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Pools and Spas — Part 3 of 3

June 1, 2009
How to meet Art. 680 requirements for wiring fountains, pools, and spas per the National Electrical Code (NEC)

Astorable pool is typically purchased by the user and not professionally installed. This may seem like something that should not concern electricians. However, the NEC has requirements for storable pools that must be followed when making any electrical installation in the vicinity of a storable pool. Parts I and III of Art. 680 apply to storable pools [680.30].

A storable pool includes one of the following characteristics [680.2]:

  1. It's constructed on or above the ground and is capable of holding up to 42 in. of water, or

  2. It has nonmetallic, molded polymeric (plastic) walls or inflatable fabric walls, regardless of dimensions.

For storable pools, cord-connected pumps must be double insulated and have a means to bond the internal metal parts to an equipment grounding conductor run with conductors in the cord. The attachment plug must have integral GFCI protection [680.31].

GFCI protection is required for all receptacles that supply the electrical equipment used with storable pools [680.32] ( Fig. 1 ). Receptacles must be located at least 6 ft from the inside walls of a storable pool. This distance is measured using the shortest path a cord could follow without passing through a wall, doorway, or window [680.34].

Spas and hot tubs

A spa or hot tub is a hydromassage pool or tub designed for recreational use, which is typically not drained after each use [680.2].

Outdoor spas and hot tubs

Electrical installations for outdoor spas and hot tubs must comply with Parts I and II of Art. 680 along with the special provisions included for outdoor spas and hot tubs in Part IV [680.40]. The special provisions in Part IV for outdoor installations are:

  • Flexible connections and cord-and-plug connections that meet certain criteria are allowed [680.42(A)].

  • Bonding through the use of metalto-metal contact on a common frame or base is permitted. The metal bands that secure wooden staves are not required to be bonded [680.42(B)].

Wiring to an underwater light must comply with 680.23 or 680.33.

A clearly labeled emergency shutoff for the recirculation and jet system must be supplied for all spas and hot tubs, except in a single-family dwelling. The disconnect must be readily accessible to users and not less than 5 ft away, but adjacent to and within sight of the spa or hot tub [680.41]. A push button that controls a relay can be used to meet this shutoff requirement. The purpose of the emergency shutoff is to protect users because deaths and injuries have occurred even in shallow water due to individuals becoming stuck to the water intake openings ( Fig. 2).

Indoor spas and hot tubs

Indoor installations of spas and hot tubs must also comply with Parts I and II of Art. 680, except as modified by Part IV. You can use any Chapter 3 wiring method for indoor spas and hot tubs [680.43]. Listed packaged spa and hot tub units rated 20A or less are permitted to be cordand plug-connected.

The emergency shutoff switch requirements previously mentioned apply to indoor installations as well as outdoor spa and hot tubs [680.41]. At least one 15A or 20A, 125V receptacle must be installed at least 6 ft (measured horizontally), but not more than 10 ft, from an inside wall of the spa or hot tub [680.43(A)]. Other receptacles must be located not less than 6 ft from the nearest inside wall of the spa or hot tub. If within 10 ft of an inside wall, 125V receptacles rated 30A or less must be GFCI protected. All receptacles that provide power for an indoor spa or hot tub must be GFCI protected [680.43(A)(3)]. Luminaires and ceiling fans within 5 ft (measured horizontally) of an inside wall of an indoor spa or hot tub must be at least [680.43(B)(1):

  • 12 ft above the spa or hot tub if not GFCI protected.

  • 7½ ft above the spa or hot tub if GFCI protected.

Luminaires and ceiling fans are allowed to be less than 7½ ft above the indoor spa or hot tub if they are GFCI protected, and the luminaire is either:

  • Recessed with a glass or plastic lens, nonmetallic or electrically isolated metal trim, and suitable for use in damp locations.

  • Surface-mounted with a glass or plastic globe, a nonmetallic body, or a metallic body isolated from contact, and suitable for use in damp locations.

Switches must be at least 5 ft from any inside walls of an indoor spa or hot tub [680.43(C)].

The following metal parts of the indoor spa or hot tub must be bonded together [680.43(D)]:

  • Fittings within or attached to the spa or hot tub structure.

  • Metal parts of electrical equipment associated with the water circulating system.

  • Metal surfaces, metal raceways, and metal piping that are within 5 ft of an inside wall of an indoor spa or hot tub and not separated from it by a permanent barrier.


  1. Nonelectrical equipment, such as towel bars or mirror frames, which aren't connected to metallic piping.

  2. Metal parts of a listed self-contained spa or hot tub.

Metal parts of a spa or hot tub are allowed to be bonded by means of:

  • Threaded metal piping and fittings.

  • Metal-to-metal mounting to a common frame or base.

  • A solid copper conductor at least 8 AWG.

