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Fountains: History and Interpretations of Article 680 – Swimming Pools, Fountains, and Similar Installations

Posted By Robert Milatovich , Monday, March 01, 1999
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012

First a little history of the National Electrical Code (NEC) dealing with the title of Article 680 and the addition of Part E. Fountains. The title of Article 680 in the 1962 NEC was "Swimming Pools” and remained that until the 1971 NEC when the title was changed to "Swimming and Wading Pools.” Then in the 1975 NEC the title was changed to "Swimming Pools, Fountains and Similar Installations.” Fountains were added to Article 680 as Part D. In the 1981 NEC Article 680, Part D was changed to Part E of Article 680, with the section numbers being changed from Section 680-40’s to 680-50’s.


 

Photo 1. Permanent Fountain

 

Photo 2. Permanent Fountain

Photo 2. Permanent Fountain

In the next few pages I will try to dissect Article 680, Part E. Fountains, to explain what it means and how I think it should be interpreted. I hope this will be of some value to you.

My comments are not the official interpretations of the 1999 National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) published by the National Fire Protection Association.

Part E. Fountains

680-50. General.The provisions of Part E shall apply to all permanently installed fountains as defined in Section 680-4. Self-contained, portable fountains no larger than 5 ft (1.52 m) in any dimension are not covered by Part E. Fountains that have water common to a pool shall comply with the pool requirements of this article.

[See photos 1, 2, 3, and 4].

Photo 3. The fountain in this picture is what is referred to as a self-contained, portable fountain no larger than 5 ft. in any dimension

Photo 3. The fountain in this picture is what is referred to as a self-contained, portable fountain no larger than 5 ft. in any dimension

Starting with Section 680-50. General, the provisions of Part E shall apply to all permanently installed fountains as defined in Section 680-4.

In the 1981 NEC the word "include” and the words "fountain, fountain pools, ornamental display pools, and reflection pools” were removed and the words "”shall apply to all fountains as defined in Section 680-1″ were added.

In the 1984 NEC the reference to "Section 680-1″ was changed to "Section 680-4.” The words "permanently installed” were added to the 1999 edition of the NEC.

When we look at 680-4. Definitions, we find the following definition: "Fountain. As used in this article, the term includes fountains, ornamental pools, display pools, and reflection pools. It does not include drinking fountains.” This new definition was added for the 1999 NEC.

Photo 4. Swimming pool with a fountain using the same water

Photo 4. Swimming pool with a fountain using the same water

This definition was the second sentence in Section 680-1. Scope. (FPN) of the 1996 NEC®, which read, "The term fountain as used in the balance of this article includes fountains, ornamental pools, display pools, and reflection pools. The term is not intended to include drinking water fountains.” The words "includes fountains, ornamental pools, display pools, and reflection pools” has been in this Section since the 1975 NEC.

The Section continues with "self-contained, portable fountains no larger than 5 ft. (1.52 m) in any dimension are not covered by Part E.” This was an exception to Section 680-1 in the 1978 NEC and remained an exception until the 1999 NEC.

The last sentence informs us that fountains that have water common to a pool shall comply with the pool requirements of this article. This sentence has been inSection 680-1. Scope.from the first time it appeared in the 1975 NEC.

 

Photo 5. Transformer meeting the requirements of Section 680-51

Photo 5. Transformer meeting the requirements of Section 680-51

680-51. Lighting Fixtures, Submersible Pumps, and Other Submersible Equipment.

 

This Section has not changed since it was introduced in the 1975 NEC. [See photo 5]

(a) Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter.A ground-fault circuit-interrupter shall be installed in the branch circuit supplying fountain equipment unless the equipment is listed for operation at 15 volts or less and supplied by a transformer that complies with Section 680-5(a).

Subsection (a) was in the 1975 NEC when fountains were added to the NEC and informs us that a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) shall be installed in the branch circuit supplying fountain equipment, (the remainder of this sentence was an exception until the 1999 NEC) unless the equipment is listed for operation at 15 volts or less and supplied by a transformer that complies with Section 680-5(a).

Photo 6. Underwater fixture with a guarded lens

Photo 6. Underwater fixture with a guarded lens

When we look at Section 680-5, Transformers and Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter, in subsection (a) we find the requirements for transformers which states, "Transformers used for the supply of underwater fixtures, together with the transformer enclosure, shall be identified for the purpose. The transformer shall be an isolated winding type having a grounded metal barrier between the primary and secondary windings.”

