View Full Version : Wall switch for whirlpool tub
12-04-2007, 10:22 AM
I am currently remodeling my master bath. I'm removing an American Standard whirlpool tub and putting in a BainUltra air-bath. In the existing setup, there is a wall switch that activates the tub's circuit for the jets, sort of like a master override. But I can't figure out why it is needed, or more importantly, if I need one for the air-bath.
I figured it might have been part of the plumbing/electrical code that you needed a master shut-off for the tub's electrical supply. I live in New Jersey, but couldn't find anything obvious when searching for an answer. Plus, my last house, which was also in New Jersey, didn't have such a shut-off switch for the whirlpool tub, and it was a newer house.
What I do know is that the air-bath is a bit simpler, and there isn't a minimum water level requirement to turn on the turbine, so the switch isn't guarding against that.
Does anyone know if and why a wall switch is needed for a whirlpool tub? I can always talk to the township inspector, but I figured I'd check around first.
12-04-2007, 11:05 AM
Our local inspectors require that a whirlpool or air jetted tub be plugged into either a GFCI outlet or a single outlet with a GFCI breaker. The tub must have it's own circuit. It also has to have and extra ground wire of a certain size run directly to the motor from the service ground. The outlet and the working parts are required to have access panels installed. We are not allowed to direct wire a tub into a junction box. We would not be allowed to put a reqular switch on or near the tub, but with the plug and outlet no local switch or breaker is necessary, just the main panel. A switch next to a tub must be one of the air type. Anyone working on the unit can simply unplug it.
You will have to check locally to find out what is required in your area.
12-04-2007, 12:58 PM
I have an air tub (different brand). The motor is designed to plug into a controller, which is plugged into an outlet. The electrician wired it so it could be changed to a whirlpool, but since the motor doesn't have a metalic housing, and came with a 3-prong plug designed to plug into it's controller (if you plugged it into the wall, it would run continuously), it didn't actually need the extra ground. The air switch which goes into the controller allows you to turn it off and on, and vary the speed. the outlet is under the tub behind an access panel.
There was an alternate controller that was a low-voltage logic panel rather than an air switch. this option allowed setting it to cycle the motor speed, and, if equipped, vary the LED color illumination of the tub for chromic therapy. A second function, that would be useful, is that it had a moisture sensor, and instead of only turning on to blow dry the tub after use, it sensed that moisture had been in the thing (say from a shower), and ran afterwards to dry out the channels.
There is no room master override switch. I live in NH, your codes may differ, and I'm not sure how generic the controls are from brand to brand.
12-04-2007, 01:57 PM
Interesting. Thanks for the info. Let's see what I have...
Access panel - yep, got one of those for the existing whirlpool. The problem is, the motor is a good 6 feet away from the panel with no hope of reaching the motor. That's not a problem since I'll be ripping the whole thing out, but I'm not sure how it passed inspection the first time.
GFCI outlet or breaker - given that the motor is so far from the hatch and partially obscured, I can't verify that it's a GFCI outlet. What I can say is that it is on it's own circuit with a double wide breaker, although it is only 120V. Maybe it's a GFCI.
Dedicated ground - maybe. There is a solid metal wire going from the copper pipe nearby over to the motor. I thought the pipes were being grounded, but since the pipes are grounded in the basement, maybe this is a dedicated ground for the motor? I'll have to investigate.
Air-switch - nope, this is a regular toggle switch about 8 feet from the tub on the wall. But I'm guessing it serves the same purpose so that it can be shut off easily.
Since my new air-bath proposes using a GFCI outlet, I may switch to this model and then remove the switch. I'll check with the local codes. Suffice to say the current setup is crappy since I can't get anywhere near the motor without tearing through a wall or the tub-surround.
When possible I try to install an inline switch. Regardless of safety features you never know if a time might come when the motor has to be turned off quickly and at that time you don't want to have to depend on an air switch that might have failed.
12-06-2007, 06:50 AM
Probably not a bad idea, but except for catastrophic failures, an air turbine is designed to run dry; unlike a whirlpool which will quickly ruin things if you run it with the water too low.
In the three years I've had my air tub, I did have one time where I ended up shutting it off at the CB. It may have been a confusion about it just starting the automatic dry cycle when I hit the switch to turn it on again, but it's worked fine since.