GFCI protection must be provided for the outlet supplying a self-contained indoor spa or hot tub, or supplying a packaged spa or hot tub equipment assembly, or any field-assembled spa or hot tub. Because this rule applies to all outlets and not just receptacle outlets, a hard-wired indoor spa or hot tub requires GFCI protection [680.44].

Additional GFCI protection isn't required for:

  • A listed self-contained spa or hot tub or a listed packaged spa or hot tub assembly marked to indicate that integral GFCI protection has been provided for electrical parts within the unit or assembly [680.44(A)] [ Fig. 3 ].

  • A field-assembled spa or hot tub rated 3-phase or that has a voltage rating greater than 250V, or a heater load above 50A [680.44(B)].

  • Equipment that supplies a combination pool/hot tub or spa assembly [680.44(C)].


A fountain is defined as an ornamental, display, or reflection pool [680.2]. Fountain installations must comply with Parts I and V of Art. 680. Fountains that have water in common with a pool must also comply with Part II of Art. 680 [680.50]. The branch circuit that supplies luminaires, submersible pumps, and other submersible equipment must be GFCI protected, unless the equipment is listed for operation at not more than 15V and is supplied by a listed pool transformer that complies with 680.23(A)(2) [680.51].

A luminaire installed in a fountain must have the top of the lens below the normal water level, unless the luminaire is listed for above-water use [680.51(C)].

The maximum length of each exposed cord in the fountain is 10 ft. Any cord that extends beyond the fountain perimeter must be run in an enclosure approved by the authority having jurisdiction [680.51(E)].

Equipment must be capable of being removed from the water for relamping or for normal maintenance [680.51(F)]. However, equipment must be inherently stable or securely fastened in place [680.51(G)].

Metal piping associated with the fountain must be bonded to the equipment grounding conductor of the branch circuit that supplies the fountain equipment [680.53].

If equipment is supplied by a flexible cord, connect exposed metal parts to an insulated copper equipment grounding conductor that is an integral part of the cord [680.55(B)]. Flexible cords exposed to water must be of the hard-service type, as designated in Table 400.4, and must be marked with a “W” suffix to indicate they may be used in wet locations [680.56(B)].

Provide GFCI protection for:

  • Cordand plug-connected fountain equipment [680.56(A)].

  • Each circuit that supplies a sign installed within a fountain or within 10 ft of the fountain edge [680.57(B)].

  • All 15A and 20A, 125V through 250V receptacles located within 20 ft of the fountain edge [680.58].

Hydromassage bathtubs

A hydromassage bathtub is a permanently installed bathtub with a recirculating piping system designed to accept, circulate, and discharge water after each use [680.2]. The only Art. 680 requirements it must comply with are those in Part VII [680.70].

Hydromassage bathtubs and their associated electrical components must be on an individual branch circuit protected by a readily accessible GFCI [680.71]. You must also provide GFCI protection for any 125V receptacles rated 30A or less, if they're within 6 ft of any inside wall of a hydromassage bathtub ( Fig. 4 ).

Luminaires, switches, receptacles, and other electrical equipment located in the same room and not directly associated with a hydromassage bathtub must comply with Chapters 1 through 4 [680.72]. In other words, treat a hydromassage bathtub like a regular bathtub for these purposes. For example, a 5 ft clearance isn't required for switches or receptacles, and the fixtures must be installed per 410.4(D).

Electrical equipment for hydromassage bathtubs must be capable of being removed or exposed without damaging the building [680.73].

If the building contains a metal piping system, it must be bonded with a solid copper conductor, 8 AWG or larger, to the circulating pump grounding lug. Bonding to the pump isn't necessary if it's double insulated. The 8 AWG or larger copper equipotential hydromassage bonding jumper isn't required to be connected to any remote panelboard, service equipment, or electrode [680.74].

This concludes the series on Art. 680. Before you install any electrical equipment related to pools, spas, hot tubs or anything that will contain water and people, read through the definitions in 680.2 to see exactly what kind of installation you are dealing with. Then, apply the relevant Part of Art. 680 from Parts II through V. Part I also applies in all cases except a hydromassage bathtub.

Copyright 2009 by Penton Business Media Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Mike Holt

Mike Holt is the owner of Mike Holt Enterprises (, one of the largest electrical publishers in the United States. He earned a master's degree in the Business Administration Program (MBA) from the University of Miami. He earned his reputation as a National Electrical Code (NEC) expert by working his way up through the electrical trade. Formally a construction editor for two different trade publications, Mike started his career as an apprentice electrician and eventually became a master electrician, an electrical inspector, a contractor, and an educator. Mike has taught more than 1,000 classes on 30 different electrical-related subjects — ranging from alarm installations to exam preparation and voltage drop calculations. He continues to produce seminars, videos, books, and online training for the trade as well as contribute monthly Code content to EC&M magazine.

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