(b) Operating Voltage.No lighting fixtures shall be installed for operation on supply circuits over 150 volts between conductors. Submersible pumps and other submersible equipment shall operate at 300 volts or less between conductors.

Subsection (b) was in the original submission for fountains in the 1975 NEC, and the first word in this paragraph was "No.”

In the 1981 NEC it was changed to "All.”

In the 1999 NEC it was changed back to "No.”

In the 1975 NEC the word "”at”" was placed before the word "over,” the words "circuits supplying” were placed in the second sentence and then were removed in the 1981 NEC. The words "not to exceed” were added before the words "300 volts” and the words "or less” were added after the words "300 volts” and removed in the 1981 NEC.

In the 1981 NEC the words "or less” were placed after the words "150 volts.”

Subsection (b) Operating Voltage,informs us that no lighting fixtures shall be installed for operation on supply circuits over 150 volts between conductors. (This would mean that the voltage between any conductors, be it two hot conductors, or a hot conductor and a grounded

Photo 7. Underwater fixture with a low-water cutoff

Photo 7. Underwater fixture with a low-water cutoff

conductor, shall not have a voltage of over 150 volts. You can also find this requirement in Part B, Permanently Installed Pools, 680-20(a), General, Subsection 2). Submersible pumps and other submersible equipment shall operate at 300 volts or less between conductors. (This would mean that the voltage between any conductors, be it two hot conductors, or a hot conductor and a grounded conductor, shall not have a voltage of over 300 volts for submersible equipment.)

(c) Lighting Fixture Lenses.Lighting fixtures shall be installed with the top of the fixture lens below the normal water level of the fountain unless approved for above-water locations. A lighting fixture facing upward shall have the lens adequately guarded to prevent contact by any person.

Photo 8. Underwater fixture

Photo 8. Underwater fixture

Subsection (c) has remained the same since the addition in the 1975 NEC. [See photos 6, 7, and 8]

(d) Overheating Protection.Electric equipment that depends on submersion for safe operation shall be protected against overheating by a low-water cutoff or other approved means when not submerged.

In the 1993 NEC, in Subsection (d) the word "which” after the words "Electrical equipment” was changed to the word "that.”"

(e) Wiring.Equipment shall be equipped with provisions for threaded conduit entries or be provided with a suitable flexible cord. The maximum length of exposed cord in the fountain shall be limited to 10 ft. (3.05 m). Cords extending beyond the fountain perimeter shall be enclosed in approved wiring enclosures. Metal parts of equipment in contact with water shall be of brass or other approved corrosion-resistant metal.

Subsection (e) has remained the same since the 1975 edition of the NEC.

Photo 9. Junction box

Photo 9. Junction box

Subsection (e), Wiring, informs us that all electrical equipment shall be equipped with provisions for threaded conduit entries or be provided with a suitable flexible cord. The maximum length of exposed cord in the fountain shall be limited to 10 ft. (3.05 m) and cords extending beyond the fountain perimeter shall be enclosed in approved wiring enclosures. Metal parts of equipment in contact with water shall be of brass or other approved corrosion-resistant metal.

(f) Servicing.All equipment shall be removable from the water for relamping or normal maintenance. Fixtures shall not be permanently imbedded into the fountain structure so that the water level must be reduced or the fountain drained for relamping, maintenance, or inspection.

Subsection (f) has remained the same since the 1975 edition of the NEC.

Subsection (f) Servicing, informs us that all equipment installed in a fountain shall be removable from the water for relamping or normal maintenance. Lighting fixtures shall not be placed into the walls, the bottom, or permanently imbedded into the fountain structure so that the water level must be reduced or the fountain drained for relamping, maintenance, or inspection.

(g) Stability.Equipment shall be inherently stable or be securely fastened in place.

Subsection (g) has remained the same since the 1975 edition of the NEC.

Photo 10. Underwater junction box

Photo 10. Underwater junction box

Subsection (g) Stability, informs us that equipment shall be inherently stable or be securely fastened in place. Placing a fixture on its side, when it is designed to sit on the bottom of the fountain facing in the up direction would not be inherently stable.

680-52. Junction Boxes and Other Enclosures.

