A question home buyers often ask is, should I decline the pool inspection? We know, buying a house is expensive. And it’s not just the cost of the house itself, you have lenders’ fees, appraisal fees, and home inspection fees. And if the home has a swimming pool, then you have a pool inspection fee! Buyers start to wonder if a pool is just a hole in the ground with water in it, what could go wrong? Can I just save some money and decline the pool inspection?
The answer is a lot can go wrong, and it all revolves around electrocutions
History of Pool Electrocutions
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, 33 fatalities involving electrocutions in swimming pools occurred between 2002 and 2018.
In 2019, in Citrus Heights, California, a 5-year-old girl died from electrocution while swimming in her family’s swimming pool.
Research has shown before 1975, there were NO building or safety codes regarding electricity and swimming pools. Yet many swimming pools in the Los Angeles area were built well before 1975. Additional safety codes were not adopted until after 2008 and more were just added in 2020. The fact is, the vast majority of pools we do inspect have at least one serious electrical issue.
Pool Light Protection
Almost every swimming pool has a light under the water. The light is, of course, connected to electricity. Every light should be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) that will turn off the electricity to the light in case the water comes in contact with the electricity. GFCI was not required before 1975 and is often missing on older pools.
In addition, GFCI that are installed can wear out and need to be tested at least once a year. Even in my own pool, I test the GFCI at the start of every swimming season.
Pool Light Junction Box
A very dangerous situation is older pool light junction boxes. A junction box is a box where the wires to the pool light are connected to the electrical system. A modern pool junction box sits 8 inches above the water line of the pool and several feet away. This way, if water gets into the water line, the water can not rise up to the wires connection point. However, in many older pools, the junction box sits inside the pool deck, right at that water line. In these older boxes, if water gets behind the light, it instantly comes in contact with the wires. This is a huge electrocution hazard.
Broken Pool Lights
Occasionally, we find lights that have cracks in them or are outright broken. Cracks in lights are usually noticeable because small amounts of water leaks into the bulb, and then can not get out. This water accumulates algae and turns yellow, green, or black.
Nearly every pool we inspect has an issue with the electrical bonding. Bonding is the process by which all electrical and metallic components of the pool are connected together with a #8 copper wire. The wire then disappears underground where it is connected to the steel rebar in the shell of the swimming pool itself. Bonding creates a complete path for electrical currents to pass through, which prevents the transmission of any electrical voltage that gets into the system from electrocuting anyone in the pool.
A #8 copper wire should connect all pumps, heaters, and any other electrical equipment to the pool shell. The wire should also connect any metal fencing or any metal elements of the house that are within 5 feet of a pool.
Pool Equipment Ground Fault Protection
While all electricians agree pool lights should have GFCI protection, I’ve found some electricians disagree if pumps should also have GFCI protection. Doing my own research, I found almost every installation manual of almost every pool pump and similar equipment recommends the equipment have GFCI protection. In 2017, the National Electric Code (NEC) became requiring GFCI for some pool pumps, and then in 2020, the NEC expanded the requirements to all pool motors under NEC section 680.21. Despite this, 99% of all pools we inspect are lacking GFCI protection for the pool equipment.
Bad Panels, and Other Electrical Hazards
Some pools have their own dedicated electrical sub-panel. Such sub-panels are subject to a variety of possible problems. Such possible problems include mixing ground and neutral wires in the panel, the sub-panel being a brand that is a known hazard such as a Zinsco panel. Other problems can be double-tapped breakers, panels with fire damage, and more. Outside of panels, loose or corroded electrical conduit presents another possible electrocution hazard.
Should I Decline the Pool Inspection?
No, no you should not. An IM Pool Inspection covers over 20 important aspects of a pool.
To book your home and pool inspection, call 818-298-3405 or book online here.