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There are five kinds of circuit protection.
1. Circuit Breakers/Fuses protect against short circuit and excessive circuit i.e. hair dryer and microwave. This keeps the wires from melting and starting fires.

2. Arc fault circuit interrupt: protects against arcing. Arcs may not be excessive, like a spark, but can still cause fires. AFCI is usually incorporated with the circuit breaker, esp on new homes.

3. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt. GFCI: Protects against electrocution by ensuring that the current entering an outlet is the same as the current leaving the outlet. If they are different, it means that the current is taking a different path than expected, like your arm. This is a ground fault, and the circuit trips. GFCI outlets are required in the kitchen, bathroom, and anywhere else water is present.

4. Surge protectors. Protects you appliances against power surges from the Energy co. Usually used with computers. Not really applicable to an aquarium, except that surge protectors come with these handy dandy outlet strips that you can plug lots of stuff into. Many power strips also include circuit breaker protection as well.

5. UPS Power backup. Protect against power droops/brownouts from the energy company. You can hook up a computer UPS to your aquarium to use during power outages, but wont last very long if you're lights are hooked up to it. Really good for saltwater/reefs, not totally necessary for planted tanks.

The only ones really useful in aquariums are GFCI and breaker protected power strips. I installed a GFCI outlet at the wall and have a power strip in my stand. UPS might be useful, but expensive. I've never really considered it before.

I've never seen GFCI that stays off when power goes out. You can't run power tools off of GFCI because the outlet can't compensate for large motors. Plug your refrigerator into an GFCI outlet and see what happens when the compressor turns on. THe GFCI will trip almost every time. For this reason, there is a specific exemption for GFCI on large appliances, like refrigerators, dishwashers, and garbage disposals. Many power outages are accompanied by a surge or brownout, which is why surge protectors often trip on power outage. Artemis' point about failing in the off position makes sense, but I haven't seen that behavior in practice. I've never had to reset the GFCI in my kitchen after a power failure.
 

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Great info! Thanks for this detailed description...

I guess maybe I wasn't looking at the right thing in the stores. I'll do another tour...
 

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I only have my pump connected to the UPS. Lights are not needed to keep fish alive and the water temp will not drop enough to kill the fish without heaters. My UPS can run my MagDrive pump for hours but connect my 800 watts of heaters and it drains in minutes, haven't tried the lighting it is another 440 watts. If I lose power for more than several hours, I fire up the generator....DC
 

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JERP said:
I've never seen GFCI that stays off when power goes out. You can't run power tools off of GFCI because the outlet can't compensate for large motors. Plug your refrigerator into an GFCI outlet and see what happens when the compressor turns on. THe GFCI will trip almost every time. For this reason, there is a specific exemption for GFCI on large appliances, like refrigerators, dishwashers, and garbage disposals. Many power outages are accompanied by a surge or brownout, which is why surge protectors often trip on power outage. Artemis' point about failing in the off position makes sense, but I haven't seen that behavior in practice. I've never had to reset the GFCI in my kitchen after a power failure.
You can't run large motors off a GFCI-protected circuit, but small ones like electric circular saws and drills are another matter. They usually don't cause enough of an induction surge to trip the GFCI. Extension cords and plugs used on construction sites are required by OSHA to use GFCI, and those units do indeed trip when a power failure occurs and stay off (unlike the GFCI wall outlets and breaker circuits normally seen in homes). But that's an easy problem to avoid: just have an electrician wire GFCI to the circuit in your breaker box that handles the aquarium, or swap out the regular wall outlet for a GFCI wall outlet, or use a GFCI plug-in unit that is not OSHA compliant (like the one Premium Aquatics sells), and you'll be fine.
 

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Just a little tip: make sure your GFCI outlets are installed correctly if you're doing it yourself. I just figured out that one of mine was backwards (line/load wires reversed.) The outlet would trip, but current was still flowing. :eek: I didn't electrocute myself, but certainly could have.
 

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epicfish - not sure if you were talking about the replacement wall outlets or the ones that just plug in to existing outlets, but just yesterday I bought a single outlet "Shock Buster" plug in thing from Lowe's for $10. I don't know about the replacement wall outlets.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Can I get a "Shock Buster" and then plug a surge protector into it and will it work?
That's what I do. I have the portable plug in GFCI outlet and then plugged in to the surge protector. When I had my mini aqualight fall into the aquarium, it triggered the safety off switch near instantly. I got mine from Orchard Hardware Supply (OSH) for about $30.

This thread reminds me that I should get another one with my upcoming tank.

-John N.
 

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That's what I do. I have the portable plug in GFCI outlet and then plugged in to the surge protector. When I had my mini aqualight fall into the aquarium, it triggered the safety off switch near instantly. I got mine from Orchard Hardware Supply (OSH) for about $30.

This thread reminds me that I should get another one with my upcoming tank.

-John N.
How about the $13 one on this page compared to the $28 one one the same page?

Shock Buster Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters by Tower Mfg.
 

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
My guess would be that it would work. But it's only a guess. I might have order a couple to find out.

-John N.
 

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This same topic has just come up over at The Planted Tank. I don't think that it can be emphasized enough that a surge protector is not the same thing as a ground fault interrupt.

Here is my response on that forum:

spypet on The Planted Tank Forum said:
I use a good computer power strip in lue of a GFCI.
a push of a button is all i need to reset the GFCI.
I haven't seen any computer power strips which include GFCI. They are all fused and have surge protection, but would be useless in the event of a ground fault.
The entire idea of GUCCI outlets is that they cut power instantaneously if they detect a short circuit. The breakers in your panel *may* trip in a similar situation, but neither is it guaranteed, but it's also a slower process that will leave you exposed to shock for a longer period of time.
For those who aren't able to install a GUCCI outlet, consider at least plugging your power strip into a protected pigtail such as the one here: Right Angle GUCCI Pigtail

To be honest I haven't set up a protected circuit at home yet (though it's on my to-do list), but at work I often use power tools in wet areas and wouldn't consider plugging anything in without the piece I've linked to above. I think my life is worth at least $20 or so.
btw - the big home improvement stores sell these as well. I think I got mine from Lowe's.

Edit: I've just noticed the site above has several other products that could be useful. They're on this page: GFCIs
and a link to the thread there: GUCCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet? - The Planted Tank Forum
 

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A thought for those who install dedicated in-wall GFCI outlets: If you have several outlets supplying your fish tank you may still need only 1 GFCI outlet. Any additional outlets wired "downstream" will actually receive the same protection.

While this might not be ideal for those who are already wired in the walls (sometimes it's hard to tell how the circuit runs), it can make it very easy for those who choose to electrify their stands with outlets constructed on the interior.
 

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When I first bought my house, I went to home depot and purchased 20+ GFI in wall outlets. A contractor beside be said, "You only need to do the down stream one". While he is right, determing the wiring in a old house would take more time than replacing the outlets. I mentioned this and he laughed.

You hear of people dropping in lights, etc. all the time, be safe.
 

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get an in-wall gfci outlet, mount it in a switch box, and attach a grounded power cord. makes a nice, two outlet gfci protected power source. no problems with it having to be manually reset after a power outage. it has saved my life on more than one occasion. :D
 
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