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dennismurphy
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Water softener - dedicate circuit?

Hi all -

I've got an old-ish water softener in the basement with a mechanical timer. It's on a dedicated 15a circuit. (Single outlet, just for the softener.) Plugging in my kill-a-watt shows that the timer peaks at 3 watts. It's a dumb-as-bricks unit, the timer spins until it's time to click the valve open for regeneration and then it clicks shut.

Is there any reason that it needs to be dedicated and I cannot extend this circuit for other outlets? I'd replace it with a duplex GFCI and then run some roamex romex for another outlet elsewhere in the basement? Assume I'm doing load calculations, wire sizing, etc. according to spec.

Thanks!

edit: corrected romex spelling. Used to work on a cellular system called RoamEx. Old habits die hard.



jjoshua
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1 edit

The timer uses a wall wart or is it 120vac to the timer?

If it's just a wall wart, I wouldn't do GFCI. One more thing to go wrong.



dennismurphy
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said by jjoshua:

The timer uses a wall wart or is it 120vac to the timer?

It it's just a wall wart, I wouldn't do GFCI. One more thing to go wrong.

Just 120v. This thing is oooold.

Timer reminds me of an old mechanical traffic light control.


dennismurphy
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reply to dennismurphy

Click for full size
This is the guts of the timer .... Just for posterity's sake.

sk1939
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Giving the wiring in that timer and connections, I would say that the timer isn't actually that old (relatively). The wire vintage indicated that it is at least from the 80's if not newer. The newest patent on there is dated at least '81 for

"This invention relates to the controls for a water conditioning system with an operating valve having a simplified drive mechanism and a brine valve made from plastic materials and readily assembled for adaptability to softener systems of various sizes and having flexible coupling means which enable rigid plumbing parts to be connected with the plastic valve assembly."

The timer appears to be part of the softener system itself, before they came up with the electronic controls you see today (late 80's).



dennismurphy
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reply to dennismurphy

Even if it dates to '83, that would make it 30 years old. Not too many appliances last that long - indeed, I think it's got elder status in my house.

Makes me feel very old saying that!

... Old enough that a) it's fully mechanical (no circuit boards)
B) well-built;
C) reliable;
D) works great and in no need of replacement.

I actually appreciate it for what it is ... Mechanical beauty of a time gone by. No need for anything more complex.



cdru
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reply to dennismurphy

said by dennismurphy:

Is there any reason that it needs to be dedicated and I cannot extend this circuit for other outlets?

Basement? Single outlet? Dedicated circuit? It was required to be the way it is by code prior to 2008 NEC. Before then, unfinished basement outlets had to be protected by GFCI unless they were not readily accessible or if they were a simplex (or duplex) outlet with one (or two) devices that were not easily moved. Furnaces, sump pumps, fridge/freezer were were commonly used examples. I'd think a water softener would count as well. That exception was removed in the 2008 code cycle and the outlets need to be GFCI no matter what.

I don't see why you couldn't extend it if you convert the outlet into a GFCI protected one and add additional outlets downstream.


dennismurphy
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said by cdru:

I don't see why you couldn't extend it if you convert the outlet into a GFCI protected one and add additional outlets downstream.

edit: weirdness due to a less-than sign results in double-posting.


dennismurphy
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said by cdru:

I don't see why you couldn't extend it if you convert the outlet into a GFCI protected one and add additional outlets downstream.

That was my thinking as well. Bigger than the GFCI, the main question was basically whether a water softener warrants a dedicated 15a circuit, and if its draw is really less than 5 watts, why?

If I can extend it, it'll save me from pulling a new circuit from the panel, which is a MAJOR PITA. (The panel is on the outside wall of the garage, so I'd have to go from the garage, into the attic, down a common wall into the basement, open the drop ceiling, and drill through joists since they run perpendicular to the direction I need to go.)

