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Electrical Code and Swimming Pool Light Fixtures

GFCI Ground Fault Protection for Swimming Pool Lights: NEC Article 680-20, As described in this electrical question, anyone who enters the pool with this light on is in Danger of Potential Electrical Shock!


Swimming Pool Light Fixtures
[ad#block]Electrical Question: We have a pool with a 120 volt light. Should the light be on a GFCI circuit?

  • We have an in ground pool with a pool light with 120 volts. It is an incandescent bulb, not LED. Does the national electrical code require this pool light to be on a GFCI breaker/circuit?Our pool pump/light is on a 220 line. I ask this question because it WAS on a GFCI and a bad rainstorm tripped it and an electrician came out and said that is your problem, it is on a GFCI and they “fluctuate” too much. He then installed a regular breaker non GFCI for our pool.
  • I have done some research and found out that this can cause a dangerous situation, possible electrocution of people in the pool if something happens.
  • So that is my question. Does a 120 volt pool light on a 220 line need to be GFCI protected? Because if it does, then this electrician that the pool company hired does not know what he is doing and could have caused our pool pump to burn up, spark a fire or electrocuted someone in our pool.

Thanks!

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Lara.
Background: Lara, a Homeowner from La Porte, Texas.

GFCI Ground Fault Protection for Swimming Pool Lights

gfi outlet

Pool Light Fixtures Require a GFCI Ground Fault Circuit

WARNING: If you have a pool light that is not protected by GFCI Ground Fault Circuit protection then the occupants in or around the swimming pool are at grave risk of potential electrical shock, this includes pets and other animals as well!

VERY IMPORTANT: PLEASE – Turn OFF the circuit to your swimming pool light or electrical outlets that are NOT GFCI Protected, call a Qualified Licensed Electrician and have the necessary Ground Fault Protection installed.

As described in this electrical question, anyone who enters the pool with this light on is in Danger of Potential Electrical Shock!

National Electrical Code: NEC Article 680-20 Pool Light Fixture

  • The National Electrical Code – Article 680-20a1 states that a pool light fixture over 15 volts must be GFCI Protected.
  • The very reason the original GFCI circuit breaker tripped indicates that there is something wrong with the circuit, and the GFCI circuit breaker was providing the protection against a potential electric shock.
  • The alleged “electrician” who removed this GFCI protection has placed himself in an extremely liable position.
  • This person should be notified and asked to come back and place the GFCI circuit breaker back on the circuit, then I would hire a Qualified Licensed Electrician who knows more about the electrical code.
  • I would also notify the pool company who uses this other person and inform them of their inadequacies and the liable position their actions are placing onto the referring pool company.
  • You have also stated that the 120 volt light is fed from a 220 volt pump circuit. If this is the case then this needs to be changed because a 220 volt pump circuit does not provide the necessary isolated neutral wire for the 120 volt light.
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FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Comments

8 Responses to “Electrical Code and Swimming Pool Light Fixtures”
  1. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Kunney,
    NEC Codes apply regardless of the age of the home or the age of the pool. Proper grounding and GFCI protection is of utmost concern, both for inside the pool, the surrounding area of the pool, and any equipment that is installed in or around the pool location. Light fixture assemblies and cords should be UL Approved for Pool Locations as it applies to the intended installation.
    For your application be sure to review all the applicable NEC Codes for your project, with special attention to NEC Article 680.2.
    Dave

  2. Kunney Kato Kato says:

    Do you have to have a brass or plastic pool light J-box with a #8 in the pool light enclosure if the house is old, or can it go in to a bell box above the water line.

  3. joel Rambaud says:

    Anyone can install a GFCI, since in most cases a permit MUST be pulled and the building Inspector will either pass it or fail the job.

  4. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Josh – Great Question!
    In a situation like this it would be best to have a licensed electrician install the necessary GFCI protection for the pool light, and at the same time take a look at all of the electrical wiring and devices in the area of the pool, and then make recommendations about anything that is not up to current electrical code standards. Although there are some very good handyman workers that do a variety of fine work, they are not typically not licensed electricians.
    I hope this helps,
    Dave

  5. Josh says:

    I am a first-time pool owner and am learning all of the nuances of owning a pool. My pool light recently went out and we had a pool guy come out to replace it. He tried to see if the GFCI needed to be reset but we do not have one. Our house was built in the 60’s and the pool is probably about the same age. He would not replace the light and recommended an electrician. The problem is that we are renting right now. I called the property manager to let him know and he is sending out his handyman to add a GFCI receptacle at the junction box, not an electrician. Will this provide the protection that we need? The light looks like a standard pool light and it is wired into a junction box a few feet from the pool. Then it goes to a breaker box by the pump that is dedicated to the pool equipment (pump and light only). The light has to be turned off/on at the breaker box, as there is no other switch. Thank you for any feedback and I can provide any additional information if needed.

  6. Dave Rongey says:

    Hi Bill,
    The NEC Code 680.22B3 requires that a light fixture is permitted by pools if it is:
    (1.) Protected by a GFCI circuit.
    (2.) Greater than 5 feet from the edge of the pool.
    (3.) Greater than 5 feet high.
    Please note all three conditions that must be met.
    Be Safe,
    Dave

  7. Bill McCallum says:

    I have been told that I have a porch light too close to my swimming pool. Is it sufficient to put the light on a GFI

  8. John Nelson says:

    I am adding a section of the tubing/conduit that the 16/3 water resistant electrical cable is in from sub pool light J-box to pool light and wondering what type of tubing this is. It looks like copper but it is very thick walled. Is this in fact copper and what do I ask for when I go purchase it?