GFCI Protection for Biodiesel Processing Equipment
By Rick Da Tech
GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. It's pretty much required by building code any place water and electricity are in the same room. Kitchens and bathrooms often have GFCI outlets. You can spot them by the reset button. They are designed to shut down the power to the outlet if there is a grounding fault. They not only shut down power to the GFCI outlet, they will also shut down power to other outlets correctly connected to the GFCI outlet. That's why you may only have one GFCI outlet in your house, and also have full protection in multiple rooms. They look to see that the hot wire and the neutral wire have the same current on them. An imbalance of current of more than 0.05 amps is an indication that a short to ground exists and the GFCI will trip. If the circuit is leaking less than 0.05 amps, it will not trip the GFCI and you can still receive a painful shock, just hopefully not a lethal one.
Since making biodiesel often involves both electricity and water we should also be using them. Our equipment is often not properly bonded. Bonding is a term that means there is an electrical path between all the metal components of our processors. Bonding is used to prevent metal components from building up a charge that could shock you. With the improper bonding found on most home biodiesel equipment, it becomes all to easy for the operator to be the path of least resistance to ground. Particularly if the floor is wet. We walk up touch our processor and complete the circuit. ZAP!
There are a couple of choices for GFCI. You could use an existing GFCI outlet, but those are usually only found in your home. You could wire in a new GFCI outlet, but wiring a GFCI is tricky and best left to the professionals. The best solutions seem to be the use of a GFCI adapter or GFCI extension cord. These plug into an existing outlet and still offer the GFCI protection for up to 15 amps per device. One important tip: Test these devices out before each batch by pressing the test button. GFCI devices of all kinds have been know to fail under much the same conditions we have near our processors.
GFCI Adapters - from Amazon.com