Swimming Pools and Spas Electrical Code Requirements

Four friends enjoying a day at the pool.
Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

Ahh, school is out, summer’s here, and you’re out to the great outdoors to enjoy a relaxing dip in a swimming pool or spa. Pools and spas come in every shape and size, and most require some electrical equipment to maintain water quality, power lights, run pumps, etc. These electrical installations must be done according to the electrical code in your area--and usually by a licensed electrician. The following are just a few of the most common code requirements from the National Electrical Code (NEC).

Local rules may vary. 

Overhead Electrical Lines

Utility power lines that run over a pool or spa must be at least 22 ½ feet above the water level or base of a diving platform. Communications cable must be at least 10 feet above the water level or diving platform. The water level is defined as the highest point water can reach before it spills out of the pool or spa. It is always preferable to install a pool or spa well away from any electrical lines, or vice versa. The water is one thing to worry about; another is the use of pool cleaning nets with very long, metal handles that you lift high into the air. 

Underground Wiring

Underground wiring is not allowed under a pool or spa. Wiring may be run no less than 5 feet from any side wall of a pool or spa. There are some exceptions when the wiring attaches to the pool or spa to serve equipment or lighting. When there is insufficient space in the area to maintain a 5-foot separation, wiring may be closer than 5 feet if it is installed in a complete raceway (conduit) system.

Rigid metal raceway (RMC or IMC) must have at least 6 inches of cover. Nonmetallic raceway must have at least 6 inches of cover, including at least 4 inches of concrete; 18 inches minimum cover is allowed if nonmetallic conduit is listed for direct burial without concrete encasement.

GFCI Protection

Most devices and equipment serving pools or spas and the surrounding areas must be protected by ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) devices.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • Outlet receptacles within 20 feet of a pool or spa
  • Underwater pool lights greater than 15 volts
  • Motors and controls for pool covers
  • Outlet receptacles for pool pump motors at all distances from pool
  • Light fixtures less than 10 feet from a pool or spa edge, unless the fixture is more than 5 feet above the water level

Maintenance Disconnect

A maintenance disconnect is required for shutting off power to pool or spa pumps, filters and other utilization equipment. The disconnect must be installed within sight of the pool or spa but can be no closer than 5 feet from the pool or spa so that you cannot be leaning out of the water to turn power on or off. Public spas must have an emergency disconnect that is visible and at least 5 feet from the spa, but this rule does not apply to single-family dwellings.