Gfci Or Surge Protector To Protect From Heater Malfunction

Discussion in 'Freshwater Tank Equipment' started by dombo, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. domboNew MemberMember

    Two nights ago I woke to the smell of an electrical fire. No fire. Traced the smell to the aquarium. Turns out the submerged heater (which was properly submerged) burned out. The smell filled my house, stank up the water, and had my fish in distress (they were upside down struggling on the bottom.). Water was not hot. The heater was plugged into a cheap power strip/surge protector. It did not trip. My question- would a gfci have tripped since it was not water that caused the issue. Or would a better surge protector have tripped. I'm hesitant to get another heater. (Water still stinks but is improving after big water change and adding new filter media. Fish are at least swimming normal and eating).
  2. AWheelerWell Known MemberMember

    It might be cheaper to install a gfci outlet, if you know how to install it yourself. The thing is though, unless there is a surge, there won't be any trip.
  3. TwoHedWlfWell Known MemberMember

    A GFCI. They're two completely different bits of equipment.

    A surge protector blocks high voltage spikes to protect your equipment from lightning, etc.
    A GFCI cuts the power when it detects a the electricity flowing to ground to avoid electrocution. Which may have or may not have tripped in your case.
  4. domboNew MemberMember

    So neither would cut off to prevent a motor or heater from shorting out/burning?
  5. ryanrModeratorModerator Member

    Hi, welcome to Fishlore.

    First: You can add some carbon (if you haven't already) to help with the smell.

    As TwoHed mentioned above, GFCI and Surge Protectors are two different things.

    Surge protectors protect equipment, GFCI protect humans.

    Would either have helped in your situation? Probably not, UNLESS:
    a) if a surge caused the burnout, then it would have tripped; obviously this is not the case, as you had it on a surge protector.
    b) if the fault was caused by an earthing problem/current leakage (e.g. broken glass on heater) then the GFCI should trip. Problem with aquariums and heaters specifically, is that a short often doesn't result in a ground fault/earth of the circuit, until something (like a human) comes into contact and provides the earth.
    c) if the fault was caused by an element burnout in the heater (similar to blown light bulb), then a GFCI might trip, as the circuit has been broken. Of this, I'm not 100% sure if that's how they work, but in theory, GFCI is designed to detect interruptions to the circuit, which, in the case of blown element, there is no longer a circuit.
  6. domboNew MemberMember

    Ok thanks. Already had added carbon. Going to do another water change today. I'll go with a gfci multi use plug (can't get to the wall plug to change it out-wish is thought if that when I moved the tank there).
    I don't know that it would hace helped in this instance. I think it was just heater malfunction which now has me hesitant to get another.

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