Guide to Pool Lights
Are you interested in making your backyard pool safer? Do you love taking the occasional pre-dawn dip or indulging in a late-night swim? Have you been looking for an easy way to take your pool parties to the next level?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it sounds like you’re in the market for pool lighting.
Not sure what you want? No worries. On this page, we’ll guide you through some key decisions and considerations – and we’ll also take a deep dive into some of the most popular swimming pool lighting options available today.
Key Considerations and Decisions
The good news is, when it comes to swimming pool lights, there are tons of great options out there to choose from. Of course, that also means that it can be hard to figure out what pool lights will work best for you. Do you want a multicolored light show or do you prefer to stick with a classic white light? Are you looking for high-tech “smart” lighting, or do you prefer to keep things simple?
Here are a few things to consider when starting your search for the perfect swimming pool lights:
Color (or not)
White light is a great choice if safety and visibility is your top priority. It’s also simple and classic if you’re looking for a low-key way to showcase your swimming pool’s design. If you prefer something with more of a “wow factor,” color-changing pool lights might be the way to go. You can find swimming pool lighting in every color of the rainbow, complete with fun, pre-programmed “light shows.”
Believe it or not, the color of your pool finish impacts the appearance of your swimming pool lights. Light- to medium-colored interior surfaces reflect light while darker finishes absorb light. Therefore, if you have a light- to medium-colored interior surface, you can select either colored or white lights. But if your pool uses a darker finish, your best choice is to go with a white light. Otherwise, you risk your finish absorbing the colored light and creating a murky effect.
You might be wondering how many pool lights do I need? The number of lights you need depends on the size of your swimming pool. 15’ x 30’ pools only require one light. 20’ x 40’ pools require two lights. 20’ x 42’ pools and up require three or more lights.
Today’s swimming pool lights are available with a variety of fun and convenient features, from smartphone integration to dimmer switches and more. What’s more, many color LED pool lights can be programmed to put on entertaining, colorful “light shows” that add an extra element of fun to any backyard gathering.
In addition to color-changing pool lights, you can also choose from a wide variety of high-tech innovations: There are remote controlled swimming pool lights and even “smart” pool lighting that you can operate with a phone app or through your home automation system.
Cost and energy consumption
If you’re looking for a “green” choice, you can’t go wrong with energy-efficient LED lights or solar-powered pool lights. If you’re looking for the lowest purchase price, halogen lighting is the way to go (although halogen lighting will cost a little more over time to operate).
Inground vs. above ground
Your lighting needs and options will depend largely on whether you have an inground or above-ground swimming pool:
- If you need above ground pool lights, you have several options including magnetic lighting kits, wall-mounted kits, and kits that allow you to install lights via your pool’s vented return line.
- If your pool is inground, you’ll likely be looking at built-in, wall-mounted options. If your in-ground pool has features like stairs, ledges, or tanning shelves, you might want to add specially designed accent lighting in addition to your main pool lighting.
What Types of Swimming Pool Lights are Available?
There are three main types of pool lights to choose from, and each option offers its own unique benefits:
LED pool lights
If you’re looking for an unbeatable combination of energy-efficiency and longevity, you can’t go wrong with LED lighting. LED lighting costs a little more upfront than other types of swimming pool lighting – but the bulbs last for years and you’ll save on long-term operating costs. And if you want a pool lighting setup with some extra pizazz, you won’t be disappointed: When you shop for LEDs, you’ll find a wide range of color-changing pool lights, and many setups come with pre-programmed lightshows that are perfect for pool parties. If you want to keep things simpler (and cheaper), you can find battery-operated LED lighting or even floating LED lights.
One thing to consider before taking the plunge with LEDs lighting: LEDs aren’t quite as bright as halogen lights. If your pool is very large or if you want a lot of light, you may need to purchase more LEDs to achieve the lighting look you want.
A Bright, Efficient Choice
LED swimming pool lights are, hands-down, our most-requested type of pool lighting. Most pool owners give LED lighting high marks for the combination of bright light and high efficiency (fun fact: LED swimming pool lights are around 80 percent more efficient than other types of pool lighting).
