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Thread: Replacing pool light a serious concern

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    Replacing pool light a serious concern

    I plan to have an electrician come out to test my existing GFCI as I am concerned it is not working correctly. It appears to be the original unit which was installed in the 60's. I am very handy but I'm not stupid and won't risk electrocution of my family to save a few bucks.

    Having said that, I am pretty handy and fairly cheap so I plan to do the rest of the work myself. Here's what I'm up against.

    I drained my pool this year and noticed that the pool light was about half full of water. Not knowing any better, I assumed it would fill back up when I filled the pool. (I had heard from the previous owner that the light needed to be under water or it would burn out due to heat) I noticed when the pool was full, there was still an air bubble filling approximately half of the lens.

    So after some research, I realized the previous owner was either misinformed or lying (as there should be zero water in the fixture and certainly not half way filled with water! I have no idea how long the pool light has been exposed to water but after inspecting the gasket install the former owner did, I think it is safe to assume it has had a significant amount of water in the fixture for the for the entire 2 years I've owned the pool. Not once has the gfci or breaker tripped and the light has worked the entire time. I do know for sure based upon the corrosion in the socket that it has been submerged in water for awhile. I think we got really lucky here.

    So I removed the fixture from the niche, brought it out of the pool and replaced the gasket. As soon as I put it in the water, air bubbled up out of it as it started to fill with water. Now replacing the gasket is tough because whoever installed this light in the 60's cut the cord too short and you can barely get it out of the pool. There is nowhere near enough length to get it face down on a towel to work on it properly.

    So I disconnected the wiring in the junction box, removed the fixture, replaced the gasket again and submerged the unit to test for leaks. It appears to be holding watertight just fine now but I'm a bit spooked by all of this. I didn't wire it back up and have no intention of doing so.

    So on to my concern! Given the potential danger, I am not satisfied with the way the current gasket is designed and am looking to upgrade my pool light fixture. I could probably reinstall the current unit but I am going to replace it with something safer, newer and with a longer cord for the future. I like the LED option mainly because it is a sealed unit and I will not have to rely on a gasket to keep water out of the light. I would be happy with an incandescent replacement at around $150.00 but I don't have any idea if the gasket system has been upgraded or not over the years.

    Is an LED unit a safer bet than an incandescent upgrade? We are talking a difference of roughly $300.00 between an incandescent and an LED as far as I've been able to find online.
    The reviews on Amazon are mixed. I was looking at a Pentair LED unit and 20% of the reviews were 1 star with various complaints.

    I have no preference on color change vs a white light. But I'm willing to spend the extra $300.00 or so for an LED if that gives me more peace of mind and keeps my swimmers safe.

    I'm planning on upgrading my existing electrical panel with some sort of automated panel in the near future. It will be a major brand but I haven't decided between the available options just yet.

    I want to do this once focused on safety with an eye on future compatibility with the new panel but honestly don't need to frills of a color changing light.

    So which way should I go? Have the incandescent gaskets been improved since the 60's? Are they safe?
    Should I buy an LED? If so, which one is going to be safe and a good value at roughly $500.00?

    Where can I find the best product at the best price online?

    I've attached a couple of pictures of the old light for reference. It is a 120v system and I need at least 11 feet of cord.

    Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

    24,000 gal in ground, Gunite, Sand filter, Hayward 140,000 btu heat pump, Pentair Superflow VS, Polaris pool sweep, TF-100 test kit w/speed stir

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    ned8377's Avatar
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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    A lot of times the leak is not from the gasket but where the wire goes in the back.
    True L 45,000 gal Hayward IG vinyl pool. Hayward Tristar 2.40 THP; 1.5 FRHP/1.60 SF. Hayward Model # S310T2 Sand Filter. Aqua Rite T-15. Aqua Comfort 154,000 BTU Heat Pump. TF-100

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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    That light looks pretty clean....

