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What Size Breaker Do I Need for a Pool Pump? – Advice From Experts

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

what size breaker do i need for a pool pump

Are you preparing for a party and the only thing left to do is to run that swimming pool pump? For those who don’t know, a pool pump is the heart of your plunge bath. This machine helps circulate water with the help of electricity.

However, just like any other electrical device, pumps need to have a breaker that will cut the power when danger ensues. So, before you enjoy your vacation, ponder the question: what size breaker do I need for a pool pump?

What’s the Breaker Size of a Pool Pump?

When talking about circuit breakers, we always consider their brand for the quality and compatibility with our main electrical panel. This is the usual routine when we search for a breaker to guarantee that it will provide service without any hassle.

Unfortunately, homeowners tend to neglect the size of the breaker they plan to purchase, making that CB inappropriate for the appliance it’s supposed to protect. In the case of a pool pump breaker size, a 20-amp CB is the best choice to safely support a 240V/ 10-amp (usual setup for pool pumps) electrical system.

A 20-amp circuit breaker is a common thing for residential homes. It won’t be a surprise if you find one in your electrical box. Plus, 20-amps is more than enough to handle the 10-amps needed by your pool pump. It can run for three straight hours (duration of power usage for maximum continuous load) without putting the breaker at risk.

Note: The Maximum Continuous Load (MCL) or 125% load of an electrical device will tell you its best breaker size. A 10-amp pool pump can have an MCL of 12.5 (10 x 125%), so a 20A breaker can carry this load without any problems. At the same time, it can still monitor power surges and support other pool equipment.

20-amps is also viable as the size breaker for 1.5 HP pool pump. For example, some 1.5 Horsepower pool pumps draw 17 amps of energy in their initial start-ups and then drop back to their actual amperage after a while.

However, not all pool motors require this size. A 15-amp CB can be sufficient unless users regulate other pool equipment with this breaker. In contrast, other pumps need a higher electrical rating for them to work.

The best course of action is to get a licensed electrician to look at your pump details. In case you’re still unsure, he will let you know if you’ll need to upgrade the fail-switch device or not.

What Is the Correct Breaker Wiring Size?

Pool pumps are intricate when it comes to electricity flow, just like other high-powered appliances. That’s why you should match the breaker size and the wire size altogether. While #12-gauge wires are suitable for most pumps, advanced pumps (with 30-amp breakers) may need #10-gauge wires for a proper power flow.

Above-Ground Vs. In-Ground Pool Pumps

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There are two kinds of swimming pools: above-ground and in-ground. Obviously, these two both contain water, and anyone can swim in them. Their only difference is how they’re constructed.

As their name goes, above-ground pools are elevated “above” the ground while in-ground pools are built “inside” the ground permanently.

Since these two types of swimming pools don’t have a similar construction, their pumps also differ in how they circulate the water in the pool. With that said, do they consume power differently? Are they dissimilar in terms of CB sizes?

An above-ground pool pump doesn’t work as much as an inground pool pump since it has a lower flow rate. Above-ground pumps are often available in a 120-Volt variety that can run smoothly with a #12 or #10 wiring gauge and a 20-amp breaker.

On the flip side, inground pool pumps don’t stray away from the electricity specs of above-ground pool pumps. They can often feed on a 20A breaker, but owners upgrade when other pool equipment maxes out the MCL of this CB size.

Inground swimming pools usually have other electrical equipment, like a saltwater chlorinator (5-8 amps) and pool lights (3.5 watts). These appliances, including your pump (10-amps), won’t fit well with a 20A breaker.

You’ll need at least 30A-amps to cover them all, not to mention if a hot tub exists in your pool.

Nevertheless, you can manage this problem by incorporating a separate circuit breaker for pool pump or installing a 100-amp subpanel instead. Either way, consult your pool electrician on what you can do, legal-wise.

Should I Use GFCI Protection?

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A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an outlet typically available in places with high moisture like bathrooms, basements, or swimming pools. They have a heightened sensitivity to water, so you won’t get shocked or injured when a ground fault occurs.

As the National Electrical Code (NEC) requires, the outlet that feeds your pump and other pool apparatus should be protected by a GFCI. This code was implemented in 2017, stating that all swimming pools built from 2017 onwards should have GFCI protection.

Otherwise, building code violations may arise, which are not covered by your electric or house insurance. If you don’t have the right protection, even your pool builder/electrician won’t set up the pool pump.

You can choose either a GFCI breaker or a GFCI outlet, as long as the size breaker for pool pump is correct. Anyway, their only difference is how you reset them. You can access a GFCI outlet effortlessly when it trips, while the GFCI breaker needs a manual reset in the main electrical box.

Importance of a Dedicated Circuit for Your Motor

Lastly, it is a must to have a dedicated circuit for your pool pump. Pool motors are power-hungry devices. Other appliances in your house that share the same circuit with this machine might trip your breaker if they all run concurrently.

Also, you may use your pool pump for 6-8 hours a day or longer to clean your pool optimally. So to make this process run smoothly, pool pros advise homeowners to use thick cords for overheating prevention.

Warning: Extension cords for pool pumps are not good options to power the device. Yes, you can use them in the meantime while you wait for the contractors to get the power line fixed along with a GFCI. But, using these cables permanently strains your pump, causing it to overheat. In addition to that, only inground pools can have this temporary setup.

Conclusion

You need to remember a few things when answering the question, “what size breaker do I need for a pool pump?” If you have an above-ground swimming pool, you need a 20-amp circuit breaker with a #12 or #10 wiring gauge.

On the same note, inground natatoriums and their pool pump have electrical requirements similar to above-ground pool pumps. However, you’ll need a more advanced electrical setup due to additional pool equipment for inground pool preservation.

No matter what kind of pump you have, installing a dedicated circuit and GFCI protection is highly essential.

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