuzzi has sent me a control panel adjustment but I have no access to the under tub control panel. Jacuzzi also reports there was no GFCI requirement for such a tub in 1985.

My Deschutes County, Oregon electrical inspector states a GFCI device was required for the tub circuit in 1985.

Was it code in 1985 and if so do I need to tear out the ceramic tile now to resolve the problem?
 

charlie b

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Electrical Engineer
Re: Jacuzzi GFCI requirements in 1985

I’ve looked through the 1984 NEC. I don’t know if that had yet been adopted in your area, or whether the 1981 was still in effect, but I don’t have a copy of the 1981 NEC.

Part D of Article 680 addressed spas, hot tubs, and hydromassage bathtubs. I think your Jacuzzi would fit into that category. 680-41(a) required all receptacles to be at least 5 feet from the tub, required any receptacle within 20 feet to have GFCI protection, and required a receptacle that powered the tub to have GFCI protection (no matter where it was located). 680-41(c) required all wall switches to be at least 5 feet from the tub.

There were exceptions to both 680-41(a) and 680-41(c), related to tubs that are added to existing bathrooms. It sounds like the exception would not apply to your house, since the Jacuzzi was part of the original plans. But it is interesting to note that the exceptions both said the same thing: if you add a tub to an existing bathroom, and if you have an existing receptacle or wall switch that would be within 5 feet of the new tub, then that device would not need to be moved, but it would have to be GFCI protected.

My conclusion is that (1) If your Jacuzzi is hard wired (no receptacle), and (2) If is controlled by a wall switch that is at least 5 feet from the tub, then power to the Jacuzzi would not have to have GFCI protection.

There are some notable differences in the corresponding articles of the 2002 NEC. One example is that a receptacle within 10 feet (not 20) has to have GFCI protection. However, the conclusion I just gave you would be the same, even if we were using today’s code.
 
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