This Section has changed very little since it was introduced in the 1975 NEC. [See photos 9 and 10]

(a) General.Junction boxes and other enclosures used for other than underwater installation shall comply with Sections 680-21(a), (b), (c), (d) and (e).

Subsection (a) is the same as the 1975 edition of the NEC® with the exception of the requirements in Section 680-21(a), which originally told us that only (a) 1, 2 and 3 would apply to fountains which has remained the same until the 1999 NEC.

Subsection (a) informs us that all junction boxes and other enclosures used for other than underwater installation shall comply with the requirements of Sections 680-21(a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) which refers to "Junction Boxes and Enclosures for Transformers or Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupters.”"

(b) Underwater Junction Boxes and Other Underwater Enclosures.Junction boxes and other underwater enclosures shall be submersible and:

(1) be equipped with provisions for threaded conduit entries or compression glands or seals for cord entry;

(2) be of copper, brass, or other approved corrosion-resistant material;

(3) be filled with an approved potting compound to prevent the entry of moisture; and

(4) be firmly attached to the supports or directly to the fountain surface and bonded as required.

Where the junction box is supported only by the conduit, the conduit shall be of copper, brass, or other approved corrosion-resistant metal. Where the box is fed by nonmetallic conduit, it shall have additional supports and fasteners of copper, brass, or other approved corrosion-resistant material.

Section 680-21(b) in the 1975 NEC stated, "Junction boxes and other underwater enclosures immersed in water or exposed to water spray shall comply with the following…”

In the 1981 NEC this was rewritten and the words, "immersed in water or exposed to water spray shall comply with the following…” were replaced with "shall be watertight…”

Photo 11. Sign in fountain

Photo 11. Sign in fountain

In the 1987 NEC the word "watertight” was changed to "submersible”"and Section 680-21(b)(3) was changed from "”shall be located below the water level in the fountain wall or floor. An approved potting compound shall be used to fill the box to prevent the entry of moisture; and…” to "be filled with an approved potting compound to prevent the entry of moisture; and…”

In the 1981 NEC Section 680-21(b)(4), the structure of the paragraph was changed by taking the first sentence and making it a paragraph under (b)(4), but not part of (b)(4) and rewording the last sentence by removing the first three words "The box must…”

Section 680-21(b), Underwater Junction Boxes and Other Underwater Enclosures, informs us that all junction boxes and other underwater enclosures shall be listed as submersible and;

(1) be equipped with provisions for threaded conduit entries, such as hubs, or a type of compression gland or seals used for cord entry;

(2) be of copper, brass, or other approved corrosion-resistant material;

(3) be filled with an approved potting compound (See U.L. Standard 746A and 746C) to prevent the entry of moisture into the enclosures; and

(4) be firmly attached to the supports or directly to the fountain surface and bonded as required.

Where the junction box is supported only by the conduit, (we have to look at Section 370-23(e) and (f) which states, an enclosure supported by a raceway shall not exceed 100 cubic inches in size, have threaded entries or hubs, and be supported by two or more conduits secured with 18 inches of the enclosure, the conduit shall be of copper, brass, or other approved corrosion-resistant metal. (This would not include conduits with a galvanized finish such as rigid metal or intermediate metal conduit.) Where the box is fed by nonmetallic conduit, it shall have additional supports and fasteners of copper, brass, or other approved corrosion-resistant material. (This would not include supports and fasteners with a galvanized finish.)

FPN: See Section 370-23 for support of enclosures.

This FPN tells us to look at Article 370, Outlet, Device, Pull and Junction Boxes, Conduit Bodies and Fittings; Section 370-23, Supports, which tells us how the enclosures are to be supported.

Section 680-53, Bonding, all metal piping systems associated with the fountain shall be bonded to the equipment grounding conductor of the branch circuit supplying the fountain.

In the 1975 NEC this Section was worded, "All metallic piping systems associated with the fountain shall be bonded to the electrical system ground as required in Article 250,” and a new FPN appeared as "See Section 250-95 for sizing of these conductors.”

In the 1987 NEC the word "metallic” was changed to "metal” and remains the same in the 1999 NEC.

In the 1999 NEC the words "electrical system ground as required in Article 250,” were replaced with the words "equipment grounding conductor of the branch circuit supplying the fountain,” and FPN was changed to "See Section 250-122 for sizing of these conductors.”