Looking for a few recommendations? Here are a few of our favorite LED lighting options:
Halogen pool lights
If you’re looking for the brightest bang for your pool lighting buck, halogen pool lights might be just what you need. Halogen swimming pool lights are brighter than LED lights, and they also cost less upfront than LEDs, which is good news if you want a lot of light for a wallet-friendly price.
Before LEDs began to take over, halogen was the top choice for pool and landscape lighting. They’re more efficient than a standard “regular” indoor bulb, and they’re still hard to beat when it comes to brightness.
That said, there are a few good reasons that halogen lighting has lost ground over the past few years – especially compared to LEDs which last longer and are more energy-efficient. In addition, some pool owners have noted that halogen lights tend to run hot, which can be an uncomfortable surprise for unexpecting swimmers.
Looking for a few good halogen lighting options? Here are some of our top picks:
Fiberoptic pool lights
Fiberoptic pool lights offer an easy solution to one of the most common headaches associated with pool lights: changing the bulb(s). This is because the power source and even the light bulbs are housed out of the water – and far away from the swimming pool in a dry power box. The light travels from the dry power box to your pool via a slim, flexible cable that comprises tiny fibers (the cable connects to a fitting in the pool wall, which is where the light appears). As a result, when you need to, say, change out a faulty bulb or do anything else related to maintenance or repair, it’s as simple as opening a box – no worries about mixing electricity and water.
Although the distance between the power source and the pool makes for safe and easy maintenance, it does have a definite downside: The light tends to weaken by the time it reaches the pool, which means that fiberoptic swimming pool lights tend to be dimmer and less powerful than LED or halogens. The bulbs have relatively short lives, too. And considering that they can be just as expensive (and, in some cases, more expensive) than both types of lighting, you could be looking at extra costs.
On the plus side, many pool owners appreciate the flexibility that comes with fiberoptic cable: you can run them around the perimeter of your pool or fully submerge them. They can also be programmed to perform truly stunning light shows by mimicking softly twinkling stars or dancing, racing points of light.
Need a few ideas? Here are our top recommendations for fiberoptic swimming pool lights:
Solar pool lights
Floating solar lights are a fun, easy way to add a playful splash of color to your next pool party. Unlike their LED and halogen counterparts, solar swimming pool lights aren’t meant to light up your whole pool – but they are a great option if you’re just looking for a little something extra.
Because they’re powered by the sun, solar lights won’t drive up your energy usage or cause your electric bill to go up. They’re available at a wide variety of price points, and you can find them in fun colors and shapes, from floating, rainbow-hued globes to whimsical lotus flowers to sleek and modern, color-changing discs. And, in case you were wondering, floating solar lights work at night (most, but not all, models feature rechargeable batteries).
It probably goes without saying that floating solar pool lights are not the best choice if you’re looking for a permanent, whole-pool lighting solution. But when paired with, say, your existing LED or halogen pool lights, they add inexpensive, colorful fun to your swimming pool.
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Swimming Pool Lights FAQs
How do I start gathering pool lighting ideas?
You can find inspiration almost anywhere: our gallery of swimming pool and landscape design ideas, magazines, and more. And don’t forget to check out your local swimming pool showroom where you can see swimming pool lighting in person. We recommend creating an inspiration board to keep track of your favorite lighting ideas.
Add background lighting to showcase your yard’s best features
If you’re looking for a way to add drama to your backyard décor, add lighting outside the pool, too. For example, a string of lights draped around a tree or around a garden area can add interest. You can also add rope lights or landscape lighting to gardens, pathways, or flower beds.
Are pool light bulbs special? Can I use any "regular" light bulb in my swimming pool?
We don’t recommend using “regular” incandescent light bulbs in your swimming pool. Swimming pool light bulbs are designed for use underwater, which makes them the safest, most reliable choice if you need to replace a bulb. Our advice? Check with your local swimming pool retailer for information about purchasing replacement bulbs for your pool’s lighting system.
How do you change a pool light bulb?
Very carefully. Electrical work – especially electrical work that involves water -- is serious business. If you feel comfortable changing a burned-out swimming pool light bulb, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Another option? Call a professional to do the job for you.
How many lights do I need in my swimming pool?
That depends on several factors, including the size of your pool, the depth of your pool, and your reasons for installing lights in the first place. Your local pool professional can work with you to determine exactly how many lights you need to make your swimming pool lighting dream a reality.