More than ever, homeowners are choosing a “staycation” this year and are investing in their backyards, where health and social safety can be maintained. Whether homeowners are installing a backyard kitchen, swimming pool, hot tub or jacuzzi, the outdoor living scene has taken the home improvement industry to a new level.
If you have a swimming pool or hot tub, or are considering installing one, there are some important safety measures that should be taken before dipping in for the first time. In case you didn’t know, submerging our bodies in water makes us more susceptible to electric shock and reduces resistance of our skin. Even low voltage levels can cause a sufficient amount of current to flow through the water and inevitably, shock our bodies.
We all know that water and electricity do not mix. That is why it is more important than ever to understand electrical safety when dealing with your swimming pool, hot tub or jacuzzi. There are safety codes that should be implemented and safety devices that could be installed to ensure your family is safe when enjoying the summer season.
Many electrical hazards around the pool are often created when your pool is installed by a company that may be looking to take shortcuts. Or you may have chosen a company that was less expensive because they “did the electric themselves” and did not hire an electrician to ensure the pool was installed pursuant to local electrical code, possibly compromising required safety measures. Or your pool may be older and is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. This can also create electrical hazards.
All 120V lighting and receptacle outlets should be a minimum of 10 feet from the water line. Older lights or pool lighting housings or cords should never be “repaired”. You can replace a bulb or gasket, but once the major components have decayed, the light must be replaced.
Both GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) breakers and outlets will eventually fail. It is recommended that you, or an electrician, check these regularly by pushing the test button to be sure it quickly interrupts the circuit. At the very least, GFCI breakers and outlets use on a pool should be changed every 10 to 20 years.
Bonding and grounding are often misunderstood terms, but an essential part of your pool’s safety. Grounding the pump, pool lights, hot tub motors, electrical outlets and pool heaters are essential and should be checked annually when opening your pool. All of the ground wires go back to the breaker panel and attach to the ground, which is connected to a buried grounding rod.
Bonding provides a continuous loop of bare #8 copper wire that connects all of the metal equipment and components of your pool – the pump motor, heater blower, lights, pool ladders, diving board or slide, steel in the pool shell and deck.
If you are concerned about your pool lighting, call a licensed electrician to evaluate your pool’s electrical safety.
Electrical accidents have also been reported due to “plugged in” items, like radios, power drills, charging cell phone or hair dryers being dropped into a pool. If an appliance is dropped in, the GFCI outlet should shut off the power within a ¼ of a second. If you find yourself in that situation, DO NOT dive in after your expensive device or attempt to pull someone who is being shocked to safety. You MUST first unplug the cord or shut the pool’s power completely.
As a pool owner, you should know how to shut power to the pool. Most inground pools have a sub-panel installed by the pool pump and filter, in additional a safety switch or timer.
Be alert for other electrical hazards around the pool like overhead power or telephone lines. Also make sure the protective panels or covers on timeclocks and breaker boxes are secured. Cracked or broken wires that power pumps, lights or heaters can also be hazardous and should be checked and replaced as needed.
The 2020 NEC electrical code now requires pool water to be grounded with special devices for additional protection. It is more important now than ever to make sure your pool is safe and conforms to the most up to date code requirements.
General pool safety measures are vital in keeping your family and guests safe from harm and electrical shock. It is never too late to inspect your swimming pool and learn how you can better protect it. If you are unsure about the electrical safety of your pool or home, call a licensed electrician that can offer their expertise.
Donald Pagano, President – DRP Electrical Contractors Inc.
(718) 447-7275 www.drpelectric.com