A whirlpool tub is a valuable amenity to your home and can provide many hours of relaxation. A whirlpool tub requires electrical energy to run the jets, heater and blower if equipped. Because of the proximity of water to an electrical source, there are strict regulations regarding the installation of whirlpool tubs.
Know Your Local Regulations
The National Electric Code (NEC) is a written standard of recommendations for the safe installation of electrical wiring. Most municipalities abide by the regulations of the NEC in some form. Moreover, some municipalities restrict tub installation to licensed electricians; other regions allow homeowners to do the work as long as a permit is obtained and the work is inspected by a codes-inspector or a codes-approved electrician. Check with the codes department of your municipality to know the governing regulations.
A Dedicated Circuit
The whirlpool tub motor must be wired to its own dedicated circuit in the service panel. If your whirlpool tub has a heater, that must have its own dedicated circuit, as well. Tubs requiring 240 volts must be directly connected to the power supply. Tubs with 120 volts are plugged into GFCI receptacles. Each GFCI receptacle for each electrical connection must have its own dedicated circuit.
A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) device is specifically designed with a built-in circuit breaker. The breaker will "trip," or break, an electrical connection if it senses a short (a ground fault); it is therefore an important safety feature. GFCI receptacles are required by most municipalities and the NEC for electrical connections near water, such as in kitchens and bathrooms. For each motorized segment of your whirlpool tub (motor, heater, or blower, if so equipped), a GFCI receptacle is required.
A standard whirlpool tub requires one 15-amp GFCI receptacle to run the motor. If your whirlpool tub is equipped with a heater, you will need an additional 15-amp GFCI receptacle. A 15-amp circuit is the minimum standard, but a 20-amp is better and is required by some tub manufacturers. Never wire a higher-amperage receptacle to a lower-amperage circuit, as this is a fire hazard. For example, you may install a 15-amp receptacle to a 20-amp circuit but never a 20-amp receptacle to a 15-amp circuit. Be sure to check the manufacturer's recommendations for proper amperage.
According to Section 680 of the NEC, an electrical disconnect device must be installed no closer than 5 feet (horizontal length) of the whirlpool tub but no farther than 10 feet and be readily accessible to the tub occupant. A GFCI with a disconnect button is sufficient to meet this requirement.
Only Copper Wires
All wiring for the whirlpool tub must be copper. No aluminum wires are acceptable. A 20-amp circuit should have 12-2 wiring rated at a minimum of 194°F (90°C).
- Reader's Digest The Family Handyman: How to Install a Whirlpool Tub
- NJ.com: Installing a Whirlpool Bathtub
- Ask the Electrician: Hot Tub Wiring Diagram Information
- Spa Doc Service: NEC's Electrical Requirements
- MLEC: Homeowner's Guide for Residential Wiring
- NEMA: Adoption of the National Electrical Code
Rebecca Mecomber, a former radio broadcaster, has been a professional blogger and writer since 2006. Her articles and interviews have appeared in "The Wall Street Journal," Salon.com and several other publications, covering topics such as Federal Trade Commission policy and media regulations, blogging, home improvement and New York travel.