A recent local newspaper story opened with this information: “A faulty pool light is central to the investigation of the death of a seven-year-old boy at his Keystone Point home.” The same news article cited two other examples of electrocution death caused by outdoor lighting. In one case, a student died at a bus shelter due to a live wire on the bus bench. In the other case, a high school freshman died at an Aventura tennis court when he touched a receptacle box at the base of a 22-foot lighting pole. If a swimming pool is part of your home environment, there are some safety guidelines you need to know. The first step is to know the local safety codes and the National Electric Code when doing any electrical work around your pool. As an example, the NEC indicates that low-voltage lighting systems must be not less than 10 feet horizontally from the nearest edge of the water. You do not want someone to be able to touch a light fixture while part of their body is still in the water.
Use a 12-volt lighting system because they are less hazardous than the 120-volt systems, which must be installed by a licensed electrician. A 12-volt pool light can only be 300 watts.
Pay attention to the quality of the equipment. Mike Gambino, writing for <aquamagazine.com>, says the inexpensive plastic fixtures designed for the do-it-yourselfers are not suitable for applications near water.
He points out that these products are very susceptible to damage and have inferior service lives. He recommends quality cast brass or other non-ferrous (non-rusting) metal alloy fixtures such as copper or steel.
Gambino, owner of a landscape lighting company in the Los Angeles area, says that wiring next to water should always be installed in conduit. Although some installers will argue for burying the cable, Gambino finds that the added safety and durability of the conduit system and the ease of replacing wiring or expanding the systems gives the advantage to conduits.
Do not permit any part of the lighting system, fixtures, transformers or wiring to become submerged in water at any time. Transformers should be properly grounded in accordance with both manufacturer recommendations and the National Electric Code. Every component of a lighting system that can potentially come in contact with water must be protected with groundfault circuit interrupters (GFI).
Your careful attention to safety guidelines about your swimming pool lighting will assure happy times — not tragic ones — around that pool.
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