If you're a pool owner, it's essential to make sure your pool equipment is properly grounded and bonded to keep your pool safe. However, for many people, this is one of the most puzzling aspects of pool construction.
Here, we'll cover the basics of bonding and grounding pool equipment and why it's so important that it is done correctly.
What Is Bonding and Grounding?
Like the other parts of your home, swimming pools require electricity to function. Pumps, lights, automatic pool covers, some cleaning equipment plus more will require power. But, as you can imagine, electrical safety is very important whenever water is involved.
Bonding and grounding are two of the most essential electrical safety tasks pool owners must perform. Without proper bonding and grounding, you and other pool users run the risk of electric shock when using your pool or equipment.
The terms bonding and grounding are often used together, and in many cases, they're used interchangeably. But bonding and grounding are actually two totally different processes.
Grounding Pool Equipment
What is Grounding?
To understand how electrical grounding works, it helps to know a few basics about electricity in your home.
Electrical current is made up of electrons, and electrons have a negative charge. This charge naturally wants to balance out by flowing toward materials that have a neutral or positive charge. It is that "flow" of electricity that provides power to devices like lights, vacuums and swimming pool pumps.
In a standard electric wire, one wire is charged (or "hot") and the other is neutral. It is this difference in charge that provides power to devices.
In most cases, the easiest way for electrons to flow is by following the electrical circuit from the charged wire to the neutral one. But if a wire is broken or frayed, or if a piece of equipment malfunctions, it can create a short circuit (or fault) that makes electricity flow down a path it isn't supposed to. This is because the electric current is seeking the path of least resistance toward a positive charge. When a short occurs, this path could be through a piece of bare metal, wood framing, or a person touching a piece of equipment.
Grounding solves this problem by giving the electricity a low-resistance path (usually a piece of bare copper wire) that leads directly to the earth. This allows the electricity to dissipate, preventing electrical shocks and keeping you and your loved ones safe.
How Do You Ground Pool Equipment?
In the majority of cases, an electrician will ground your pool equipment by attaching a ground wire to the electrical panel that supplies power to your pool systems. However, depending on your setup you may also be able to tie your pool grounding into your main electrical panel and rely on the grounding there.
Pool equipment can also be grounded through GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets. These outlets detect when your electrical equipment may be drawing too much power (such as during a short or fault) and interrupt the circuit. The outlet cuts power to the shorting device and provides a safe ground path for the electricity.
Bonding Pool Equipment
What Is Bonding?
Unlike grounding, bonding isn't a very common electrical task. Most bonding work is solely done around water features like pools and hot tubs. Having a properly bonded pool is essential for making sure you and your pool guests are safe.
Bonding is also known as equipotential bonding because the goal of this process is to equalize the potential differences in voltage between different parts of your pool equipment. When you properly bound your pool equipment, you greatly reduce the risk of electrical shocks.
Bonding is necessary because, even when grounded, electrical equipment can still accumulate charge over time. For instance, a pool motor that is connected to a power line can slowly build up a higher charge than other pieces of metal in the same area. If you happen to touch both the motor and another surface with lower charge, the electricity will flow through you as it seeks the ground. This difference in charge is known as electrical potential.
In some ways, this is the same basic concept as a static shock from touching a doorknob. When you rub your feet on the carpet, you build up negative charge on your skin and clothes. Then, when you touch a doorknob or another piece of metal, the charge jumps off you and through the air. In the case of pool equipment, though, the charge can also jump through the water or even through people as it seeks the ground.
How Do You Bond Pool Equipment?
So how does bonding help? Simply put, bonding connects all of your pool equipment together so they all have the same electrical potential. When all of your equipment is carrying the same charge, the electricity won't try to jump from one piece to another as the resistance is the same on both sides. This equalization allows you to safely use your pool equipment without risking electric shocks.
An electrician bonds pool equipment by connecting it all together with conductive wire also known as a bonding wire when it comes to pools. Here is a partial list of what should be included in your pool's bonding grid:
- Any metal parts of the pool shell
- Shells and brackets of all pool lighting
- Any metal fittings attached to your pool structure
- All electric pump motors and fittings
- Any metal piping or sheathing within 5 feet of the pool
- Any handrails or other exposed metal near your pool
- The pool water itself, which you can achieve by adding a pool ladder to your pool and bonding it to your bonding grid
Can I Bond and Ground My Own Pool?
If you've recently performed work on your pool like adding a handrail or installing a new pump, you might think you can save some time and money by grounding and bonding the new equipment yourself. But this is a bad idea for a few reasons.
First, electrical work can be dangerous, especially around swimming pools. If you don't have experience working with electricity, installing your own ground wires or bonding grid could put you at risk. Furthermore, if you don't do the work correctly, you could also put other people using your pool at risk.
Second, most jurisdictions require bonding and grounding to be done by a licensed electrician or to have an electrician check the work once you've installed it. If an inspector finds out you did your own work you could be hit with code violations and be forced to re-do everything according to local and national electrical code. In most cases, it's cheaper and easier to have an experienced electrician do the work correctly the first time.
Get Help with Bonding and Grounding Requirements and More
At Royal Swimming Pools, our expert installers work with local licensed electricians. We suggest you do the same for safety purposes to ensure you're code compliant. For this reason, we can provide conceptual ideas but not technical support on this topic. If you want to learn more about how to keep your pool up to code and safe to use, you'll want to research your specific area's code requirements.