Pool Lighting .. possible code violation, dangerous?

Feb 1, 2016
13
Walnut
#1
I have a 1300 IG Spa ... when this was originally built, I had a Pentair SAM 12 volt lighting system installed...

Here's my issue ...

The light stopped working, I pulled the light out of the niche, but DID NOT see any bonding wires ... I confirmed this by locating the 12 volt intermatic transformer located about 20 feet away... I only have 3 wires leaving the transformer in the orange casing ... black, white and green ... Should this be bonded to the plastic niche or was this not required since it's a 12 volt system ...

This has been in for nearly 13 years with out any problems ... Apparently these are prone to leaking water ...

Thanks
 

Linn

Well-known member
Apr 19, 2016
69
California
#3
Bonding for electrical safety is only possible for metal objects. If the niche is plastic , how could it possibly be bonded ? I can't see that there would be any safety issue involved at all. A 12 V system is safe as long as the transforner is a good quality one and located far enough from the pool. Your system sounds completely safe.
 
Feb 1, 2016
13
Walnut
#4
Thank you!!

That makes me feel a lot better ... That is one the the main reasons I decided to do s 12 volt lighting system, although, recently, I have been reading that there is still a possibility of being electrocuted even with 12 volts, if for some reason 110 decides to travel through the ground wire ..

If it had the regular screw in type bulb, I would just change the bulb to a color changing led and take the color changing wheel out, it sometimes gets stuck. I have been searching for color changing led 12 volt bi-pin ... Any suggestions?? I really don't want to pull all that wire out, I'm afraid it might get stuck and the rope break.
 

tim5055

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
LifeTime Supporter
May 11, 2014
10,087
Franklin, NC
#5
When it comes down to it volts don't kill, amps do. 12v lighting can kill just like 110v.

As understand it 100 mA can cause ventricular fibrillation and stop the heart. But, a lot of other factors come into play so it may/may not be fatal, heck you may/may not even feel it.

Electricity in the area of a pool is to be respected - 12v or 110v.

Did we determine if it was a plastic niche?
 

gwegan

TFP Expert
Apr 19, 2013
2,769
Sacramento, CA
#8
You don't need a bonding jumper if its low voltage so I amend my prior answer -- but the run from the transformer to the light should be a cord not wires. I went and double checked the NEC.

Thanks Tim

Volts and Amps are in one sense unrelated. Volts is the power -- the pressure -- of the river of electrons. Amps is the current -- the volume -- of the river of electrons. Amps multiplied by volts equals watts. So for a given amount of watts the greater the volts the less amps arerequired to generate the same level of watts. The converse is also true. Does that make sense?
 

Linn

Well-known member
Apr 19, 2016
69
California
#10
Yes, it's true. 120V 4A = 12V 40A = 480 W.
Yes but the voltage is still harmless for human beings. The human body has an internal resistance high enough so that a 12 V source can not drive a large current through the body, hence there is no danger. If the human body was made ut of metal then it could drive lots of current through the body, but that is not the case. 12 V is choosen for a reason: experts have concluded that 14 V is the lowest possible voltage that can be dangerous to humans under the most extreme circumstances when it comes to electrocution. However, the high amperage in a 12 V circuit could be dangerous in another way: if you would have undersized wiring or similar it could start a fire. But electrocution no. Compare to a car battery. It's also 12 V, can also give very high currents, but if you touch it you feel just nothing. Many countries have electrical codes that will not allow for higher than 12 V for pool or spa lights, but in the US 120 V is legal, if fitted with a GCIB (GFI). Still I'd never want to use a 120 V light in my pool.
 
Feb 1, 2016
13
Walnut
#11
Yes Gordon that does make sense, that why when getting zapped by a spark plug wire may send 10,000 + volts through you, but, not enough amps to kill you ...

I agree that 12 Volts is the way to go, except 40 amps seems pretty high. I've been zapped with 120 / 15 amps before, I'm still here, however, I was not in water!

Between the light and the transformer it is an orange cord, that also looked amateur to me, I thought these guys cut there extension cord to finish the job! Starting from my main electrical panel I have a 60 amp double pole GFCI breaker, that goes to the intermatic time clock sub panel. The outside of the intermatic sub panel has a wire attached to it, that is also attached to the pumps, heater and terminates at the ground rod right next to it ... It looks so ugly! I have two GFCI circuits leaving the panel, one is 15 amp and goes to the transformer for the light, the other is a 20 amp that serves a few outlets around the bbq island, including a small refrigerator.

I was going to change the breakers that control the pumps to GFCI breakers, but, the guy at Home Depot told me that since the sub panel is powered by a GFCI breaker its not necessary ..
 

gwegan

TFP Expert
Apr 19, 2013
2,769
Sacramento, CA
#12
You don't generally want GFCIs of any flavor in series. So the guy at HD is right.

That wire that connects everything I suspect is bare copper. It's part of the bonding system of the pool. It may be ugly but it's very important. It prevents short circuits and stray voltage from shocking bathers in the pool.

From the description you give above it all sounds correct.


A spark plug wire is not powering the car. It's only sending a pulse to set off an explosion.

Yea most of us have been zapped. Current takes the path of least resistance so while you may have been zapped the actual main path may have traveled elseware. I assure you 120/15 can kill you.

While lower volts reduce the risk there are other factors at play. There is no GFCI protection is probably the most serious factor. The transformer negagates the operation of the GFCI. The NEC does not even require GFCI protection for low voltage pool lights.

Linn's point is correct. With such low voltage the power can't get into you so it can't zap you heart.

But electricy is strange. People with low mass will be more effected by it. So small children are more at risk.

None of this is perfect.
 

danpik

TFP Guide
Jun 4, 2012
1,682
western NY
#13
I've been zapped with 120 / 15 amps before, I'm still here, however, I was not in water!
Actually, you were zapped by electricity from a 15 amp circuit. There is no way you took all 15 amps. in fact, that you are posting here, you probably never saw more than 3-4 milliamps. Much more than that and you are dead. Of course a lot of variables come into play such as what path thru the body the current goes

Between the light and the transformer it is an orange cord, that also looked amateur to me, I thought these guys cut there extension cord to finish the job! Starting from my main electrical panel I have a 60 amp double pole GFCI breaker, that goes to the intermatic time clock sub panel. The outside of the intermatic sub panel has a wire attached to it, that is also attached to the pumps, heater and terminates at the ground rod right next to it ... It looks so ugly! I have two GFCI circuits leaving the panel, one is 15 amp and goes to the transformer for the light, the other is a 20 amp that serves a few outlets around the bbq island, including a small refrigerator.

I was going to change the breakers that control the pumps to GFCI breakers, but, the guy at Home Depot told me that since the sub panel is powered by a GFCI breaker its not necessary ..
Could you post some pictures of what you have?
 

Linn

Well-known member
Apr 19, 2016
69
California
#14
Actually, you were zapped by electricity from a 15 amp circuit. There is no way you took all 15 amps. in fact, that you are posting here, you probably never saw more than 3-4 milliamps. Much more than that and you are dead. Of course a lot of variables come into play such as what path thru the body the current goes

Could you post some pictures of what you have?
Well as for the dangers of electricity going normally through your body: less than 1 mA you normally won't feel it. More than 3 mA starts being unpleasant. More than 10 mA - cramps may occur. More than 15-20 mA: you can not control your muscles and may get stuck, not being able to get away from the danger. More than 30-50 mA: lethal within seconds. All this is assuming that the current takes a bad path through your body, e.g. arm to arm or arm to leg or so. These are avarage figures, some people can handle more, some less.
 
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