A Potentially Very Dangerous Situation
One of the trends that we have seen over the past couple of years is string lights, also referred to as bistro lighting or market lighting. While most agree that they are a very good look and provide just enough accent lighting in most situations, most of these lights are 120 volts, which should never be used over a swimming pool due to electrocution dangers. Obviously, electricity and water are not a good mix.
Pool pumps and underwater pool lighting have been designed with multiple safety devices to keep pools safe, but string lights have not. According to Terry Poeschl of Terry Poeschl Electric, Inc. of Denton, who is a Master Electrician, the danger is extremely high. He said, “This is one of the most dangerous trends that I have seen in my 30 years of being an electrician. I highly recommend that all of these lights be low voltage (30 volts or less) to reduce the risk of electrocution.”
Typically it is one of the following situations:
String lights plugged into a non-GFCI protected outlet
This is the worst situation of all. Most of these lights are 120 volts and if they are not plugged into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected outlet, they are extremely dangerous. If one of these string lights falls into the pool, the risk of electrical shock for pool users is probable.
String lights plugged into a GFCI protected outlet
If these lights are plugged into a GFCI outlet, they can still be very dangerous. While GFCI’s are reliable, like any other mechanical device, they can eventually fail. If one of these string lights falls into the pool and the GFCI is not working, the risk of electrical shock for pool users is probable.
There are some low voltage string lights available, which are safe if they are installed properly and according to code.
Other electrical code relating to pools that you should be aware of:
- All outside plugs in the pool area should be GFCI protected.
- There should be no plugs within 6’ of the pool water.
- We recommend that there be no high voltage (over 30 volts) lights over the pool.
(The electrical code actually requires 12’ clearance from the water’s surface and that they be permanently affixed).
This is not meant to be a complete electrical safety list, just a basic review. You might consider having a licensed electrician (who is experienced with swimming pools) do a checkup on your pool.
In conclusion, 120 volt string lights over or near water are a very bad idea. If you have them over or near water, please remove them immediately and look for other ways to light your pool area that is much safer for you and your family.