What’s Going On In Your Pool’s Electrical System

Swimming Pools
Electrical
By Alex Mikayelyan September 10, 2021

Pools are a beloved outdoor addition and are a must when it comes to hosting summer parties and cookouts. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, holiday, or just having a friendly gathering to cool off. But as you would imagine, there are a lot of bits and pieces that make a pool function properly — every great thing has a wizard behind the curtains making it happen.  

Chlorine filters, irrigation, pump, and disinfectant systems function in unison to not only make the pool functional but also safe to swim in. But the fundamental mechanism that allows for all this to work is your pool’s electrical system. If you’re a pool owner and wish to get better acquainted with the inner workings of your swimming pool, knowing how the electrical system functions is a must. It will also be useful to be aware of the things that need maintaining or that may cause electric problems down the line.

What Is a Pool’s Electrical System?

The pool electrical system is responsible for operating pretty much anything in your pool that requires power. Pool pumps, filters, irrigation, lighting, heating, and everything else in between need to be powered and the pool’s electrical system needs to be stable enough to provide them all the electricity they need to function properly. 

But it is no secret that water is capable of conducting electricity. So, if your pool’s electrical system is not completely intact or has not been installed with all the precautions in mind, the occupants of the pool may feel small surges of electricity while they’re swimming. While this may be a little unpleasant at first, it can become a health risk, especially if the pool’s electrics end up putting out a lot of power into the water. 

To avoid these scary health hazards, pool engineers have electrical wiring requirements for swimming pools and use two techniques to secure the pool’s electrical system: bonding and grounding.

What Is Pool Bonding?

Why Pool Bonding Is Important

Why Pool Bonding Is Important

Your pool systems are bound to have a few metal parts in them. We also know of other metal components that go into the water too, such as pool railings, light fixtures, tracks of an automatic pool cover, and return lines with metal covers. All of these components are capable of conducting electricity and harming not only the pool equipment but more importantly the swimmers.

Any metal equipment within five feet of your pool needs to be grounded to create an equipotential electrical system. What this basically means, is that you connect all your metal equipment using copper wires to ensure that there is not one piece of metal around the pool that has more electrical pressure than another. When there is more pressure in one piece of metal pool equipment than the other, the electricity will want to travel to the component with less energy, creating voltage. This is what’s going to cause one of your metal pool components to become conductive. 

How Pool Bonding Protects Your Pool’s Electrical System

How Pool Bonding Protects Your Pool’s Electrical System

By equalizing the electric pressure of all the metal components of the pool, including the water itself, no voltage will be created. Using copper wires and special connectors, pool contractors create a grid with all the pool’s components. To add the water to this grid, you will need something called a pool bond, which is a pipe that connects the water to the grid using a little copper wire protruding from it. 

Grounding can be done with both inground pool electrical wiring and above-ground pools. Though the technique for grounding above-ground pool equipment is slightly different from inground, they still abide by the same general principles. With the bonding in place, the electrical pressure will be spread out evenly through all the components, including the water — even in cases of an electrical surge from one component. This means no extra voltage is generated and the pool and all its metal parts are safe to touch.

The Potential Dangers of a Faulty Pool Electrical System

For the curious minds wondering what would happen if you took a swim in a pool with a faulty electrical system: let’s bust a few myths first. If you go in the pool, you will not immediately be hit with a surge of electricity and it won’t hurl you out of the pool. Also, no, you won’t hear any crackling of electric currents coming from the water and you won’t see them either. If you touch any of the pool’s components that have some voltage going through them, they won’t hurt you. The most you’ll feel is a little tingling or buzzing, but it’s very faint and nothing to be alarmed about. 

But just because the sensation isn’t anything too extreme does not mean you should tolerate it. While the buzzing may be almost non-existent for you, others may feel it with more unpleasantness. So, while the electric shock you might get from a faulty swimming pool electrical system may not be anything fatal, you should strive to avoid it regardless. 

How to Maintain Your Pool’s Electrical System

Once all the systems and electrical grids are in place, the pool should be functioning properly without any buzzing or shocks. The next question is: how to maintain the pool’s electrical system and keep it functioning as intended at all times. There are some very important steps pool owners should take to make sure the swimming pool’s electrical safety requirements have all been met. 

Check the Bonding

Ways to Check Pool Bonding Yourself

Ways to Check Pool Bonding Yourself

The easy way to do this is to hire a pool electrician or pool contractor and have them check the bonding. But if you’re a more hands-on homeowner, then there are some tools you’ll need to get started. First, a simple ohmmeter, which you can buy for around $10 at your nearest hardware store. Get a roll of copper wire and connect it to the exposed copper wire in your equipment pad (the place that houses the pool’s pump, filter, return lines, etc.). The equipment pad is typically situated under a structure near the pool so as to protect the equipment, so the copper wire roll needs to be long enough to reach the pool. Then connect the copper wire to one of the probes on your ohmmeter. Roll out the copper wire as you go around checking the metal equipment and components of your pool using the other probe on the ohmmeter. If you see a spike in any of the equipment, that means it has faulty bonding and should be checked. 

Make Sure the Water Is Not Causing Problems

How Splashing Around Can Damage Your Pool Equipment

How Splashing Around Can Damage Your Pool Equipment

Sure, exposed electrical equipment can shock the water, but water can destroy electrical equipment as well. Many pool owners neglect to check if their pool water can potentially splash onto electrical equipment, such as the pump and heater, and damage it irreversibly. Fill your pool to the brim and start splashing some water around. You can even have a test subject do a cannonball to see if the water reaches any of the equipment. If it does, consider purchasing some metal casing to keep the water from reaching the equipment. 

See that All Equipment and Parts Are In Place

Pool Light Maintenance to Keep the Water Bright

Pool Light Maintenance to Keep the Water Bright

The easiest and most fundamental step to ensuring that your pool’s electrical system is functioning as it should is to simply check all the light fixtures, equipment, and metal components to see that they are all firmly planted in their place. For example, a loose pool light fixture could be a potential health hazard and even if not fatal, it could damage your electrical system. Remember to check all these metal components and fittings before pool season starts, making sure to replace any broken parts.

Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan