Hydromassage Bathtub Electrical Codes

Question: Hydromassage Bathtub Electrical Codes

I was asked about how to connect a whirlpool tub outdoors and that prompted me to write this article for you. A reader wanted to know if there was "anything special" he'd have to do to hook it up. It can't be that hard, right? Just run a drop cord to it and off you go, wrong! There are indeed certain rules and regulations for this type of installation to ensure safety for all.


The National Electrical Code has rules and safety information that targets all areas of both work and home settings. These include hydromassage bathtubs, spas, whirlpool tubs, and showers. As you should know by now, water and electricity do not mix, in fact, together, they can set up a highly dangerous and deadly combination, if they are not installed with safety in mind. By following the rules of the code, you can enjoy the refreshing and relaxing benefits of a hydromassage bathtub without the worry of electrical dangers.

Remember, when you get out of the tub, you're soaking wet and a great grounding conductor, that is, if you come in contact with electricity. To prevent this, there are devices that have been developed to keep you out of harm's way. GFCI breakers and outlets have been the safety devices of choice to do just that. They sense a difference in potential and react in a split second to disconnect the power and shut down the circuit connection.

The National Electrical Code addresses this in article 680.71. It states that hydromassage bathtub electrical equipment must be on an individual branch and be protected by a readily accessible GFCI device. This may be accomplished by a GFCI outlet or breaker.

In section 406.11, it states that all 15- and 20-amp, 120-volt receptacle outlets must be listed tamper resistant type.

But what is a tamper resistant type, you ask? According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), "The 2008 National Electrical Code®(NEC®) will require new and renovated dwellings to have tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles. These receptacles have spring-loaded shutters that close off the contact openings, or slots, of the receptacles. When a plug is inserted into the receptacle, both springs are compressed and the shutters then open, allowing for the metal prongs to make contact to create an electrical circuit. Because both springs must be compressed at the same time, the shutters do not open when a child attempts to insert an object into only one contact opening, and there is no contact with electricity. Tamper- resistant receptacles are an important next step to making the home a safer place for children."

Now you may think that if you do not have children you are exempt from this rule, but you're not. In fact, all homes are required to have them. You may not have children in your home everyday, but what about when your grandchildren, friends or neighbors stop by with their children? Surely they wouldn't explore your outlets, right? Wrong again!

Now, back to the hydromassage tub.

In article 680.73, it states that access is required to all electrical equipment for hydromassage bathtubs. Any equipment is subject to inspection, upgrades, maintenance, and cleaning. Without proper access, this makes the job difficult, if not impossible. In fact, in article 100, the NE defines readily accessible as capable of being reached quickly for operation, renewal, or inspections without requiring those to whom ready access is requisite to climb over or remove obstacles or to resort to portable ladders, and so forth. In other words, put an access door in where everything is accessible easily and without restriction. Plainly put, make it easy on yourself and others to maintain your tub components.

Now, maybe the most important item on my list. In article 680.74, it states that metal piping systems and all grounded metal parts in contact with the water must be bonded together with a solid copper wire not smaller than #8.

This includes the copper water pipes and pump motor grounds, which usually have an exterior ground lug for the connection.

Like an bathroom, it's almost unthinkable not to have a bath fan. In article 110.3(B), it states that bath fans installed directly above showers must be GFCI protected. This only makes sense because, after all, you are standing in a puddle of water with water flowing all over your body, not to mention that you are flailing water all over, eve towards the fan.