Swimming can be a wonderful activity for any season. A refreshing dip in a cool pool can make the summer months bearable, while relaxing in a heated tub during the cool winter months can be a great way to spend an evening. However, as most people know, water and electricity don’t mix, yet modern pools have complicated electrical systems which keep them running. Lights, pumps, and jets all require electrical power, and when it is done improperly, fatal accidents can occur.
A lot of the time, when a pool is installed, there is a lot going on. There are contractors involved in digging, pouring concrete, landscaping, plumbing, and finally electrical wiring. This means that it might be difficult for you to ascertain whether or not the work done is quality in every area. And unfortunately, sometimes it is not. A quick search on your favorite search engine will reveal hundreds of cases of pool electrocution. And while many of these are a result of those in the pool behaving unsafely (see, hairdryer in the bathtub), many more are a result of underqualified or unscrupulous contractors who are willing to put lives at risk in order to make a buck. Sometimes this even happens in major public pools.
The Importance of Perfection
Think about lighting in a pool. Electricity must flow all the way through the bulb, yet cannot be allowed to touch the water at all. Lights are often ignored for years without maintenance, left in a corrosive and chemical laden environment, and cracks in the concrete around them cannot allow the circuit to be compromised. You can imagine how much planning must go in to creating something that fits these requirements, and almost never fails. If any of the important steps which must be taken to ensure safety are neglected, a fatal accident could occur.
Additionally, work on a pool electrical system can be hard. You might need to drain the water in the pool, or even replace concrete. Having to open up a concrete slab in order to perform electrical repairs can inflate the price dramatically, so again, this is something that you want to get right the first time.
What to do if Worried
If you have a general contractor who is handling the creation of your pool, you should do your research to ensure that it is something he has done before. You should also do research on his electrician, more so than any of the other subcontractors which might be around. If the concrete isn’t quite flat, you have an expensive annoyance. If the electrical work is not done correctly, you have an expensive and extremely dangerous problem.
An experienced and properly licensed electrician will be able to ensure that all of the electrical work done is up to electrical code, and will keep you safe. One of the best things they can do is to ensure that all circuits are on a GFCI protected circuit breaker. These are the incredibly fast circuit breakers used in bathrooms, which help to stop electrical surges within fractions of a second. This way, if something should occur years down the line, the circuit will be nearly instantly switched off, potentially before any real damage can be done.
Additionally, permits should always be acquired when doing this type of work. There are rigorous standards for what safe work is, and ensuring that your contractors are following these standards is the best thing you can do for your and your families safety. The unfortunate reality is that while many contractors work hard and ethically, there will always be some unethical people willing to feign competence in order to make some quick money. Rather than simply trusting you contractor about what a good job looks like, trust the engineers who have developed the regulations and electrical code rules which are relevant to the work being done.
If you have an older pool, or have a pool being built which you suspect may be unsafe, you should immediately take steps to ensure that a qualified electrician comes out and inspects it for safety. When it comes to saving lives, you can’t wait. If the pool is being built, the sooner you do this, the easier and cheaper it will likely be to fix any potential problems. Once the pool is inspected and either certified as safe, or the issues are fixed, you will be able to relax without worries.
Finally, if come across someone in a pool you suspect is being given an electric shock, do NOT jump in to save them. The first thing you need to do is to shut off electrical power at the circuit breaker to the pool. If you jump into a pool where there is electric discharge to help someone, the only thing you are likely doing is doubling the body count. Only once you have shut off the electricity to the pool can you test and enter the water to rescue them.