One of the trends that we have seen over the past couple of years is string lighting in backyard and outdoor living settings. While most would agree that string lighting provides good accent lighting, most of these lights run on 120 volts, which should never be used over a hot tub due to the risk of electrocution. Obviously, electricity and water are not a good mix.
The lighting and equipment present on stand-alone hot tubs was designed with safety as a top priority, and the string lighting which often dangles over hot tubs while they are being used lacks the essential safety features present in hot tub equipment configurations. According to Terry Poeschl of Terry Poeschl Electric, Inc. of Denton, who is a Master Electrician, the danger is extremely high. He said, “This is one of the most dangerous trends that I have seen in my 30 years of being an electrician. I highly recommend that all of these lights be low voltage (30 volts or less) to reduce the risk of electrocution.”
Typically, it is one of the following situations:
String lights plugged into a non-GFCI protected outlet
This is a worst-case scenario. Most string lights are 120 volts and, if they are not plugged into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected outlet, they are extremely dangerous. If one of these string lights falls into the hot tub, there is an extremely high risk of electrocution for hot tub users.
String lights plugged into a GFCI protected outlet
If these lights are plugged into a GFCI outlet, they can still be very dangerous. While GFCI’s are reliable, like any other mechanical device, they can malfunction or fail. If one of these string lights falls into the hot tub and the GFCI is not functional, there is an extremely high risk of electrocution for hot tub users.
There are some low voltage string lights available, which can be safe if they are installed according to code.
Other electrical code relating to pools that you should be aware of:
- All outside plugs in the hot tub area should be GFCI protected.
- There should be no plugs within 6’ of the water in the hot tub.
- We recommend that there be no high voltage (over 30 volts) lights over the hot tub.(The electrical code actually requires 12’ clearance from the water’s surface and that they be permanently affixed).
This is not meant to be a complete electrical safety list, just a basic overview. It is a good idea to consider having a licensed electrician (who is experienced with hot tubs) do a checkup on your hot tub and outdoor living area.
In conclusion, having 120-volt string lights over or near water is a safety risk. If you have them over or near water, please remove them immediately and look for other ways to light your outdoor hot tub area in order to ensure the safety of you and your family.