Whats Wrong Here?


How well do you know the Code? Think you can spot violations the original installer either ignored or couldn't identify? Here's your chance to moonlight as an electrical inspector and second-guess someone else's work from the safety of your living room or office. Brian, who has a knack for finding shoddy electrical work, did the dirty work and found this mess. Now it's your turn to identify the violation.

Find the Answer

This permanently installed outdoor pool presents us with two Code violations. The first violation is contrary to the rule of 680.22(C)(1), and the second does not satisfy the requirements of 680.22(D).

In 680.22(C)(1), the Code says, "In outdoor pool areas, luminaires, lighting outlets, and ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans installed above the pool or the area extending 1.5 m (5 ft) from the inside walls of the pool shall be installed at a height not less than 3.7 m (12 ft) above the maximum water level of the pool." Unfortunately, this pole is located approximately 4½ ft from the inside wall of the pool, only 10 ft above grade, and only about 5½ ft above the maximum water level. It should be noted that if this luminaire pole was already in place when the pool was installed — which it wasn't — the rule of 680.22(C)(3) would permit such installation, provided ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection was installed to protect people in the pool's vicinity. Remember, GFCIs are intended for personnel protection; not equipment protection.

The location of the switch on this pole is a violation of 680.22(D), which says "Switching devices shall be located at least 1.5 m (5 ft) horizontally from the inside walls of the pool unless separated from the pool by a solid fence, wall, or other permanent barrier. Alternatively, a switch that is listed as being acceptable for use within 1.5 m (5 ft) shall be permitted." This switch is not listed for installation within 5 ft of the pool's inside walls, so its location on the pole is considered a violation.

One major point to take away from this discussion is this: Code rules that stipulate minimum distances/clearances for equipment and conductors should be easy to comply with simply because you know the minimums. However, where there are extenuating circumstances (e.g., lack of room or obstructions within the desired equipment location), it will be necessary to consult with the local electrical inspector to secure "special permission" to deviate from the Code-mandated clearances. This is only if the inspector feels that the installation will still be safe. Where there are no such extenuating circumstances — as one inspector once told me — You don't need a ruling, you need a ruler.

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