People have been relaxing in outdoor, hot water baths for thousands of years, without any concern for electrical safety. But in 1956, when the Jacuzzi brothers invented a new type of submersible hydraulic air pump for use in home hydrotherapy treatments, electrical safety became much more complicated than isolating the tub from electricity — electricity was essential to the modern hot tub.
Safety Requirements for Hot Tub Installation
Professionals and seasoned electricians recognize that the codes and principles relating to hot tub installation aren’t substantially different from those applied elsewhere and are spelled out in article 680 of the National Electrical Code (NEC). But with hot tubs, the stakes are high, and even electricians need to be aware of issues, such as:
- Equipotential: In order to protect users from differences in electrical potential, hot tub installers must bond all the metallic parts in and around a hot tub. Various municipalities may interpret the NEC requirements differently, so it’s important to find out what the authorities in your area require if you expect to pass an inspection. Bonding is one area of the code that’s somewhat vague, so it’s open to the interpretation of the code enforcer. If you’re new in town, check with the local inspector.
- Shut-Offs and Safety Restriction: Devices, such as ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI), circuit breakers and fuses, and quick disconnect boxes (located at least 5 feet from the tub), are also part of the hot tub safety chain. Underground wiring isn’t permitted under a hot tub.
- Location: The tub has to be out of clearance range of overhead electrical and communications cables. This is a particularly pertinent issue with above-ground hot tubs, because the height of the tub could bring the water level closer to the 22-1/2-foot minimum distance required between the maximum water level and an overhead power conductor. Additionally, the maximum water level requirement refers to the very top edge of the tub basin, which can shave additional inches off of the acceptable distance margin.
Benefits of Additional Certification
Even though licensed electricians are qualified to do the electrical work related to hot tub installation, it’s wise to undergo additional training. The advantages range from additional knowledge that can enhance your own safety and expertise to marketing your services.
Training is available from several sources, ranging from state trade organizations to training and certification programs offered by specific hot tub manufacturers. The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), which publishes a hot tub technician manual, developed a certification program based on the manual that it began offering in 2010.
The APSP course isn’t brand-specific, so the student receives a more generalized, basic foundation. Technicians that can service a variety of products can generate income because of the demand.