FPN: See Section 250-122 for sizing of these conductors.

In the 1975 NEC a new FPN appeared as "See Section 250-95 for sizing of these conductors.”

In the 1999 NEC the FPN was changed to "See Section 250-122 for sizing of these conductors.”

This FPN tells us to look at Section 250-122, Size of Equipment Grounding Conductors. This section tells us that the size of the equipment grounding conductor is sized for the Rating or Setting of the Overcurrent Device for that circuit.

Section 680-54, Grounding. The following equipment shall be grounded:

(1) all electric equipment located within the fountain or within 5 ft. (1.52 m) of the inside wall of the fountain

(2) all electric equipment associated with the recirculating system of the fountain

(3) panelboards that are not part of the service equipment and that supply any electric equipment associated with the fountain.

In the 1987 NEC®, in subsection (1) the words "located within the fountain or” were added after the words "all electric equipment.”

680-55. Methods of Grounding.

(a) Applied Provisions. The provisions of Section 680-25 shall apply, excluding paragraph (e).

In the 1981 NEC (a) added a heading, "Applied Provisions,” and the words "Paragraph (a) and (d) excluding Exception 3,” after the word "apply” was changed to "Paragraph (a) and (c) excluding Exceptions.”

In the 1984 NEC it was changed again to "excluding paragraph (e).”

In the 1999 NEC the word "following” was deleted before the word "provisions.”

Section 680-55(a) informs us to look at Section 680-25, Methods of Grounding, and we see that it shall apply to all fountains with the exception of (e) Cord-Connected Equipment, which shall not apply to fountains.

Section 680-55(b), Supplied by a Flexible Cord, electric equipment that is supplied by a flexible cord shall have all exposed noncurrent-carrying metal parts grounded by an insulated copper equipment grounding conductor that is an integral part of this cord. This grounding conductor shall be connected to a grounding terminal in the supply junction box, transformer enclosure, or other enclosure.

Subsection (b) has remained the same since the 1975 NEC with the exception of a new heading in the 1981 NEC "(b) Supplied by a Flexible Cord.”

Subsection (b) informs us that all electric equipment that is supplied by a flexible cord shall have all exposed noncurrent-carrying metal parts grounded by an insulated copper equipment grounding conductor and this grounding conductor shall be an integral part of this cord. This equipment grounding conductor shall be connected to a grounding terminal that is required in Section 680-21(d), Grounding Terminals, which requires that a number of grounding terminals shall be at least one more than the number of conduit entries in the supply junction box, transformer enclosure, or other enclosure.

680-56. Cord- and Plug-Connected Equipment.

(a) Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter. All electric equipment, including power-supply cords, shall be protected by ground-fault circuit-interrupters.

Subsection (a) has remained the same since the 1975 NEC.

Subsection (a) informs us that all cord- and plug-connected electric equipment, including power-supply cords, shall be protected by ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCI).

(b) Cord Type. Flexible cord immersed in or exposed to water shall be of the hard-service type as designated in Table 400-4 and shall be marked water resistant.

In the 1975 NEC, after the words "shall be” were the words "a water-resistant Type SO or ST.”

In the 1990 NEC the words "marked water-resistant” were added after the words "Type SO or ST.”

In the 1993 NEC the text was changed to the present wording by adding "of the hard-service type as designated in Table 400-4 and shall be marked water resistant” after the words "shall be.”

Subsection (b) informs us that all flexible cord immersed in or exposed to water in a fountain shall be of the hard-service type as designated in Table 400-4, Flexible Cords and Cables, and shall be marked water resistant.

(c) Sealing. The end of the flexible cord jacket and the flexible cord conductor termination within equipment shall be covered with, or encapsulated in, a suitable potting compound to prevent the entry of water into the equipment through the cord or its conductors. In addition, the ground connection within equipment shall be similarly treated to protect such connections from the deteriorating effect of water that may enter into the equipment.

Subsection (c) has remained the same since the 1975 NEC with the exception that the word "which” after the word "”water”" in the last sentence was changed to "that” in the 1993 NEC.

Subsection (c) informs us that the end of the flexible cord jacket and the flexible cord conductor termination within equipment shall be (sealed) covered with, or encapsulated in, a suitable potting compound to prevent the entry of water into the equipment through the cord or its conductors. In addition, the equipment ground connection within equipment shall be similarly (sealed) covered with, or encapsulated in, a suitable potting compound and treated to protect such connections from the deteriorating effect of water that may enter into the equipment.

