Does a Pool Light Need a GFCI Breaker

If you own an inground swimming pool, saving money and energy is always important to keep your pool in good shape, and doing your own maintenance can save costs over time. Jobs that you think are hard usually are not but in some jobs, a professional is needed especially a certified electrician to answer and fix safety problems. Does a pool light need a GFCI breaker?

Yes- it’s mandatory that GFCI Ground Fault Protection for Swimming Pool Lights: NEC Article 680-20, As described in this electrical question, anyone who enters the pool with this light on is in Danger of Potential Electrical Shock!

As a pool owner, some potential problems need your full attention like safety issues in and around the pool but the biggest safety issue is the Pool Light and how its circuit is protected if a problem arises underwater.

Does a Pool Light Need a GFCI Breaker


There are generally two circuits for a pool that supply power to the equipment.  These circuits are sometimes connected right to the home’s breaker panel, sometimes a separate sub-panel is mounted, and finally, some automated controllers have a sub-panel built-in.  Regardless of where these circuits originate, the reason there should be a minimum of two is that the pool light circuit should be dedicated to the light only.

The light always has to be a dedicated circuit because it has to be protected by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI is a device that monitors the amount of current flowing from hot to neutral. If there is an imbalance, it trips the circuit.

A GFCI for a pool light circuit is generally located on the controller box for the pool equipment.  The GFCI outlet itself also doubles as an electrical outlet to supply tools and/or appliances.

The very reason the original GFCI circuit breaker tripped indicates that there is something wrong with the circuit, and the GFCI circuit breaker was providing protection against a potential electric shock. You need to pay attention to it immediately!

Sometimes, on older sets, it can be located just under the light switch itself, usually by the back door.  It will always be somewhere convenient for the electrician to protect or swap the circuit without too much additional work.

  • You should take a moment to locate the GFCI for your pool light and test it to make sure it works properly. The procedure to test the GFCI is simple.
  • Locate the “TEST” button on the outlet, usually between the two sockets.
  • Then push it in, you should hear it pop.
  • Then try to turn the pool light on.
  • If the light does not turn on, then your GFCI is working properly.
  • Now that you have tested the light circuit GFCI, you need to reset the GFCI to restore power to the light. This is easily done by locating the “Reset” button on the outlet, usually beneath the “TEST” button, and pushing it in.
  • Then, turn the light on. It should light up.


Does a pool light need a GFCI breaker?


Do 12v Pool Lights Need GFCI Protection


The National Electrical Code states that only pool lights requiring 15 volts or more need to be GFCI protected. Most low-voltage lights are 12-14 volts, so it isn’t necessary – but it is still helpful to use a GFCI outlet if possible.

To explore this topic in a little more detail, I’ll take you through:

  • Whether low voltage lighting is safe around a pool
  • Whether pool lights need to be GFCI protected
  • Reasons why a pool light might trip a GFCI

* If you have a pool light that is not protected by GFCI Ground Fault Circuit protection then the occupants in or around the swimming pool are at grave risk of potential electrical shock, this includes pets and other animals as well!


How Many Pool Lights Do I Need?

The number of pool lights you need depends on the size of your pool. Here are some general guidelines

  • For pools 15′ x 30′ or smaller, you need at least one LED pool light.
  •  For pools larger than 15′ x 30′, you may need additional light.
  • For residential pools larger than 40′ and commercial pools, 3 or more lights may be required ………………………………….. Read more


JimGalloway Author/Editor


Ask the Electrician-Electrical Code and Swimming Pool Light Fixtures




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