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Thread: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

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    Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    The waterfall lighting is controlled by the Aqualink system and comes on when the button inside is pushed or programmed. The old lighting fixture was removed, it was a halogen light submersed in the waterfall pools, as it required replacing constantly (hot bulbs held underwater as they cool will leak eventually). When the prior owner removed the halogen lights, they also removed the outlet at the junction and disconnected the control line at the Aqualink panel outside. We have located those lines and the wires are identified and we have all the parts to get this set up again.

    I found online and bought an LED light set, made for fish ponds, totally submersible with its own very tiny tranformer to go from 120v to 12v which happens at a junction just behind the waterfall. I have an enclosed cover for the junction box, so it is rain and sprinkler proof.

    My question.... I know that the systems sold for use in swimming pool waterfalls are much more expensive than similar items sold for fish ponds. I suspect that it has to do with the transformer used. I don't mind spending $60 to upgrade the transformer, if I need to. I know that the Aquallink system is already GFI protected, not sure if it has any other extra protection that you want for a swimming pool beyond a fish pond that you may stick your hand into. The swimming pool type transformers seem to all be high capacity, like 300 watts, which is overkill for these 3 low watt LED lights, maybe 4 watts total usage. There is some direct-fault protection that I do not really understand and do not know if it is as important for waterfall lights as compared to pool lights or other lighting.

    So, do I need a fancy swimming pool type transformer, for extra shock protection? If so, will the 300 w size blow out my tiny LED lights?
    23,000 gallon in ground pool with rock waterfall and spillover spa, Aqualink control system, Polaris 380 cleaner, Purex Triton Clean&Clear Plus cartridge filter. Located in The Woodlands, Texas.

    Pool owner since Nov 2008, Trouble Free since April 2009. Happy to help when I can.

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    spishex's Avatar
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    You need a GFI on the breaker that sends service to the lights. As long as the transformer you have can handle the bulbs, you'll be fine. Like you said, you're using LEDs so that's not an issue.

    When you say the Aqualink is GFI protected, do you mean the breaker in the control panel that powers the circuit board or the main service breaker that powers the subpanel? If you're talking about inside the control panel then that may be the breaker that was used for the lights originally.

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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    Follow-up;
    We did install the pond type waterfall lights after the electrician came out for something else and took a look at it all. The PB said by phone that there was a transformer with the pool equipment and that it ran the lights at the waterfall. That was confirmed and the electrician determined which wires in the Aqualink control box had been disconnected and tested to find that both wires had power.

    Later testing showed that one line, the one that was sliced and left in the water showed less than the 12 volts expected, though after stripping the end of blackened wire that voltage got better. We bought a second set of 3 LED lights and connected them both to the better line, fearing that there would be a noticible difference in the brightness of the two lines otherwise. So, we never did use the transformer that came with the pond lights. Never really understood what lines are in the junction box behind the waterfall, nor what the disconnected lines in there were for. But, I am content to leave that alone. Waterfall lights work when the button inside is pushed, that's enough for me.

    The line between the lights is a bit short and so the lights are not in the ideal position, but I think that we can silicone them into place on the wall of the recesses and have it perfect. So, the project is 90% done, lights work, but need repositioning.
    23,000 gallon in ground pool with rock waterfall and spillover spa, Aqualink control system, Polaris 380 cleaner, Purex Triton Clean&Clear Plus cartridge filter. Located in The Woodlands, Texas.

    Pool owner since Nov 2008, Trouble Free since April 2009. Happy to help when I can.

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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    A transformer is a transformer, as long as the voltage and the current/wattage meet the requirement then it should be fine, and for outdoor use, just make sure it is enclosed in an electrical box(the PVC type) and it is plugged into a GFI outlet. This is exactly what I did to power my waterfall LED lights. Instead of buying an expensive pool/pond type of transformer I just used one from The Source(formerly RadioShack).
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    tsunami's Avatar
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    I'm also looking for an inexpensive submersible light to fit in a small tank that feeds my waterfall for my swimming pool. One thing that I noticed is that when checking the spec sheets for the pond lights that I'm interested in, there's always a caution saying that it's not for use in swimming pools or spas. I'm not sure why though. Did you check the spec sheet for the lights that you're using?

    Below is an example. Note the last line in red at the bottom of the spec sheet.

    http://www.vistapro.com/Files/Specs/4217-spec.pdf
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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    There are quite a number of specific electrical requirements for lighting that is in the water or within 5' of the water. Pool lights tend to cost more because they need to meet those requirements.

    Low voltage lighting is not safe just because it is plugged into a GFCI outlet. The transformer isolates the low voltage leads and will prevent the GFCI from tripping in most situations. A number of things need to be done to compensate for this, and keep low voltage lighting safe. Those things cost extra.
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    Quote Originally Posted by JasonLion
    There are quite a number of specific electrical requirements for lighting that is in the water or within 5' of the water. Pool lights tend to cost more because they need to meet those requirements.

    Low voltage lighting is not safe just because it is plugged into a GFCI outlet. The transformer isolates the low voltage leads and will prevent the GFCI from tripping in most situations. A number of things need to be done to compensate for this, and keep low voltage lighting safe. Those things cost extra.
    Can you elaborate? In looking around it seemed that the extra things happened in the transformer, not the LED lights themselves. As I am using the transformer that the original halogen lights were hooked to, and using tiny LED lights which are made for underwater use, I have assumed I am OK. And the LED lights are in the waterfall, not the pool itself.

    But, I never was much for electrical theory -- so I may be missing something.
    23,000 gallon in ground pool with rock waterfall and spillover spa, Aqualink control system, Polaris 380 cleaner, Purex Triton Clean&Clear Plus cartridge filter. Located in The Woodlands, Texas.

    Pool owner since Nov 2008, Trouble Free since April 2009. Happy to help when I can.

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    The rules are rather complex, so it is impossible to list all of them. In general, if all you are doing is replacing a bulb with a different style of bulb in an existing enclosure you are usually fine.

    Transformers, on the other hand, are made differently for swimming pools usage vs other usage. In most places a transformer used to power something in the pool, or within 10' of the pool, must be specifically designed and listed as a swimming pool transformer or it is a code violation.

    Not all transformers are the same. Swimming pool transformers must be specifically designed so that none of the common ways transformers can fail will ever result in high voltage shorting over to the low voltage side. For example, grounded insulating shields must be provided between the high and low voltage sides of a swimming pool transformer, something that is almost never done for non-swimming pool transformers.

    There is also a long list of requirements for light enclosures, with specific mounting, grounding, and bonding specifications that only apply to swimming pool light enclosures.
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    I appreciate your taking the time to write out that much of the details.

    Maybe a dumb question.... is it considered a swimming pool light if it is only in the waterfall? Not actually submersed in the pool?
    23,000 gallon in ground pool with rock waterfall and spillover spa, Aqualink control system, Polaris 380 cleaner, Purex Triton Clean&Clear Plus cartridge filter. Located in The Woodlands, Texas.

    Pool owner since Nov 2008, Trouble Free since April 2009. Happy to help when I can.

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    It has a lot to do with how far it is from the edge of the pool and if it is in the water or dry. Wet lights are the most restricted, dry lights within 5 feet are also fairly restricted, there are some limits between 5 and 10 feet, while more than 10 feet away from the edge of the pool is very flexible.
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    Re: Transformer for waterfall lights: pond grade vs pool grade

    Having just been to a Vista Lighting training session, the reason for the Vista prohibition is that their lights are landscaping lights and are not rated by NSF for pool use, thus, depending on the local codes, may not be within either 5 feet or 10 feet of a pool.
    http://www.swimmingpool.com/

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