What are the clearance requirements for an overhead electric service drop that is directly over or near a swimming pool?
Friday, September 14, 2018
Both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the Residential Edition of the Florida Building Code (FBC) specify that an overhead service drop crossing directly above a pool, or above an area measured horizontally within 10-feet of the edge of one, must be a minimum of 22.5 feet away from the edge of the water, measured in any direction, which would include diagonally. Once the service drop is outside of the 10-foot distance of the edge of the pool, regular service clearance standards would apply. Typically, this means a minimum of 10-foot vertical clearance above any walking area.
Here’s how it is stated in the Residential FBC:
The Table E4203.6 referenced above requires a clearance of 22.5-feet “in any direction to the water level, edge of water surface, base of diving platform, or permanently-anchored raft,” and 14.5-feet “in any direction to the diving platform."
The National Electrical Code (NEC) has a virtually identical specification and provides a diagram as part of the code, where the “A” arrows are the 22.5-foot clearance, “B” is 14.5-foot clearance, and “C” is the 10-foot horizontal distance from the pool.
We inspected a pool today that seemed at first glance to be out of compliance with these standards. But our measurements showed that the service drop was just outside of the 10-foot distance from the pool and the lowest part of the drop was slightly above the 10-foot necessary clearance above a walkway, and not over the adjacent flat roof, so the 14.5-foot distance measured diagonally from the edge of the water did not have to comply with 22.5-foot diagonally measured standard.
It is possible to quibble about this code requirement, based on the fact that NEC 90.2(B) excludes service drops under the exclusive control of an electric utility, which most service drops are. However, the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction—in other words, the building department) could forbid construction of a pool under an existing service drop where their clearance standards are not met. Also, many utilities have their own standards for pool service drop clearance, which may vary slightly from the NEC.
Also, see our bog posts What is the electrical "service point" of a house? and Why are pool pumps now required to be variable speed?
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