Stay safe this summer: Avoid swimming pool and hot tub wiring mistakes

It feels great to take a refreshing dip in the pool on a hot summer day. While pools and spas were once a luxury item, more affordable means of manufacturing and installation made these contained bodies of water more accessible for American homeowners. Now, there are approximately 10.4 million pools and 7.3 hot tubs in residences across the nation.

While it's fun to make a splash, it's easy to neglect potential dangers that lurk below the surface of your water. Electrical and shock-related incidents happen every year, and inspecting your pool and hot tub's electrical components is essential to keeping you and your loved ones safe.

Keep reading to learn how to avoid swimming pool and hot tub wiring mistakes and what you can do to keep your family safe.

Shock-related pool and spa incidents

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 33 injuries and 33 deaths involving shock-related pool accidents between 2002 and 2018. While rare, these incidents are tragic.

How do these incidents happen?

Pools and hot tubs are simple in theory: They are contained bodies of water we use to swim, play and relax. However, if you own a pool, you know it's much more than a mega-sized bathtub.

Pools require filtration systems that clear debris from the water and dispense chemicals like chlorine to keep swimmers safe from contaminants. Pools also come equipped with lights to keep people from falling into the water and allowing nighttime swimmers to see.

Hot tubs utilize the same features, plus electrical heating components to keep the body of water warm. All these parts require electricity to keep running so our pools and hot tubs can be ready at a moment’s notice.

When electrical components and water are involved, there is a risk for electrical injury. Some of the parts that can cause injury include:

  • Faulty wiring in pools: Like other mass-produced machines, such as cars or electronics, manufacturers can improperly assemble pool equipment or use defective parts that require a recall, like this pool motor.
  • Faulty wiring in hot tubsIn above-ground spas, the unit may shift, become exposed to the outdoor elements, or overheat, resulting in broken electrical connections and burnt wires.
  • Pool and hot tub lights: This is one of the top contact points where electricity and water can meet. If a light fixture is improperly bonded or begins to corrode, water can seep into the fixture and allow electricity to flow into the water.
  • Improper bonding and grounding: Bonding and grounding work to prevent stray currents from flowing through the water.
  • Using improper parts for pool repairs: Pool components must withstand the corrosive nature of chlorine. If they can't, they can lose their ability to keep the electrical current bonded and grounded away from the water. Third-party replacement parts, like multicolored pool light LEDs you can find online, may seem like a viable cheap option but can lead to electrical safety issues.

What standards are there for pool safety?

Standards for pool safety vary according to local and state governments. However, there are a few universal standards that your electrician and pool repair technician should be familiar with:

  • The International Swimming Pool CodeThis code helps set minimum standards for the design, construction, alteration, repair and maintenance of pools and spas.
  • National Electrical Code: The National Electrical Code is the benchmark for the United States in electrical safety, which carries over to pool and hot tub wiring.

While an inspection may not sound like fun, these codes take years of pool safety advancements into account to make sure that your pool or spa is as safe as possible.

What can I do to keep my pool and hot tub safe?

While it’s impossible to foresee every problem, there are a few ways to make sure an electrical shock in the pool doesn't hurt your loved ones. Check out our articles on electrical safety tips for water activities and electric shock drowning for a complete list of suggestions. Here are three quick tips:

  • GFCI outlets are the golden standard for outdoor power supply. GFCI outlets detect faults in a circuit and cut the power off from the outlet, preventing electrocution.
  • Know where all of your electrical switches and circuit breakers are for your pool or hot tub. Knowledge of these switch locations is vital in emergencies.
  • If you begin to feel tingling in your body, exit the pool or hot tub without touching metal ladders or rails. You want to avoid a possible electrical current but need to avoid metal as it can increase the risk of shock.

The most important thing you can do is talk with a certified electrician to get your pool inspected or repaired. While internet resources make it easy to attempt DIY projects, it's best to leave pool repairs and part replacement to a professional.

For more safety advice for summer, check out our outdoor safety tips page. To get more answers to your electrical safety questions, visit our blog for more content on electrical safety.