Much easier if I can just extend the water softener's circuit.


cdru
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said by dennismurphy:

That was my thinking as well. Bigger than the GFCI, the main question was basically whether a water softener warrants a dedicated 15a circuit, and if its draw is really less than 5 watts, why?

I answered the why. Because code required a GFCI unless it was a simplex outlet with a dedicated appliance. It was cheaper to have a far underutilized circuit than putting in a GFCI at the time.

If your house was built today, the same outlet would automatically require a GFCI and you could just extend it like you would any other circuit.


dennismurphy
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said by cdru:

I answered the why. Because code required a GFCI unless it was a simplex outlet with a dedicated appliance. It was cheaper to have a far underutilized circuit than putting in a GFCI at the time.

If your house was built today, the same outlet would automatically require a GFCI and you could just extend it like you would any other circuit.

Kinda mind-boggling to think that it was cheaper & easier to pull the wiring, take up a panel slot, etc. than to install a GFCI.... but very true.

Thanks for the assistance - makes my planning much, much easier!


cdru
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said by dennismurphy:

Kinda mind-boggling to think that it was cheaper & easier to pull the wiring, take up a panel slot, etc. than to install a GFCI.... but very true.

A lot of that cost though applied regardless if a GFCI was installed or not.

The panel slot was going to be taken up by one outlet or by a dozen. Same for the wire to that outlet unless it could have been tied in to an existing circuit.

Presuming that the circuit is 20-30 years old (if not more), wire was cheap(er) then. A quick check of historical copper prices show that copper in '88 was about 15% what it is currently. Being "wasteful" wasn't as expensive as it would appear these days.


dennismurphy
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said by cdru:

A lot of that cost though applied regardless if a GFCI was installed or not.

The panel slot was going to be taken up by one outlet or by a dozen. Same for the wire to that outlet unless it could have been tied in to an existing circuit.

Presuming that the circuit is 20-30 years old (if not more), wire was cheap(er) then. A quick check of historical copper prices show that copper in '88 was about 15% what it is currently. Being "wasteful" wasn't as expensive as it would appear these days.

Very true. Given the.. uhm.. resourceful(?) nature of the previous owner, I'm highly suspicious of anything and everything I come across. As an example, the A/C compressor is labeled was "Oven" in the panel box. It looks like when the kitchen was renovated, they reused the circuit for the former electric range (now gas) to supply the compressor.

That reminds me... I need to downsize the breaker for the A/C compressor. Currently a 50a breaker - need to replace it with a 40a. (faceplate MCA 29/MOP 40) Wire is #8 so we're good there. Just something else for the laundry list.


cdru
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said by dennismurphy:

Very true. Given the.. uhm.. resourceful(?) nature of the previous owner, I'm highly suspicious of anything and everything I come across. As an example, the A/C compressor is labeled was "Oven" in the panel box. It looks like when the kitchen was renovated, they reused the circuit for the former electric range (now gas) to supply the compressor.

I'm sure Whizkid, Nunya, et al have never come across a panel that had misidentified or unidentified breakers. I think some of the most anal retentive OCD people have breakers that are mis/un-identified so I wouldn't use that as an example of reasons to be highly suspicious.

I know I have several breakers that are labeled as "lights". I'm never sure which lights they control. And I've also found out that it's not always just the lights that they control too. Thankfully I've never found out the hard way. I probably could better identify them, but that would require time, energy, and a desire not to play electrical roulette.


dennismurphy
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said by cdru:

I'm sure Whizkid, Nunya, et al have never come across a panel that had misidentified or unidentified breakers. I think some of the most anal retentive OCD people have breakers that are mis/un-identified so I wouldn't use that as an example of reasons to be highly suspicious.

I know I have several breakers that are labeled as "lights". I'm never sure which lights they control. And I've also found out that it's not always just the lights that they control too. Thankfully I've never found out the hard way. I probably could better identify them, but that would require time, energy, and a desire not to play electrical roulette.