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    Jaimslaw's Avatar
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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    Gasket replacement can be fairly tricky. First off, some so called oem gaskets are a little off in diameter and that makes for a poor (leaky) fit. Secondly, a bent or distorted flange upon which the gasket is compressed to can create a leak point. Third, the retaining ring and clips can be distorted and that makes for an uneven tension when tightening.

    When I replaced my gasket, I submergd it in a home depot bucket for a week. Sure enough, on the 5th day of it being submerged in the bucket, I could see a bit of water getting it. Relying strictly on the presence or absence of bubbles is not the best test for water tightness.

    This bucket test can also isolate leaks coming into the wire port on the back simply by submerging the light housing with that end/back submerged and the gasket part above the water line. Then check for signs of leakage.

    I'd also be sure to check to see if a separate ground wire is run through the conduit.

    If you do want to stick with the current housing, try looking up Bulbwizard led 120v light on Amazon. Really competitive price over a lot of mUch more exoensive LED lighting and has many of the same features (multiple colors, different light patterns, decent brightness).
    Pool: 13k gal. in-ground; Stonescape Mini Pebble - Tropics Blue; Connected Spa - dual spill-over; Aqua Rite T-15 SWCG; AquaLogic PS-4 Automation; Sta-Rite DE Filter; Sta-Rite Max-e-Therm 400k BTU pool heater; Intellifo 2-VST Pump; Stenner 45mp2(25psi/10gpd) acid injection; Bulbwizard color LED pool lights; Poolvergnuegen 2 wheel side suction cleaner; FAFCO rooftop solar. TF-100 w/ speed stir.

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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    You should be able to test your GFCI with the test button on the receptacle or breaker. The fact that it didn't trip when the light was full of water seems unusual. I'd reconnect the light, turn it on, and hit the GFCI test button. Hitting the test button should pop out the reset button on the receptacle or trip the breaker and extinguish the light. If you are having an electrician come out, I'd have them replace the GFCI, it is inexpensive compared to the hourly rate of the electrician.

    The previous owner was somewhat correct about the light, the fixture will overheat if left on when it is not submerged. However there shouldn't be water inside. Turning it on for a couple minutes while it is on the deck out of the water for testing won't cause any problems.
    8.5k gallon IG pebble sheen play pool with Intellitouch control, Intellifo VF, IC 20, Rainbow tab feeder (not currently in use), Pentaire mystery cartridge filter with labels faded to the point I have no idea on the model, Intellibrite 5g LED light, Hayward Navigator. Adding IntelliPh and Crestron control next.

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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    My friend just pulled a brand new LED light and installed with no issues.. he used the Pentair with the switch and a new GFCI (replaced the old GFCI) and worked great. The 500w will be brighter than the 300 LED but both will not be as bright as an incandecant.

    The switch is not needed as you can change the colors by turning on and off but it makes it easier.
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    Amazon.com : Pentair 601001 IntelliBrite 5G Color Underwater LED Pool Light Garden

    300 watt 120v
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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    I will address the GFCI first... If the test button causes the GFCI to trip then for the most part the unit is good. The test circuit in a GFCI shorts a path on the load side of the GFCI just like it would be an actual problem on the load side. While I have seen GFCI's fail, the frequency of them failing is pretty small. If they do, the test button generally does not function. If you suspect the GFCI then simply change it out for a new one.

    As for the light...I am going to assume this is a 120 volt light and not a 12 volt. Is there a proper ground wire and bond wire connected in this unit? In order for a GFCI to work properly, it needs to see the same amount of current go back on the neutral that comes in from the hot. A 4-6 milivolt difference is what will cause the GFCI to trip. If there is no ground wire connected and the water is isolated from any ground path back to the source it is possible that the GFCI will not trip due to the fact that any current from the hot wire will still return on the neutral and not go to a ground path.

