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Thread: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

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    Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Hello all,

    I am looking for advice/knowledge on the safety of low voltage landscape lighting around the pool.

    Our pool finished construction in late September, we got a few weeks of use before we shut it down over the winter. The winter has been spent wrapping up some concrete work, moving rock, building pergolas, and getting everything ready for an awesome pool year this year.

    Tired of the solar landscape lighting I have used around the yard over the last few years, I bit the bullet and bought low voltage lights. It is a typical setup of Malibu equipment, transformer, walkway lights, spots, and floods, quick pictures below. I planned the layout, ran all the wires, and got everything up and running. Everything looks great and the yard and pool look awesome with the lights on at night!





    So here is where I need help: As I was planning and installing the lights I read the "not within 10 feet of water" on the instructions. In a world full of disclaimers..."don't put your head in a 5 gallon bucket you might drown, keep that plastic bag away from your face or you will die..." I didn't put a lot of weight on the "near water" disclaimer. I figured the lights are not going to end up in the pool so there shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, they are going to get splashed when the boys are cannonballing in, there are three fixtures within 6 feet of the water. So after stewing on this all winter I am getting worried that my disclaimer brush off was not a good idea. Electricty is a scary thing that I am not well versed in. I guess I took to the notion that the low voltage aspect of the lighting was not as serious. I do recall a voice from my Dad many years ago saying "it's not the volts that get ya, it's the amps."


    What says you? Splashing of lights going to cause disaster? Only when turned on? Only when plugged in? Always? Never? Just looking for some information and guidance.

    Thanks,

    J.
    In New Mexico 20'x36'/3.5' to 8.5'/32,000 gallon/IG gunite/plaster
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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    The serious danger is from someone touching the lights and the water at the same time. There generally also has to be a malfunction of some kind at the same time. Given just the wrong malfunction and someone touching the lights and the water at the same moment it is possible for someone to die.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    I could see touching the lights and being in a puddle or the pool not being a good idea. I am very confident that won't happen, the lights are up in a rock bed that will not be getting touched.

    I am worried about the lights somehow electrifying the ground or nearby pool deck, probably just freaking myself out now. If the lights short out or burn up because they get wet I am ok with that as long as they don't send out fields of death.

    Thanks for the reply and I am open to all feedback and suggestions.

    J.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Like Jason said it would have to take a malfunction or someone being wet then touching the lights to get shocked. W/ them being 6 foot from the pool I wouldn't worry about it electrically charging the pool deck unless the light is in a pool of water and the people are in that same pool of water then I would worry. Your dad was correct about the amps being the one that gets you. I work on electronics in the Coast Guard and we work on equipment around water all the time with a lot more voltage and amps. It is good to be cautious but you will drive your self nuts over this one. The light will most likely short out from getting splash before someone gets shocked.

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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    I think the main problem is that it's a $$ liability if someone gets hurt. I was planning on doing the same thing in a raised bed, but have scrapped that idea for now because of the same issue. It could also be a problem if you try to sell the house.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Thanks for the replies, I am going to be ok now...I think.

    I was/am most worried about the pool water or concrete getting zapped. When I put the lights in I was pretty sure if they got wet they would short out and stop working, which I am ok with fixing if it happens. Also, I can go the silicone wire nut route and try to waterproof the fixtures, again not to worried about it unless there are huge saftey issues.

    Thanks to all, I will update as the season gets going and there are any showers of sparks.

    J.
    In New Mexico 20'x36'/3.5' to 8.5'/32,000 gallon/IG gunite/plaster
    Pentair WFE-4 pump/Pentair CC420 cartridge filter/Raypak 266A heater
    2 Pentair Intellibrite LED's/6 Aqua arches
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by savagesix
    Thanks for the replies, I am going to be ok now...I think.

    I was/am most worried about the pool water or concrete getting zapped. When I put the lights in I was pretty sure if they got wet they would short out and stop working, which I am ok with fixing if it happens. Also, I can go the silicone wire nut route and try to waterproof the fixtures, again not to worried about it unless there are huge saftey issues.

    Thanks to all, I will update as the season gets going and there are any showers of sparks.

    J.

    Right or wrong I know a bunch of folks that have low voltage landscape lighting within 10' of the pool. Some were professionally installed. I would just make sure, and it sounds like it from your previous comments, that no one could pull a light into the pool, while being in the pool. Also don't worry about them getting wet. When it rains or my sprinklers go off they get wet and they keep on working.
    Approx 11K Gal. 10'X30' Semi free-form IG - 6 ' raised spa w/6 jets - 10' circle sun shelf with 1 bubbler - Waterfall - 3 / 1.5 HP pumps - Polaris 280 Cleaner - 3 Pentair Color LED Intellibrite Lights - Pentair 400K Master Temp - 2 Valve Actuators - 5 Fiberstar Mini Laminars - 1 Fiberstars 2004 Illuminator - 2 Skimmers - 6 Returns - Caribbean Blue Pebble Tech - 600+ sq ft kool decK - Auto Fill - 2 Boston Acoustics VOYA RK5 Outdoor Rock Speakers - 2 TIC Corporation TFS5CN 6.5-Inch 150-Watt Terra-Forms Rock Speakers - Apple Airport Express - 1 Awesome View.

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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Don't sweat it. I have some low voltage at about 5 feet from the water and couldnt be less concerned. If they were regualr line voltage, then it mght be a problem if they were dragged in the water. With 12 volts DC, its fine.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    I did this dance with an electrician and never got it figured out. We wanted a few low voltage LED's for a waterfall and the plants around it. I had run conduit behind the waterfall before it was built, but every thing I suggested the electrician said was a violation of code. We never came up with a plan so I still have conduit with wires run back to my sub-panel/equipment pad.