(d) Terminations. Connections with flexible cord shall be permanent, except that grounding-type attachment plugs and receptacles shall be permitted to facilitate removal or disconnection for maintenance, repair, or storage of fixed or stationary equipment not located in any water-containing part of a fountain.

Subsection (d) has remained the same since the 1975 NEC, except for the deletion of the words "or pool” in the 1981 NEC.

Subsection (d) informs us that the connections with flexible cord shall be permanent for all cord-connected equipment located in any water-containing part of a fountain.

Fixed or stationary equipment not located in any water-containing part of a fountain which uses grounding-type attachment plugs and receptacles to facilitate removal or disconnection for maintenance, repair, or storage.

In the 1975 NEC there was a "Section 680-47. Equipment Rooms.”

In the 1981 NEC this was moved to "680-11. Equipment Rooms. Electric equipment shall not be installed in rooms which do not have adequate drainage to prevent water accumulation during normal operation or filter maintenance.”"

In the 1984 NEC the words "and Pits” were added to the heading of "Section 680-11″ and after the word "rooms” and remains the same in the 1999 NEC.

Sign in a Fountain

680-57. Signs.

This Section is new for the 1999 NEC because of the increasing use of advertising signs being installed inside of or being part of the fountains. [See photo 11]

(a) General. Includes only fixed, stationary electrically illuminated utilization equipment with words or symbols designed to convey information or attract attention.

Subsection (a) identifies what is covered by Section 680-57. If we look at Article 100, Definitions, you will see: "Electric Sign: A fixed, stationary, or portable self-contained, electrically illuminated utilization equipment with words or symbols designed to convey information or attract attention.” As you can see the definition of an electric sign contains the words "portable self-contained” which are not part of this requirement.

(b) Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for Personnel. All feeders or circuits shall be protected by ground-fault circuit-interrupters protection for personnel.

Subsection (b) informs us that all feeders or circuits supplying a sign installed in a fountain shall be protected by ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCI) protection for personnel, which means that the ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCI) are to be a Class A type, with a ground fault trip threshold of 6mA maximum.

(c) Location. Any sign installed inside a fountain shall be at least 5 feet inside the fountain measured from the outside edges of the fountain.

Subsection (c) informs us that any sign installed inside of a fountain shall be at least 5 feet inside of the fountain and that this is to be measured from the outside edges of the fountain to any part of the sign or sign structure.

(d) Disconnect. Shall comply with 600-6.

Subsection (d) informs us that the disconnect shall comply with Article 600. Electric Signs and Outline Lighting, Section 600-6 Disconnects, which tells us that the disconnect shall be located in accordance with Section 680-12, Disconnecting Means. (A disconnecting means shall be provided and be accessible, located within sight from all pools, spas, or hot tub equipment, and shall be located at least 5 ft. (1.52 m) horizontally from the inside walls of the pool, spa, or hot tub.)

Section 680-12. Disconnecting Means, refers to pools, spa, or hot tubs, but with this reference to Section 680-12, it now also applies to fountains.

This Section tells us that a disconnecting means shall: be provided (Installed), and be accessible (See Article 100, Definitions, Accessible (as applied to equipment). Admitting close approach; not guarded by locked doors, elevation, or other effective means.) and be located within sight from (See Article 100, Definitions, In Sight From (Within Sight From, Within Sight): Where this Code specifies that one equipment shall be "in sight from,” "within sight from,” or "within sight,” etc., of another equipment, the specified equipment is to be visible and not more than 50 ft (15.24 m) distant from the other.) all pools, spas, or hot tub equipment, and be located at least 5 ft (1.52 m) horizontally from the inside walls of the pool, spa, or hot tub.

(e) Bonding. Shall comply with 600-7.

Subsection (e) informs us that the bonding shall comply with Article 600, Electric Signs and Outline Lighting; Section 600-7, Grounding.

(f) Grounding. Any equipment associated with the sign shall be grounded as per Article 250.

Subsection (f) informs us that any equipment associated with the sign installed in a fountain shall be grounded as per Article 250, Grounding.


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Tags:  Featured  March-April 1999 

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