MADISON, Ala. - You might already be cooling off in a backyard pool this spring as summer fast approaches.
But experts ask you to take steps to ensure swimmers will stay safe, if there is an electric fault.
Bill Loden, Building Consultant and founder of Insight Building Inspection, LLC, urges you to check your pool's bonding to keep your family safe from electric shock.
"Bonding is interconnecting all the potential electrical paths around the pool," he said. He notes that copper wire is buried between the metal elements surrounding the pool, and then connected to the ground.
"Anything within five feet of the pool must be bonded," he said.
Loden has noticed a problem though, especially in areas where code is not enforced.
"A lot of times unfortunately, a lot of pool companies will not put in the bonding," he said. "It's very common. I frequently see it on swimming pools."
How does bonding work?
Loden said all the metal components need to be tied together with the copper wire.
"There are metal panels all the way around, four feet down, from the top of this concrete pool. Also, in the hand rails you have metal sleeves in the ground," he said. "If there are lights, anything like that, they have to be bonded in here as well."
The science can save you.
"If you keep the potential at zero, then even if there is voltage present there is not going to be any flow," he explained. "That flow that we're worried about may go through your body, and that's what causes shock and electrocution."
"If it isn't bonded and one component becomes electrified, and you are in contact with it and another component, then you can be shocked," he explained.
It is unclear if that is what happened in Florence, when two people died following a pool electrocution. Investigators have not released why the pool became electrified during that situation.
But Loden wanted to warn families to check to see if their pool was bonded, as required by the National Electric Code.
He said it is a matter of life and death.
"People can be killed. People can be severely injured when a certain amount of electricity flows through their body," he said. "It's a simple solution: properly bonding the pool."
What To Do
Loden recommends going out to where your motor and pumps are to check for bonding.
Look for an exposed copper wire attached to the motor and pumps, going into the ground. It should connect in a similar way as in the image to the left.
If you live in a municipality, you can also contact the building and inspection department to see if your pool had a code inspection during its construction.
"If you can not find the bonding line, I would contact a reputable pool company that can come in and evaluate it," said Loden, noting that pool companies often employ or contract electricians for this type of work.
Loden warns that if your pool is not bonded, it may require some concrete cutting and other digging to install.
"This is one of the things I always look for when I inspect a house with a swimming pool," said Loden. "Even though this is required in the building code, it is often omitted by the company installing the pool. This means that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of pools throughout North Alabama that are not properly bonded."
Randy Cunningham, Director of Huntsville's Inspection Department, tells WHNT News 19 everyone who installs a pool in Huntsville needs to get electrical and plumbing permits. They are strictly enforced.
Cunningham said they make sure to do bonding inspection on a pool's electrical system, but he also advises you to make sure your contractors are licensed with the state and that you work with a licensed and qualified electrician.