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Posted By: amp-man GFI protection of cooktop - 01/02/05 06:32 AM
Here's the situation:

A client has an electric cooktop (two-burner w/broiler) installed in a countertop outisde the house, in a covered patio. The unit is supplied by a dedicated 30 amp 120/240V branch circuit. The branch circuit cable has an equipment grounding conductor (it's a four-wire cable)

They are wondering if it'd be appropriate to use a GFCI breaker to supply the cooktop.

I say it's not required by Code, and wouldn't be a good idea, as there may be sufficient leakage current to ground (the frame of the unit) to nuisance trip a GFCI. Any GFI would have to be designed for the 120/240 circuit, of course.

Anyone have any experience with this sort of situation, or a different take on it?

Thanks in advance,

Posted By: e57 Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/02/05 08:36 AM
Electric Cook-top OUTSIDE?! Is it rated for wet/damp locations? I cant see the patio from here, but sounds like it is exposed to the elements, even if morning dew, if not blowing rain. Sounds like an electrified rust activated time bomb. GFI it, or disconnect it, I might opt for the latter. But short of that, a GFI is not a bad idea. I cant think of a requirement to do so....
Posted By: Physis Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/02/05 09:22 PM
I agree with E57.

When the temperature drops, moisture in the air condences into the wet kind of water. That will happen inside the range too. Throw a puddle and wet hands into the equation....

Current leakage, you mentioned, is what GFI protection is for. If you have that then the current is traveling somewhere outside of the intended circuit. That's when people could get included in the path.

I don't think electric cook elements have much inductance so I'd suspect you wouldn't have nuisance tripping.

In this case, I'd say the customer's always right. Look at it this way, you wont have to try to explain to them why they have to pay for this really expensive ciruit breaker.

For me though, I like my inch and half thick porterhouse grilled over real fire.
Posted By: e57 Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/03/05 02:12 AM
Real Fire = MESQUITE! It's the only way to grill!

Maybe theres a way to covert this item to wood burning....
Posted By: SolarPowered Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/03/05 03:41 AM
This thread sounds like a renegade from one of the DIY forums. The unit is a Jenn Aire, listed for outdoor use, right?
Posted By: LK Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/03/05 11:03 PM

"electrified rust activated time bomb"

We just had a service call for one, and he told us it was a only a year old, it looked more like 20 years, No gfci on it, but we refused to restore the power to it.
Posted By: Physis Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/04/05 05:29 AM
But it doesn't need one. [Linked Image]
Posted By: Trumpy Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/04/05 10:07 AM
I don't think electric cook elements have much inductance so I'd suspect you wouldn't have nuisance tripping.
Over here in NZ, there has been a problem with protecting Electric Ranges with an RCD (GFCI).
The problem is moisture getting into the internal wiring after the appliance has been used and starts to cool down.
This moisture can cause leakage currents that will trip an RCD.
Bear in mind that this problem was found with indoor cooking appliances, so an outdoor one would tend to be worse.
Posted By: amp-man Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/04/05 08:11 PM
Thanks all. Especially to solarpowered for his constructive comment.

A little background. The cooktop unit has been in place for several years and it's in good shape. The cooktop is a standard indoor one, and it's very well sheltered from exposure to rain or dew. Given that the location gets no snow, I'm not sure that the cook top is going to see much more moisture exposure than in an indoor kitchen, with a sloppy cook.

The unit is hard-wired, on a dedicated 4-wire branch circuit (i.e., has an EGC). If there is leakage current, the EGC will do what it is designed to do, and the cooktop housing will remain at zero potential. I do suspect that there may be some leakage current, which was behind my thought to not GFI-protect it.

Most old indoor electric ranges probably have some leakage current. Thanks, Trumpy, for your constructive input on that point. If I recall right, your RCDs trip at 30-40 mA, right? With leakage, the frame of the range stays at zero volts because the grounding conductor provides a path of (close to) zero impedance back to the source. No need for GFI protection.

Thanks to your comments, I realize that the outdoor setting makes things different. FYI, I am going to recommend that the unit be put on a GFI breaker, mainly because of the cooktop listing issue (i.e., it wasn't designed to be used outdoors). If the GFI doesn't hold, I may make some measurements of current on the EGC, just to see how much. At that point, it'll be the owners choice to disconnect or replace the grill.


Posted By: SolarPowered Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/04/05 08:53 PM

If I gave offense, I apologize. I see that I was perhaps a bit too brief with my comment, and didn't really state what I was thinking.

The thread to which I was referring was from a lady who was about to hire an EC to install her new Jenn Aire outdoor cooktop. I was merely wondering if you were the EC she's hired, so that I could connect the two threads together, if they were indeed connected. I suppose that "renegade" was a bad choice of words on my part; I do that sometimes. [Linked Image]

[This message has been edited by SolarPowered (edited 01-04-2005).]
Posted By: Physis Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 02:57 AM

I don't know what an RCD is. Also I would have to concede to anybody's experience with GFI's on a ranges because I've never done it.

But I can say that leakage current is what a GFCI is for. If you have leakage current but you decide it is ok, well, I don't know how to address that.


[1] You are not required to use GFI protection.

[2] I think you are misinterpreting the purpose of the EGC. Are you expecting it to protect a human from a shock hazard in the presence of leakage current?
Posted By: amp-man Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 05:23 AM

I'm aware that GFI protection is not required in this case (well, there is the issue of the cooktop not being listed for outdoor use); and yes, grounding the non-current carrying parts of a tool or appliance is exactly what I think an EGC is for.