    From what I understood the AC power for anything must be GFCI, easy enough. After that a low voltage transformer must be "pool rated". I think this implies some mechanical requirements to make certain kinds of failures impossible. OK, seems reasonable. Then after that it got murky... the lights needed to be "pool rated" too - I have no idea what that means exactly. Further, a lot of pool rated fixtures MUST be submerged so those are no-good.

    I have no concern that a low voltage system is going to "electrify the ground" and I agree with the note above that the risk is for someone touching the lights while being in water and that the risk of fatality would only be if something else had failed too. The code restrictions here are both for normal use an maintenance - either re-lamping or troubleshooting. Still... landscape low voltage stuff is meant to operate outside, in the snow, rain, etc so I'm not sure I see any new risks due to splashing or casual water puddling near it.

    If someone can explain the exact hazard being prevented with "pool rated" stuff maybe the risks will become clearer.

    BTW - I had not heard a 10' rule yet... I thought it was 5' actually.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    The low voltage lights would be considered No Niche Luminaires. The code allows them if they meet the criteria (listed transformer, grounded or double insulated, min wire size, etc.). However, a lot of inspectors think that they won't pass code and in most cases, it's their opinion that counts.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Interesting...I didn't catch the bit about a pool-rated transformer before. Something like this, I assume?
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0039QEK2G/ref ... B0039QEK2G

    I may have yet another job to add to my list...
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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    That would be one of the monsters!
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    One of the reasons they don't want landscaping lights anywhere near the pool is because the wires serve as routes that electricity can take to enter the water. Even if the lights power supply, can never produce dangerous voltages, it is still possible for the light wiring to conduct dangerous voltages coming from somewhere else.

    The only kind of lights in common use that are allowed by code to be near the water are fiber optic lights where the actual bulb is far from the water and only the fiber gets near the water. Fiber doesn't conduct electricity, so it doesn't have the risks of other kinds of lights.

    There is also a provision in the code for special low power ,current limited, lights, but they can never be very bright and no one seems to sell them commercially. Every now and then you see these on high end commercial pools, generally as long stripes of "marker" lights.

    There are some indications that the code may get a bit more flexible in this area in future editions, though that isn't any help right now.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by Melt In The Sun
    Interesting...I didn't catch the bit about a pool-rated transformer before. Something like this, I assume?
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0039QEK2G/ref ... B0039QEK2G

    I may have yet another job to add to my list...
    That transformer is what we call in the marine environment as a isolation transformer. Ships use this type of system and have what they call a floating ground so the ship is electrically isolated from the voltage and you don't get shocked. What you will see is that is most likely has 60vac on both legs so if one leg is shorted it trips the circuit or if one keg goes out it should shut the circuit down as well.

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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by Melt In The Sun
    Interesting...I didn't catch the bit about a pool-rated transformer before. Something like this, I assume?
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0039QEK2G/ref ... B0039QEK2G

    I may have yet another job to add to my list...

    yes - that is what I have powering the submerged light in my bubbler. The LED in my niche is off a regular 110V GFCI btw with the only special provision being that it is grounded with 2X redundancy. The niche is bonded, the light is grounded and the light is bonded...
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    One of the reasons they don't want landscaping lights anywhere near the pool is because the wires serve as routes that electricity can take to enter the water. Even if the lights power supply, can never produce dangerous voltages, it is still possible for the light wiring to conduct dangerous voltages coming from somewhere else.

    Wouldn't that be true of any wire by your pool. Say for example wire going to your outdoor speakers? Couldn't that produce the same kind of issue?
    Approx 11K Gal. 10'X30' Semi free-form IG - 6 ' raised spa w/6 jets - 10' circle sun shelf with 1 bubbler - Waterfall - 3 / 1.5 HP pumps - Polaris 280 Cleaner - 3 Pentair Color LED Intellibrite Lights - Pentair 400K Master Temp - 2 Valve Actuators - 5 Fiberstar Mini Laminars - 1 Fiberstars 2004 Illuminator - 2 Skimmers - 6 Returns - Caribbean Blue Pebble Tech - 600+ sq ft kool decK - Auto Fill - 2 Boston Acoustics VOYA RK5 Outdoor Rock Speakers - 2 TIC Corporation TFS5CN 6.5-Inch 150-Watt Terra-Forms Rock Speakers - Apple Airport Express - 1 Awesome View.

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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by Flippy
    Wouldn't that be true of any wire by your pool. Say for example wire going to your outdoor speakers? Couldn't that produce the same kind of issue?
    Yes, and for the most part such wires are not allowed near the pool.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by Flippy
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    One of the reasons they don't want landscaping lights anywhere near the pool is because the wires serve as routes that electricity can take to enter the water. Even if the lights power supply, can never produce dangerous voltages, it is still possible for the light wiring to conduct dangerous voltages coming from somewhere else.

    Wouldn't that be true of any wire by your pool. Say for example wire going to your outdoor speakers? Couldn't that produce the same kind of issue?
    No speakers and the amps don't produce a voltage that would shock you. It is just audio that amplified to drive the speakers.

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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    That's not quite true. A lot of audio amps have a rail voltage of 30 volts or more, and anything more than 15 volts A/C is prohibited, and they're not pool/spa rated either.
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    Re: Landscape lighting, pool, and electricity

    Quote Originally Posted by Bama Rambler
    That's not quite true. A lot of audio amps have a rail voltage of 30 volts or more, and anything more than 15 volts A/C is prohibited, and they're not pool/spa rated either.
    You are correct about that I forgot but those are higher end audio device that majority of the people will be using for surround sound or large party type of environments. Such as a concert hall.

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