Do Pool Lights Need To Be Grounded?

When setting up lighting for your swimming pool, safety should always be your primary concern.

You would typically try to avoid mixing electrical components with water.

When doing it by design, you must ensure everything is installed correctly to avoid serious health risks.

Many electrical devices include a live wire, a neutral wire, and a third wire – the ground.

This is designed to carry any electrical current when there is a short or other problem, to remove the danger.

So presumably, pool lights need to be grounded, right?

120-volt pool lights should absolutely be grounded, but it is not legally required for low-voltage lights. It is still strongly recommended grounding them to be extra careful, and you should still bond your pool regardless of the voltage.

Let’s take a look at:

  • Whether LED pool lights need a grounding wire
  • How to bond and ground a swimming pool light
  • The risks if you don’t bond and ground your pool

Do LED Pool Lights Need A Grounding Wire?

Welding copper ground wire on ground rod.

Whether LED pool lights need to be grounded depends on their voltage.

Most LED pool lights are low voltage – they run on 12-14 volts, with a transformer installed on the circuit to reduce the mains voltage to the required level.

These lights do not legally require grounding and often won’t have a ground wire included.

There are some LED lights that do require grounding.

These tend to be where you’re installing an LED light bulb into an existing fixture that previously used incandescent or halogen bulbs.

These are sometimes low voltage, but they tend to run on mains voltage. So these absolutely have to be grounded.

It’s all down to the danger posed by the voltage. A 12v current on a low voltage lighting circuit is not “safe,” but it is nowhere near as dangerous as a 120v current.

A 120v current will often be fatal if you’re electrocuted by it.

Typically, unless you have a pacemaker installed and are directly electrocuted through your left arm, a 12v current won’t harm you in the same way.

Still, it won’t be pleasant, and there’s a chance it could cause your muscles to lock up while you’re being electrocuted, and in a swimming pool, that could be dangerous.

So if your low-voltage lights have a grounding wire, you should still connect them – it just makes sense.

What’s also really important to note is that, while low voltage LEDs may not need grounding, the transformer powering them has to be grounded – that’s a legal requirement as part of the National Electrical Code.

The transformer is still dealing with a mains voltage current before stepping it to the 12 volts needed.

Any transformer fault could become a severe danger if it’s not grounded.

The same theory applies to bonding, too – if your LED pool lights are mains voltage ones, you must bond your pool.

But if they are low voltage, bonding is optional but still recommended.

Difference Between Bonding And Grounding

Ground Bonding Cable between Two Cable Ladders

It’s essential to clear the difference between bonding and grounding.

While both processes make a swimming pool safer from problems with electricity, they’re doing different jobs.

Grounding is where you are wiring an electrical component in a way to remove the current if there is a danger.

That danger could be a short in the circuit or a damaged component – anything that could cause the current to ‘escape’ the circuit and seek a new fastest path to the ground, which could be through you.

The grounding wire is designed to prevent that by providing an alternative path of least resistance to the earth.

So even if the regular circuit fails, there’s another option for the current that doesn’t cause it to escape through you.

It’s not 100% safe – if there’s a shorting light and you had left the power on while uninstalling it, the current might find your hands a faster method of travel.

But it does mean that generally, the current won’t travel into the water for no reason.

So what’s bonding?

Bonding is where you use a wire to connect all the parts of a pool capable of carrying an electrical current but aren’t designed to – basically anything metallic.

So that could include pool steps, motor housings, and any metal light housings. Not the electrical part of the light itself but the housing in which it sits.

We know that the current will look to find the fastest path to earth, but we also know that it will try to balance itself out across an electrical circuit.

So if you had a fault in your pool, and your light housing built up a current as the light was shorting, the current might travel through the conductive water to reach the steps, electrifying you.

If everything is bonded together, the electrical potential is the same for all the components, so there’s no need for the current to travel through you if you touch the water or any of the items.

How To Bond And Ground A Swimming Pool Light?

Repairman is repairing pool with equipment

Swimming pool lights are relatively easy to ground, as they have a cable that includes the live wire, the neutral wire, and the ground wire if needed.

All you need to do is make sure you run that to the junction box for the lights and connect the wires to the relevant ones running from the mains outlet or circuit breaker.

If your lights are low voltage and don’t have a ground wire, you won’t likely be able to.

The wires are contained within a cable which is sealed at the light. It’s designed to keep it waterproof and can’t be opened up.

Bonding is a little more work as you have to do it yourself.

Inside the wet niche for the light, there’ll be a grounding lug. You need to connect a bare copper wire to that and run that between all the light fixtures around the pool and connect anything else metal.

It needs to be one continuous wire around the pool, which then connects to each conductive item.

Is It Safe To Use A Pool Without Bonding And Grounding?

legs in pool with lights

If you use lights that run on a mains voltage, the National Electrical Code states that they must be bonded and grounded.

If you don’t, you risk some serious dangers – any faults in your lighting circuit could cause any pool user to be electrocuted. Pool electrocutions are rare but they do happen.

The NEC itself is not a law, but if something happened to someone using your pool and you had decided not to ground and bond it correctly, you could be criminally negligent.

If you’ve hired someone else to install your lights, you could also argue that they were criminally negligent. However, the responsibility could still remain with you as the pool owner.

In short, if you’re using mains voltage lights, make sure they are properly bonded and grounded.

The health and legal risks aren’t worth the gamble.

Final Words

You never want to take a shortcut when it comes to electrical installations, especially when it’s a swimming pool – we all know about the risks of electricity and water.

If installing your own lights, ensure they are bonded and grounded if running on a mains voltage.

Even if you’re installing low-voltage lights, it makes sense to bond everything just in case – and the transformer must be grounded.

You can then enjoy peace of mind that you have a safe swimming pool to use without fear of it becoming a severe hazard.

Are your pool lights grounded and bonded?

If someone installed your lights for you, did they explain these processes and ensure you knew they were safe?

Bring your landscape vision to life with Tilly

Unlock the true potential of your outdoor spaces.

  • Select a design package for your outdoors.
  • Get professional advice for the right landscape lighting project.
  • Host a 1:1 virtual consultation in your yard with an experienced designer.
  • Choose post-design support including installation and maintenance.

Endless resources and services available to get you from concept to cultivation.