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5 Reasons String Lights over your Swimming Pool are a Bad Idea

June 21, 2017
Lights over swimming pool = unsafe

Lights over swimming pool = unsafe

If you have a pool, you probably love the idea of having pool parties or enjoying a swim with family and friends. If you plan to swim after dark, you’ll need some sort of outdoor lighting for the safety of everyone in the pool. Have you seen the latest trend of installing string lights over swimming pools (also referred to as “Bistro Lighting”)? It’s becoming a popular as websites like Pinterest publish photos of “string lights” above backyard pools and Costco/ Target sell these lights at reasonable prices. Make no doubt about it, they look great and while they may seem an affordable and attractive solution, there are significant electrocution dangers associated with this practice.

I’ve put together 5 reasons why you should avoid hanging string lights over your swimming pool:

  • Death- someone could be electrocuted and DIE. Are the 120 volts string lights plugged into a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet?? If the lights fall into the water or someone is energized via an aluminum telepole, hopefully a properly installed GFCI is in place and is functioning properly to trip the high voltage circuit. While GFCI’s are reliable, like any other mechanical device, they eventually fail. If string lights fall into the pool while powered and a GFCI isn’t working (or present) the risk of electrical shock for bathers (or anyone barefoot who comes in contact with the lights) is probable. Are stylish lights over the pool worth the risk? You’ll NEVER see them over my pool!
    There’s a reason the 2014 NEC (National Electric Code) states that you must have at least a 10-foot clearance above water level- it’s dangerous to have power lines, extension cords, Christmas lights/ string lights above the water ! (And, what prompted this article was that every string light installation I’ve seen has been less than ten feet above water…) If you do adhere to the code and install the string lights 10-feet high they likely won’t put out enough light to be of any real benefit to swimmers.
  • Accidents Happen – When playing in or around a pool, accidents happen all the time. Having a set of lights fall into the pool and potentially injure someone is a risk you should avoid. Why even create the potential for an accident. Don’t install string lights over the pool.
  • Reduced Opportunities for Fun – If you have lights strung above the pool, you won’t be able to play with beach balls or other toys in the pool as easily. The risk of knocking the lights down would be much too great. You’re cutting down on the fun just to have “trendy lighting”.
  • It creates more Work- Trust me, I’ve brushed many a pool and it’s not only unsettling trying to avoid overhead wires/ cords/ lights with an aluminum pole in my hands. It makes it more challenging to net and brush the pool effectively. Why make cleaning the pool more difficult? Don’t install string lights above the pool.

    String Lights Over Swimming Pool

    String lights over pool = Bad Idea.

  • Lastly, the manufacturers of string lights make no mention of these lights being safe “over” swimming pools. They aren’t dumb, they know they aren’t safe over swimming pools and you won’t find a photo in their ads of string lights over a pool. But someone installed them above a pool and posted it on-line and now it’s “fashionable”. Do any of the string lights in these images look to be ten feet over pool water? Pinterest Pool Party Lights link , Google Images Link.
    And finally, I cut and pasted this from a Costco link:

    Feit Outdoor Weatherproof String Light Set, Black,
    ★★★★★★★★★★7 out of 5 stars. Read reviews.
    Item #831498
    Your Price$29.99
    Shipping & Handling: $4.99*
    – Ideal for Patios, Porches, Walkways, Restaurants and Anywhere Decorative and Accent Light is Desired
    – 48 Ft Long
    – 24 Light Sockets
    – 2 FT Bulb Spacing
    – Includes 36 Bulbs

Would you let your kids swim in this pool

Would you let your kids swim in this pool?

No matter how you look at it, anytime you’re dealing with electricity near a swimming pool it is critical that all codes are strictly followed. Pumps have codes and redundancies to keep bathers safe. Underwater pool lights have codes and redundancies to keep bathers safe. String lights over swimming pools are NOT meant to be installed over water, someone just came up with the idea, posted a photo and homeowners are now following suit. Be smart, don’t do it!

String lights over water are a bad idea. Before you make a potentially tragic mistake, reach out to an expert before you make any decisions regarding electricity around your pool. There are other ways to light your pool area that are much safer for you, your family and anyone else who swims with you.


Mike the Poolman

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