    If this is a 12 volt unit, then somewhere in the system there is a transformer to step the 120 volts down to 12 volts. Transformers are an isolation device. As such, there is no physical connection between the load side and the line side. If the load side has a short in it the Line side will not see it. So, in this instance the 120 volts going into the transformer will be equal on both the hot side and the neutral side. This is why a GFCI will not trip on a fault on the load side of the transformer
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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    I have not read all the posts to see if anyone else caught this but DO NOT put that light back in as shown in the OP's pic above. It has been reassembled incorrectly!
    If you re-assembled just as it was taken apart, this may be the reason you had water intrusion.
    Gasket goes only around the lens, and gets sandwiched between the face ring and the fixture housing.
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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    Good catch PC!
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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    You nailed it Pool Clown! I'm looking at the old gasket right now and I copied exactly how the former owner had it assembled incorrectly. Geez, he owned this home for 20 years before me, I wonder how long it's been like that?

    I just put the gasket on the correct way and all of a sudden it is a watertight unit again. Thank You!

    Since I've already removed it from the pool, I'm still going to replace it with a more modern unit and allow for some extra electrical line in the niche so that I can actually remove the light from the water with ease next time.

    But if they would have given me 1 more foot of line when it was originally installed, you would have just saved me $200.00 at a minimum!
    24,000 gal in ground, Gunite, Sand filter, Hayward 140,000 btu heat pump, Pentair Superflow VS, Polaris pool sweep, TF-100 test kit w/speed stir

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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    Now that I've been straightened out on how to properly install a gasket, it appears I was wrong about the 120v and gfci as well?
    I looked over what I originally had assumed to be a GFCI device and found it is actually a transformer. I'll post a pic of it at the end of my post.

    Normally, I try to research these things on my own before I bother others to provide me the info. But I've found that when it comes to pools, I always end up here to find the best advice possible.

    So now I know I need a 12V light fixture but I'm left with a few questions regarding this pool light system.

    Is the transformer a safety device and if so, how does it work? This light socket was definitely underwater for quite some time and we've used the pool while the light was on with no one getting shocked or killed.

    danpik probably answered my question but I don't know enough about my system or electricity to understand your answer just yet.
    The wire coming from the transformer to the pool light has 3 wires, white, red and green (ground).
    24,000 gal in ground, Gunite, Sand filter, Hayward 140,000 btu heat pump, Pentair Superflow VS, Polaris pool sweep, TF-100 test kit w/speed stir

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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    That is a transformer. Power going to it should be protected by a GFCI. either in the form of a GFCI outlet or a breaker in the control center or sub panel. It appears the pool lights are low voltage. Some more pictures would be good.

    The transformer is not a safety device per se. It steps down the power from 110 V AC to 12 V AC. So if you get shocked in theory its not as harmful. But 12v AC can kill you. It also in a sense defeats the GFCI because the GFCI can read voltage differentials on the load side of the transformer.

    Look at Mike Holt's diagram here: Relamping - use long light cable instead of junction box

    The transformer goes between the junction box and the switch. Make sense?

    Water in the light fixture doesn't mean there is a short or leak in current. That may be occurring and a wet fixture provides a low resistance path to anyone swimming in the pool so its not good.
    22k gallon IG pebblefina, Jandy 1.5 HP VS, Jandy CV Cartridge filter, Fafco solar panels, Polaris 360 supply side cleaner, waterfall

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    Re: Replacing pool light a serious concern

    If you can figure out how to get that box open, go ahead and look into it to see if, perhaps the x-former has been by-passed and the fixture is 120v light. You could also look at the bulb as there are 12V bulbs and 120v bulbs. BTW, thaty fixture CAN kill you if it floods. If you don't believe me, look at the service plate on that transformer. It can supply up to 25 amps.

    For a reference, less than 1/4 of an amp can kill you.

    The easiest way to go would be to by-pass the transformer, get a 120v bulb, and GFI that circuit, if it isn't already.

    If it is already, and you open up the light and you discover you have a 120v bulb, verify the by-pass and your'e all set!
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