Pool lights/gfci

I am wondering how most of you handle inspections of gfci or transformers at the pool lights? This pool does not have the typical transformer junction box, or the gfci breaker. I believe this is a transformer at the bottom right of the subpanel, is that correct? It is pretty rusted, and wondering how to narrate this, but wanted to make sure I am not missing something before calling it out. I know there isnt really any way to test these, and I just want to cover my liability without looking foolish.

Morning, Daniel.
Hope this post finds you well.
If I am not mistaken. The pool luminary must be installed on a GFCI circuit. That means that the wires coming to the pool light J-box must come from a GFCI breaker.
Did you find a GFCI breaker downstream?

I use the word corrosion when I run into a situation likes your…

Stateside. GFCI’s. 2020 NEC, the revised code language, in 680.21© goes considerably further than the 2017 code language did by expanding the GFCI protection requirements to apply to ALL pool pump motors supplied from branch circuits rated 150 volts or less to ground and 60 amperes or less, single- or 3-phase. Previously, the requirement was only for single phase 120-volt through 240-volt branch circuit applications.
Additionally, new section 680.21(D) now requires GFCI protection for pool pump motor replacements. Adding GFCI protection requirements for existing pool pump motors that are replaced, even if GFCI protection was not required when the pool pump motor was originally installed, will help to ensure future pool safety.

The above code changes are greatly needed to ensure lives are not lost from easily preventable pool electrocutions.

No, I did not see any GFCI downstream. Looks like that code change would apply to ALL lights, because if there is a transformer, I assume that the volts are reduced to 15 or less, in which case it wouldnt need GFCI.
But again, how would I ever know that, without actually testing the conductors, which I havent done, and if there is a GFCI box in the subpanel, sometimes there is no test button either.

I don’t think the transformer should be exposed/rusted, not encased.
More than 50% of the homes I inspect have pools.
Less than 20% of them have GFCI protection and/or bonding of the motor/pump.
Here’s the sad case of a child than dove in & died after repairs and the home inspector said it was OK-he’s now out of business.


The GFCI for lighting depends on their voltage… if they are 12V AC, GFCI is not required. The transformer has to be listed for pool use. The lighting above low voltage contact limit (15AC/30DC) needs GFCI but it does not have to be provided by the breaker (some would argue that it does, but the code doesn’t specifically indicate so). However, the low voltage transformer does not normally belong in a panel with high voltage. This should be double checked with the enclosure rating/design. There are special code provisions/exception that may allow the transformer to be inside. Then there are GFCI requirements for pumps, heaters, and outlets… and don’t forget bonding. If you are brave enough to take on the liability of a pool inspection you better know your stuff or disclaim it in the report that your commentary is not a replacement for a full inspection by a licensed pool expert. How you word it depends on you and your style :slight_smile:

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Thanks Simon! I do have a disclaimer that this is not a full evaluation, and only visual. But That helps, I didn’t know about the transformer not being allowed in a panel. I understand the bonding, the 15 v rule, most pools i will see a separate transformer junction box, sometimes listed as a landscape lighting box, is that ok? Others will have a gfci unit inside the panel, (not breaker) but no test button…
Also, so what do you think that is in the corner of the panel, then? Must be part of the timer assembly?

The transformer has to be rated and listed for swimming pool use. Some are rated for multi purpose, including landscaping, but being rated for landscape lighting alone is not enough.

I have no idea what the bottom corner transformer is used for. Could be lighting, could be something else.

By the way, even if visual in nature, that implies full non-invasive inspection. In other words, your comments are not just courteous in nature, they will represent a full, non-invasive, pool inspection and you will be held liable for anything you miss “visually” :slight_smile: A typical home inspection is also visual in nature, but you are responsible for the comments you make unless you disclaim the system and or component.

That Intermatic timer is one of several very common models.
The transformer in the lower corner is for low voltage lighting, the upper plate is an optional area for accessories, receptacles or even another mechanical timer wheel.

I frequently see a GFCI receptacle mounted inside this enclosure or on the side.

Although that one has been discontinued, here are many similar units:

Thanks Marc
Do you test voltage, or just disclaim that you dont know if the transformer and/or GFCI is working properly? I would say about 20% of the homes that I inspect have pools, and I always look for proper bonding of the pump, screen enclosure, heater, etc. I also look for either a GFCI or a pool transformer junction box, but that is the extent of the GFCI protection testing I can do… Without actually taking the light out of the case, how do you know if anything is properly protected? Often times the timer box will also have a separate GFCI control (not breaker) and doesnt even have a test button.
I typically just make a comment that it appears to have protection, but recommend electrician evaluate for safety…

Also, what do you do in the case of older pools that do not even have a conduit to bond the pump with the pool rebar? I just recommend electrician, but I am wondering how they can correct that issue properly?
Your comments are much appreciated!

Also, do you operate any valves? I typically dont, for liability reasons, and mention a disclaimer, but feel like I am doing a disservice to the client if I cant test the alternating jet cycle (if applicable), and the spa options, heater pump, etc.
If it is a heat pump, I operate, and if it is a gas heater, I typically turn on just long enough to hear the flames and feel the heat exhaust, then immediately off, since it doesnt have water flowing

Not speaking for Marc, but I test it all.

FWIW, can’t just stare at it, either disclaim the whole thing or operate the equipment in some meaningful fashion. Especially the automated systems, often they have modes that are inoperative or faulty.
Besides, the number of defective pool/spa components is really quite high, and that includes the heating units.

Understood… Just afraid of messing up the valves, or the cycle, and getting blamed for a green pool… especially if its vacant.
I do turn on the timer/pump if its not running, and test the heaters, pumps, etc, the valves are just about the only thing I dont mess with, because pools can be set up in so many different configurations. But maybe I need to.

The transformer has a barrier to separate the line and low voltage so that isn’t an issue.