Building codes exist for public safety, and include codes for structure, electrical, plumbing, energy, health and safety. Your state or local Building Department may create ordinances to strengthen the national code, and individual inspectors may have their own interpretation of the building codes.
Most modern pools, built in the last few years, are likely up to code - but older pools, even pools as young as 10 years old, likely have some violations with current codes for safety and energy use.
Building codes for pools include any body of water really, including wading pools, spas, therapeutic and decorative ponds and water features, of a depth greater than 18 inches.
Pool Electric Codes
Passed in 1968, the "Swimming Pool Code" applies to new construction and reconstruction, for all equipment in the image above. In other words, all electrical equipment must comply with the provisions of the National Electric Code; Article 680, and not just pool lighting.
It also includes all the electrical equipment that recirculates the body of water. All junction boxes, transformers, outlets, and all panel boards associated with the body of water, must be at least 5 feet from the pool, and at least 18" above water level. No wiring can be under the pool or closer than 5’ feet from the pool unless it is encapsulated by water tight conduit.
There are also special provisions for heaters as to how they should be grounded electrically. Please check with your local town and state Building Department to see what they require. All states and towns (and inspectors) have their own specific ordinances and can interpret Article 680 more or less strictly than it is stated.
Swimming Pool Bonding vs. Grounding
Bonding a pool joins all steel components together to pull away any stray voltage. Grounding is taking the stray voltage in the bonded loop, and putting it into the ground.
Bonding: One wire, connects the pool panels, pool ladder, pool light to form a conducting path. The bonding wire also connects to the pump, filter, heater, blower, slide or diving board - anything metallic or electric. Some areas may require you to also bond the mesh grid used in concrete pool decks, depending on where they stand on the pool bonding debate.
Small metallic clamps on each piece of equipment, appropriately called bonding lugs are used to secure the bonding wire. As long as everything is connected together, or bonded properly, it can prevent electrical shock.
Grounding: Bonding alone does not manage to protect you fully. This is where grounding comes in, to ensure that all steel and metal parts of a pool that someone might touch are connected to the earth, to channel stray volts safely away from people and animals.
In order to properly ground a swimming pool to the earth, steel wires or rods are used. Grounding does not affect the operation of the electrical equipment, and carries no current, unless there is a problem.
Bonding is your continuity in the electrical system, a bare copper wire that is connected to all steel and electrical parts, and grounding is the pathway out of the loop, into the ground. Check with your town or inspector on details related to bonding and grounding requirements in your area, but all pools should be bonded and grounded.
Diving Boards and Pool Depth
Your Building Department can indicate and inform you, whether or not you can install a diving board. Standards require that a "diving pool" at the deep end must be at least 8’ deep, and there are minimums for length and width as well. Safety codes also states that the diving board must be permanently attached to the deck (and bonded).
Diving boards also must have a specific height, length and overhang dimensions. The amount of head room underneath the diving board is stated in the state regulations, and diving boards over a specific height are required to have guard rails.
If you have doubts on the compliance of your current or planned diving board, check with your local Building Department for requirements. Every state is different. You may find diving board regulations for your state online, with a few searches.
Pool Fencing, Pool Alarms and Door alarms
Most towns require your swimming pool to be fenced in with a self-closing, self-latching gate. In addition, many towns will also require additional Layers of Protection, such as pool alarms to be installed. Door alarms can be also be called for on your pool entry doors, windows and gates.
New York code requires that any swimming pool that is installed, constructed, or modified after December 14, 2006, must have an approved pool alarm. Florida will require door alarms on all doors leading out to the pool, and out west, the California Pool Safety Act requires that all new pool construction or renovation permits have safety features in addition to a proper pool fence, and you can choose from (7) options.
Dual Main Drains
With the signing into law of the Virginia Graeme Baker Act (VGB), all pools and spas that are constructed must have dual main drains, 36” apart, and a cover that confirms with the reference standard. This law is specifically designed to prevent future entrapment injuries. The pool water is drawn through both main drains simultaneously, which removes the possibility of being held down by strong suction or stuck on the drain cover.
Commercial pools, or public pools around the country were required to retrofit older pools with dual main drains. This has not been the case for residential pools, only in new construction. For vinyl inground pools, however, the process of converting from single to dual main drains is sometimes a simpler job than for concrete pools, and you may want to consider this safety upgrade the next time you change your inground pool liner.
Main Drain Safety. If you have a single drain pool, at the least, make sure that drain covers are always in place, secured with screws. If your pool plumbing has a separate main drain line with a separate valve, a set-up that allows you to isolate the suction to the main drain only - think of ways to prevent someone accidentally shutting off the skimmers, giving full suction to the main drain only. Ways such as; instruct family members of the danger, remove or tape valve handles, or rotate 3-way valve lids to reposition the handle stops.
Gas Pool Heaters
With the installation of a gas heater for your pool, it is very important for it to be properly located, away from any household vents or windows. Failure to do this could create a build of carbon monoxide gas. It could also cause a fire or explosion.
If the heater will be installed in a confined room, make sure you install a ventilation kit. It’s recommended to have a licensed HVAC contractor to hook up your a gas heater properly. Make sure the installation manual is followed completely. There should be a safety shut off switch close by in order to shut off the gas.
Your local inspector or Building Department should have information on installing gas fired heaters. In the absence of specific local pool heater ordinances, the inspector will usually follow the manufacturer's installation instructions, with regard to gas pipe size and pressure, location and venting.
Energy Efficient Pool Pumps
In areas where power is scarce, states have been revising pool codes to require a dual speed or variable speed pool pump. E.E. pumps can save up to 80% of electricity, and if you live in Az, Ca, Fl, Nv or Tx - your next pump should be energy efficient. As with these other areas of swimming pool codes, check with your state or local government authority on the pool pump codes in your area.
In many cases, pools that are not up-to-code, are "grandfathered" as compliant with new laws passed after it was built. However, attached to the new laws are requirements to bring the pool up to date, if for example, the pool is being renovated, or certain equipment is replaced.
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