Article 680 covering swimming pools, fountains and similar installations has been totally rewritten for the 2002 National Electrical Code (NEC). Over the past NEC cycles, this article has grown substantially in size and a major rewrite was needed to make it easier to understand and use.

When a major rewrite occurs, there may be subtle changes in the text or entirely new sections that are overlooked and should be reviewed before installing the next swimming pool, fountain, hydromassage tub or spa.

The first subtle change occurs in Section 680.1 covering the scope for the entire article. A sentence was added to the end of the paragraph stating that the phrase "body of water," as used throughout Part I of Article 680, applies to all bodies of water covered in this scope, unless otherwise amended. This sentence is particularly important since it provides a limit to the extent of coverage of Article 680.

Article 680 covers the construction and installation of electrical wiring for any electrical equipment in or adjacent to all swimming pools, hydromassage bathtubs, fountains, hot tubs, spas, and wading, therapeutic and decorative pools.

Article 680 does not cover bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, shark and fish tanks in aquariums, commercial fish farming facilities and similar applications. In the past few NEC cycles, proposals have been submitted to Panel 20 to include these "other" bodies of water in the scope of Article 680. While admitting the need for additional safety requirements for these specialty bodies of water, Panel 20 has suggested that a new article should be established to cover these "other" bodies of water for the 2005 NEC.

A new definition has been added to Section 680.2 for the "maximum water level" referred to in Article 680 in numerous places. It means the highest water level that water can reach before it spills out. An example is the minimum height of five feet above the surface of the maximum water level of a swimming pool for an existing luminaire located on the wall of a dwelling unit as permitted by Section 680.22(B)(3). Measurements are established as the maximum height of the inside wall of the pool to the deck and from the deck to the wall-mounted luminaire.

Network-powered broadband communications systems were added to the list of overhead conductors and cables above a swimming pool or fountain covered in Section 680.8. The minimum clearance for broadband cables above a pool or fountain is the same clearance required for cables operating at 0 to 750 volts to ground since there may be a potential shock hazard associated with this type of communications system.

Another subtle change that may be overlooked is the change in height requirement in Table 680.8 from 22 feet to 22.5 feet for insulated cables for 0 to 750 volts. This change was required to bring the NEC into compliance with the utility industry standards covering these same minimum-height requirements for their cabling systems.

The title to Section 680.12 has been changed to "Maintenance Disconnecting Means" to more accurately reflect that this disconnect is for maintenance. It must be located where it is accessible and within the line of sight to maintenance personnel. The new text makes it clear that one or more disconnects are permissible, but they must disconnect all utilization equipment, except luminaires, associated with bodies of water included in the scope of Article 680. This section previously only required a disconnecting means for pool, spa or hot tub equipment.

A change has occurred in Section 680.21 dealing with motors for permanently installed swimming pools. Section 680-25(c) in the 1999 NEC required an insulated copper conductor for the equipment-grounding conductor installed in rigid-metal conduit, intermediate-metal conduit, rigid-nonmetallic conduit or Type MC cable listed for the application. In the interior of a one-family dwelling or a building associated with a one-family dwelling, the equipment-grounding conductor could be either insulated or covered by the outer sheath of cable.

Section 680.21(A)(1) in the 2002 NEC has deleted the requirement for an insulated equipment-grounding conductor for a pool motor by stating: "Any wiring method employed shall contain a copper equipment grounding conductor sized in accordance with 250.122 but not smaller than 12 AWG." A commercial pool motor would not require an insulated equipment-grounding conductor.

An insulated equipment-grounding conductor is still required in the interior of a one-family dwelling where the circuit is run in a raceway. If the circuit is run in cable in the interior of the dwelling, the equipment-grounding conductor is permitted to be uninsulated, but it shall be enclosed within the outer sheath of the cable assembly.

Understanding and recognizing the changes will help ensure compliance with the NEC. EC

ODE is staff engineering associate at Underwriters Laboratories Inc., in Research Triangle Park, N.C. He can be reached at 919.549.1726 or via e-mail at mark.c.ode@us.ul.com.