Very mild example and by far the least offender (of course mislabeled breakers is a minor offense.) The extension cord (of the zip cord variety) used to wire a ceiling fan through the drop ceiling into an outlet in the next room was a real gem.

Or, the u-turn-to-nowhere-with-a-crossover-between-pipes gas line he installed to supply the grill ...

I found all sorts of goodies when I opened the basement ceiling.

sk1939
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I remember a house I visited when I was looking at a new house that required two breakers that had to be flipped for a light in the kitchen to go out (yes that's something I check). I preferred the house with the K&T wiring myself, still had the push button switches, but was nearly $500,000.

Is the single outlet you have there grounded? What kind of cable feeds the outlet?



dennismurphy
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said by sk1939:

Is the single outlet you have there grounded? What kind of cable feeds the outlet?

Yes indeed, it's grounded. Thankfully, everything in this house is NM copper & grounded (was built in '68). The cable is 12/2, so I'm in great shape for extending the circuit ...

sk1939
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No reason not to then, although I would personally put the GFCI as the next outlet down stream just so a trip doesn't kill your water supply. Alternatively, you could just extend the circuit and if you have breakers replace it with a GFCI or Arc-Fault breaker.



dennismurphy
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said by sk1939:

No reason not to then, although I would personally put the GFCI as the next outlet down stream just so a trip doesn't kill your water supply. Alternatively, you could just extend the circuit and if you have breakers replace it with a GFCI or Arc-Fault breaker.

The timer on the water softener has no bearing on water flow; a tripped gfci would just mean the regeneration cycle wouldn't happen if it were scheduled that day. No big deal.

Good stuff - thanks all!! Saves me from dragging cable through the attic.


Softwater

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said by dennismurphy:

said by sk1939:

No reason not to then, although I would personally put the GFCI as the next outlet down stream just so a trip doesn't kill your water supply. Alternatively, you could just extend the circuit and if you have breakers replace it with a GFCI or Arc-Fault breaker.

The timer on the water softener has no bearing on water flow; a tripped gfci would just mean the regeneration cycle wouldn't happen if it were scheduled that day. No big deal.

Good stuff - thanks all!! Saves me from dragging cable through the attic.

If the GFCI trips while the softener is running a cycle, the timer won't advance until the power is restored. Depending on where in the regen cycle power is lost, the amount of time it takes to notice the tripped GFCI and restore power and your water/sewer rates, quite a bill could rack up. While unlikely to be a problem, it may be worth considering placement of the GFCI downstream of the softener outlet. Just my $0.02

robbin
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That would be against code.


robbin
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reply to dennismurphy

said by dennismurphy:

Kinda mind-boggling to think that it was cheaper & easier to pull the wiring, take up a panel slot, etc. than to install a GFCI.... but very true.

I think you are missing the point. Code allowed the simplex outlet to be installed without GFCI protection. They spent extra to do it this way so there was not a GFCI on the water softener which could trip. It was considered insurance to not have a GFCI on the water softener and the potential tripping of a GFCI shutting it off. If it were still legal, I have no doubt that many would prefer this installation to having a GFCI on the water softener as witnessed by other posts in this thread.


dennismurphy
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said by robbin:

said by dennismurphy:

Kinda mind-boggling to think that it was cheaper & easier to pull the wiring, take up a panel slot, etc. than to install a GFCI.... but very true.

I think you are missing the point. Code allowed the simplex outlet to be installed without GFCI protection. They spent extra to do it this way so there was not a GFCI on the water softener which could trip. It was considered insurance to not have a GFCI on the water softener and the potential tripping of a GFCI shutting it off. If it were still legal, I have no doubt that many would prefer this installation to having a GFCI on the water softener as witnessed by other posts in this thread.

I don't seem to have the nuisance factor of the gfci that others do .... I guess that's a good thing?

The good news (I guess) is that the regen cycle is so darned loud that I'd hear if it were still running when I wake up. Sounds like the ocean invaded the basement. When we bought this place last year, it scared the bejeebus out of me!