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Thread: are low voltage lights safe?

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    are low voltage lights safe?

    I was reviewing NEC 680.22 and found that low voltage lights are not allowed within 10 ft of a pool. (Low-voltage lighting systems, such as those covered by Article 411, shall not be within 10 ft of a pool, spa or hot tub even if GFCI protected [411.4]. )

    However, high voltage lights with GFCI are allowed within 10 feet in some cases and can even be extended over the pool in some cases. Of course its ok to have low voltage pool lights in the walls of the pool, so why does NEC forbid low voltage lights outside or above the pool within 10 feet of the pool without exception?

    It doesn't make any apparent sense to me. I have an umbrella with built in low voltage lights which extend out over the pool. Am I endangering those within the pool? How can the pool lights be safe but the overhead lights NOT be safe when they will all run at 12V from the same pool rated transformer?
    Light grey plaster, stone coping, 38K gallon Roman shaped pool with a shallow end beach, table and bar stools, deep end bench and waterfall (Intelliflo 4X160). Taylor K-2006, Pentair 320 chlorinator, Intelliflow VF, Quad DE 100. 4 ColorLogics, 3 skimmers, 14 wall returns, 13 floor returns, TurboTwister slide, autofill and miles of pvc.

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    I'm shamelessly bumping this thread because I am planning on putting low-volt lights all around my pool. This is the first I've heard about it being against code. (In fact, I had a conversation with the electrician who wired my pool about plugging a low-volt system into the pool junction, and he didn't act like it was a problem.)
    Good Times

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    I've been reading up on the cope lately and noticed the same thing. I know it may be against code but lots of people do it and I plan to do the same. I will just have to disclose it when and if I ever sell.

    I know we have some electrical people here. Hopefully they'll shed some light on this issue.
    11000 Gals, Intelliflo, Sta-Rite Cartridge, Polaris 360

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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    My understanding is that NEC Article 725 Class 2 lighting can be close to the pool. These are current limited circuits with rather low current limits, so I am not sure how helpful that actually is.

    Once you get closer than 10 feet the rules get complicated. I believe that the reasoning behind the complexity is that closer fixtures might end up in the pool. It doesn't take a very high voltage flowing through the water to kill you. In theory you could die from a low voltage light if it was in the water with you.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    In fact, I had a conversation with the electrician who wired my pool about plugging a low-volt system into the pool junction, and he didn't act like it was a problem.
    This won't be the first time that a professional electrician didn't bother to learn his craft properly.

    I know it may be against code but lots of people do it and I plan to do the same.
    This has two additional implications that you may want to consider:

    1. It IS dangerous and could conceivably injure/kill a member of your family. I will discuss why further down in this post.
    2. Your homeowner's insurance coverage could be compromised if they find out you did something that was not up to NEC (National Electrical Code) standards.

    My understanding is that NEC Article 725 Class 2 lighting can be close to the pool./
    I believe Jason is correct here, although even with an electrical background I am hardly an expert at the NEC codes concerning pools or low voltage applications. The NEC ARticle 725 Class 2 lighting is, I believe, limited to 75 VA in power. THis compares to "normal" low voltage lighting that may get up to 750 or 1000 VA in power.

    so why does NEC forbid low voltage lights outside or above the pool within 10 feet.
    Even though low voltage lights are on GFCI-protected circuits, the problem is that low voltage lighting uses transformers (which convert the voltage from 120 Volts down to 12 Volts). The problem is that a fault (short to ground) on the 12 Volt side of the transformer is not sensed on the 120 Volt side of the transformer, which is where the GFCI protection is located. In other words, a fault (short to ground) anywhere on the lights portion WILL NOT trip the GFCI.

    How can the pool lights be safe but the overhead lights NOT be safe when they will all run from 12V from the same pool rated transformer?
    I don't know the answer to this question. I do not yet understand what is different enough about the 12 volt pool lights that make them NEC compliant. My GUESS is that a dedicated 12 Volt pool light is a UL-listed manufactured product that has some sort of GFCI equivalent protection incorporated in the light assembly.

    I hope this helps rather than confuses. i would welcome others thoughts and comments who are more experienced at this sort of work.

    Titanium
    24,000 gallon inground freeform pool/spa circa 1983 (113 ft perimeter, 625 sq ft) with 350 gallon attached spill-over spa
    2007 2 HP, three-phase Hayward TriStar pump which is powered by an Ikeric VS-200 variable speed drive system
    1983 Laars XE Pool/Spa Heater Type ES 400,000 BTU, 1998 Hayward Super Star-Clear C-4000 cartridge filter (400 sq ft, 4 separate cartridges)
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    JasonLion's Avatar
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    Not everything that isn't allowed is not allowed because it is dangerous. Quite a number of things are not allowed because it is too complicated to figure out if they might be dangerous or not. Keeping track of every possible thing that might go wrong and what implications each possible kind of failure will have for some proposed rule change is difficult work. If there isn't a great deal of pressure to get some new situation approved it won't usually happen.

    There has been a tremendous amount of work done to figure out ways to make underwater lights that are reasonably safe and reasonably practical to build. Nothing like that same amount of effort has been put into figuring out how to make patio lights that are close to the pool and safe. It is unlikely that it will get done. Lights that are a 10 feet away are good enough for nearly everyone and it is much simpler to show that they are safe.
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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  7. Back To Top    #7

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    Jason,

    Very true.

    The NEC rules committee (there are separate committees for every Article in the NEC) also look at the potential for mistakes. I would surmise that in the case of low voltage electrical lights, the NEC is recognizing the many (if not most) of these installations are being done by non-electricians. Hence the potential for deadly mistakes involving pools and LV electrical lights is increased.

    I have no doubt that manufacturers of LV electrical lights could provide the same sort of secondary (on the 12 Volt side of the transformer) protection that pool lights have. But most people do not have pools, and the cost of the pool-safe LV electrical lights for non-pool owners would be more than the market could bear.

    Titanium
    24,000 gallon inground freeform pool/spa circa 1983 (113 ft perimeter, 625 sq ft) with 350 gallon attached spill-over spa
    2007 2 HP, three-phase Hayward TriStar pump which is powered by an Ikeric VS-200 variable speed drive system
    1983 Laars XE Pool/Spa Heater Type ES 400,000 BTU, 1998 Hayward Super Star-Clear C-4000 cartridge filter (400 sq ft, 4 separate cartridges)
    1998 Polaris 380 pressure-side cleaner w/ 3/4 HP booster pump
    One skimmer :( and one PoolSkim :), One Supervision Galaxy LED pool lamp, Second story solar panels
    Hayward/GoldLine AquaLogic PS4 (replaced 1983 vintage dual circuit Intermatic timer)

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