Swimming, wading, and decorative pools and fountains present special problems for lighting designers. Outdoor lighting must be capable of functioning properly under all weather conditions and wide temperature excursions, but electrification near bodies of water requires additional safeguards.

It is imperative that all luminaires and wiring suitable for use near these installations be made to withstand long-term exposure to a wet environment. They must also incorporate features that eliminate the possibility of electrical shock to persons in or near them. An electric shock can be received near these installations in several ways, because electrical potentials exist with respect to ground and within the water itself.

Any person in the pool who touches a faulty energized metal enclosure is subject to possibly fatal electrical shock because his or her body will conduct current through the water and pool to earth. For this reason NEC 2002, Article 680, “Swimming Pools, Fountains, and Similar Installations,” covers the requirements for the construction and installation of electrical equipment in and around swimming pools and similar installations
to minimize shock hazards.

Article 680 also covers other electrical equipment installed near pools, including transformers, heaters, water circulating systems, and fans. Because of the complexity of the provisions in Article 680, only highlights are presented here. It is expected that anyone contemplating the installation of any electrical equipment in or near pools or hot tubs will study the provisions closely before proceeding.

The following topics are covered by Article 680:
Transformers and ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
Receptacles, lighting fixtures, lighting outlets, switches, and fans
Electric pool water heaters
Underground wiring

Underwater lighting fixtures
The bonding of metallic, non-current-carrying parts of a pool installation
Equipment grounding

Receptacles are prohibited within 10 ft from the pool edge, and GFCIs must protect all 120-V AC receptacles between 10 and 20 ft from the inside walls of indoor and outdoor pools. The exception is the installation of a GFCI-protected receptacle for a cord-connected swimming pool recirculating pump. (It can be less than 10 ft but not closer than 5 ft from the inside wall of the pool.)

At least one 120-V receptacle must be installed at residential pools within the 10- to 20-ft band to eliminate the use of long extension cords, but it can be closer if it is protected by a hinged or sliding door.

GFCI protection is required for existing lighting outlets on buildings adjacent to the pools, tubs, or fountains within a space that is at least 5 ft above the water and 5 ft back from the pool edge. However, this rule does not apply if the outlets are more than 12 ft above the water and 10 ft back from the pool edge. New lighting is not permitted within this space around the pool.

All lighting fixtures must be at least 12 ft above the water level of an outdoor pool, but totally enclosed fixtures with GFCI protection in their supply circuits that have a clearance of at least 7.5 ft can be installed over indoor pools. GFCI protection is not required for all lighting fixtures set back from the pool edge at least 5 ft and mounted at least 5 ft above the deck.

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