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My pump keeps tripping my GFI!



Unfortunately I get this question all the time. Once water has seeped through the seals and gets into the motor, the GFI will trip and shut-off the electricity. When I told our customer today that her pump was “Fried” she responded:

The Customer responded:

“If the pump is fried, why does it work like a champ when plugged into a different gfi outlet?”

Not being an electrician, I forwarded her question to the Tech people at Aquascape who answered with the following:

Aquascape Tech responded:

I have attached two links that I hope will help this customer understand. 

Basically if they value their life and the life of their loved ones they will use a GFCI breaker.  Choosing not to do so places them at risk of electrocution in the event of an electrical malfunction. Which is exactly what they are doing by bypassing the GFCI. This has been required in outdoor receptacles since 1973.

 If the pump trips all the breakers it is plugged into it is discharging electricity into the water and they can potentially be electrocuted.  Sometimes you don’t even need to make contact with the pond, if the ground is wet enough, to get a bad shock if pump is malfunctioning.  The reason the pump works in non GFCI outlets is that GFCI are designed to “trip” when they detect an electrical bleed.  It is a safety thing. 

Now sometimes the GFCI go bad and need to be replaced.  It is recommended to check your GFCI monthly. 

Here is a link to the consumer protection safety commission.  Richard you may want to put this link up on your site or FAQ for others who have questions.



Hope this helps answer their questions,


The Customer responded:

I have two outdoor gfci outlets.  It is the outlet on the pond that is tripping with the pump.  That outlet is still running the ion gen and the lights, however.  Once I plug the pump into it, it trips.  So, that outlet has enough juice to run both the ion gen and lights, but not the pump. 

I have plugged the pump into ANOTHER outdoor gfci outlet (via an outdoor extension cord) and it is running like a champ.   

My question: If the pump is bad, why does it run on ANOTHER gfci outlet just fine?


 To which Aquascape Tech responded:

Ah okay this is a different question.  There are a few possibilities. 

  1. The electrical line or quad box does not have sufficient amperage to handle running the extra pull from the pump.  A quick way to test is to plug a hair dryer into that outlet and turn it on.  Many hair dryers run a good bit of power.  I think mine is 1200watts, an Aquasurge 5000 pulls about 360watts.  If the dryer runs when the lights and iongen are on then it tells you the pump is bad but the outlet is sufficiently big
  2. It is not recommended to run the pumps on an extension cord because they can interfere with the “tripping” of a GFCI.  You could easily test pump at that other GFCI outlet by putting the pump in a large trash can with water in it and plugging it in.  If it runs like a champ still while submerged in water then I would assume the pump is fine and you might just have a finicky breaker and would suggest replacing the GFCI.
  3. Another possibility is that if the pump runs great in a trash can of water plugged into GFCI but trips once connected to plumbing, there could be an obstruction in pipe line that is causing the pump to work harder and pull more juice.  This is not very common, and would require that the pump was pulling almost to the limit of the GFCI.  I think this theory would be easily solved by the hair dryer test.
  4. Another option would be to unplug the lights and Iongen and just try and run pump…. If it trips that also tells you the pump is probably failing. 

I have had a few left field issues in my 10 yrs….  Sometimes breakers would trip and it turned out that the electrical line running to the pond was also running different appliances in the house, which would cause the circuit to overload.  I have also had people getting a shock when near the pond and they were convinced that it was the pump, but once the pump was removed they were still getting shocked.  It turned out to be an old live electric line that was for an old lamp post long gone.  The electricity was able to move through the wet ground (it was a spring issue)


My takeaway from this exchange and my experience, is that once a pump trips the breaker – BEWARE! Time for a new pump!



date Posted on: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 at 10:48 am
Category Pond News.
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