By grounding I mean keeping the non-current carrying metal parts of the equipment at zero (earth) potential, so that there is virtually no chance of shock or electrocution. This is accomplished by providing, via the EGC, a path back to the source for anything from leakage current to a dead short.

And yes, I know that the current will divide among any and all paths available. With a solid EGC, though, there's virtually no chance of getting hazardous current through a person.

It appears that you think the only way to accomplish personnel protection against shock or electrocution from stray current is with a GFCI. I disagree; the EGC was used for that purpose for decades before GFCI technology became available.

I am aware that the GFCI offers advantages over a grounding receptacle outlet. For instance, in a branch circuit with multiple and poorly made EGC splices, the impedance of the equipment grounding path may be high. High enough, in some cases, that a person begins to represent a sufficiently low-impedance parallel path that dangerous current may pass through the person.

Also, in a cord-and-plug connected appliance or tool, the EGC may easily be (and often is) defeated by improper use of an adapter, or by cutting off the plug's grounding pin. Sometimes, the cord is damaged, compromising the EGC in the cord. That's why GFCIs are required to protect cord-and-plug connected equipment in locations where a person is likely to present a good return path for stray energy.

Conversely, that's why there are few requirements that hard-wired equipment be GFCI-protected. There's no cord or plug to be damaged or tampered with; there's no cordset to be damaged; and, with the typical dedicated circuit for a fixed appliance, the EGC usually has fewer splices (and there's a lot less opportunity for EGC splices to be tampered with).

The other reason for not requiring hard-wired equipment to be GFCI-protected (except for spas, hot tubs, etc) is leakage current. For instance, fixed electric outdoor deicing and snow melting equipment is required to have GFPE (ground fault for protection of equipment, tripping at more than 6 mA and less than 50mA) protection, because a GFCI is likely to trip from leakage current.

Leakage current is not an inherent danger; it's when there's no good equipment grounding pathway that it's a problem, and that's what GFCIs are for. GFCIs are a great safety device, but they're not a panacea.


[This message has been edited by amp-man (edited 01-05-2005).]

[This message has been edited by amp-man (edited 01-05-2005).]
Posted By: Physis Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 05:51 AM

You are at least right about one thing.

I do have a preference for GFCI protection whether it is required or not.

Can I ask you a hypothetical question?

If you are standing bare foot on a well grounded concrete slab, that is wet, and has an ungrounded conductor laying on it.

Is that EGC that is at the same potential as the slab going to be useful in preventing you from getting shocked?

And if so, how?
Posted By: amp-man Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 06:15 AM

Ah, now I'm beginning to understand your point of view. You appear to be concerned about a person coming into direct contact with an ungrounded conductor.

You're absolutely right, an equipment grounding system won't do any good there, because there isn't any equipment in the picture. A GFCI will reduce the chance of shock or electrocution in your scenario--contact with a hot wire.

But I'm talking about a situation involving a piece of utilization equipment, specifically a cooktop.

I'm talking about the normal use of the cooktop, where due to the appliance design, there is virtually no chance of a person coming into direct contact with an ungrounded conductor.

What the equipment grounding system is designed to do is keep the case, frame, or other normally non-current carrying metallic parts of the tool or appliance (or whatever) at ground potential.

Unless you're working on the wiring, or there's serious damage to the appliance, you aren't going to come into contact with an ungrounded condictor. You are however, very likely going to come into contact with the metal case of a drill, or the frame or case of a washing machine, or the like. That's why those things are grounded--that is, connected to the EGC.

If your objective is to reduce the chance of injury from contacting an ungrounded conductor, then GFCI-protection is the way to go. I'm not arguing against GFCI protection of receptacle outlets as required by the Code.

I just think the chances of the homeowner or appliance user contacting an ungrounded conductor on a hard-wired appliance circuit are essentially nil, and therefore (IF the cooktop were being used as listed) there'd be no benefit to using a GFCI.

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this. I do appreciate your perspective, and have learned from it.


Posted By: Physis Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 07:10 AM
Cliff, go back to my first post and reconsider.

I'm glad that you don't seem so offended now. [Linked Image]

Again though, If it were up to me there'd be GFI's everywhere.

Edit: you only have to contact the water.

[This message has been edited by Physis (edited 01-05-2005).]
Posted By: iwire Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 10:33 AM
Cliff I also agree a GFCI is not required for this application.

However just because something is grounded does not exclude it from GFCI requirements.

Think of the GFCI as a back up to the EGC.

The GFCI rule that went into the 2002 NEC for commercial kitchens is a good example of this.

All 120 volt 15 and 20 amp outlets must in commercial kitchens must have GFCI protection.

That rule went in as people had been killed by appliances that the EGC failed on.

Another example is the 2005 NEC requirement that vending machines have GFCI protection again it is a back up to the required EGC.

This is all for plug and cord connected appliances, hardwired and the GFCI regiments do not apply.

Same for a pool pump for that mater.

Posted By: Trumpy Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 10:58 AM
Personally, I'd never fail to protect a piece of Electrical Gear that is installed outside, with an Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker.
The risk is just too great where Moisture is a variable in the equation. [Linked Image]
Posted By: Physis Re: GFI protection of cooktop - 01/05/05 09:05 PM


Fill up a bath tub and throw in any properly grounded appliance.


Why can you still get electrocuted when it's properly grounded and you haven't touched any conductors?
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