Electricity and Water: A Dangerous Mix
Thankfully, I rarely hear about people getting shocks from condominium swimming pools. However, I was sent this ABC article about an issue in a Florida condominium, and it prompted me to review some of the safety aspects of swimming pools in our condominiums.
The construction and operation of pools, tubs and spas in Ontario is highly regulated. The Ontario Electrical Safety Code (OESC) has a complete section – section 68 – devoted entirely to pools, tubs and spas. While some Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) inspections can be audited for approved contractors, all work relating to pools must be inspected and are exempted from the audit process.
In addition, the provincial government has a regulation that governs the operation of public spas (hot tubs) – Ontario Regulation 428/05 under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. To ensure compliance with these mandatory requirements, Public Health Inspectors carry out routine inspection of public pools and spas.
As we can see, both the ESA and the Health Department recognize the added danger that could exist in and around a pool or spa.
In general, the OESC requires all electrical items in the pool and within 3M of the pool to be protected by a Class A-type Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI continuously compares line path current with neutral path return current (power in to power out). If it detects an imbalance, it immediately opens the circuit. A Class A GFCI will trip on greater than 6 mA current within 6 ms.
These GFCI’s are a very effective tool to eliminate the possibility of a shock to people in and around our pools. While I mentioned that I rarely hear about shocks to people, I commonly hear about the GFCI’s tripping.
As for the equipment, such as in pool (and fountain) lights and pool area lighting, they become susceptible to the type of current leakage that I mentioned above. Seals in pool lights fail and fixtures get rusty due to the humidity in the pool area. Even a tiny amount of condensation on the inside of a pool light lens is enough to trip the protective GFCI.
This same sensitivity is what makes these GFCI’s a lifesaver.
As with any mechanical system, these GFCI’s do need some testing to make sure that they’re operating properly. All GFCI’s have a test button. Property managers should ensure that these GFCI’s are tested on a monthly basis. Any GFCI that doesn’t trip should be turned off and will need the immediate attention of a licensed electrical contractor.
About Mark Marmer
Mark Marmer started in the trade back in 1973 and established Signature Electric in 1985. Having always enjoyed tinkering with electricity and working with his hands, the electrical trade was a natural choice for him. Working as an electrician you get a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction at the end of each day.