Skip to content

Pool Light Buying Guide

When it comes to your swimming experience at night, don’t be left in the dark. Swimming pools should be lit at night if you are going to enjoy the backyard at night, whether you are swimming or not. You may want to do this for multiple reasons. You may want to be able to see exactly where the pool is so you can safely navigate around it. You may want to provide a serene lighting element to add to your backyard tranquility. You may even want to swim, believe it or not.


When it comes to choosing a new pool light, there are quite a few different options. A great place to start is a relatively simple choice, color light or white so let’s start there.


Color or White

Color Lights are growing in popularity and the models are ever-evolving as well. Color Lights can be a white light with a snap-on lens or the more popular choice, a color changing light. Color Changing Lights will give you a white light when you want but often have built-in light shows and/or feature a variety of standard solid color settings. Many of the color changing lights can be controlled by automation systems, special light remotes or the good old fashion way, manually.  Color Lights are not recommended for darker Laguna-style pools as the light will not show as well, if at all.


White Lights have been the standard in most pools and remain so to this day. White lights are the best option if you have a darker style pool finish. Some white light models give you the option to add a snap-on colored lens to modify the color as you see fit.



Light Types

Incandescent lights are the staple for the white swimming pool light.  These lights have a range of available wattage which will essentially affect the brightness of the light. Wattage of most white incandescent lights range from 300 to 500, spa models also often have 100 watt options.  To help you pick the best wattage you can call the manufacturer to have them help you decide, view a friend or neighbors light if they have a similar pool surface to you, or if replacing a light, check the information on your old pool light. These white lights are often a popular choice as their light will travel well through the water. These do cost more money to operate than LED lights.



LED lighting is the most popular color light option and is growing in popularity with the new white LED options. LED stands for light emitting diode, a semiconductor that converts electrical energy into light. LED lights provide various color options depending on the manufacturer. LED lights are much more energy efficient than standard incandescent light options. LED lights also have a much longer lifespan than the traditional 12-volt bulbs. LED lights also burn brighter.  LED lights are primarily color changing lights. Color Changing Lights will give you a white light when you want but often have built-in light shows and/or feature a variety of standard solid color settings. Many of the color changing lights can be controlled by automation systems, special light remotes or the good old fashion way, manually.


If you want to control your color changing light through your automation system you would need to have 1 or 2 open auxiliary relays available;depending on the light model you may require 2. For questions about compatibility just contact us for more information. Some color changing lights have a special remote made exclusively for that model or light series. The remote will be listed as an accessory for that model. Manually changing the light will often depend on how you wired the light but overall the manual process really is painless. Similar to wiring up a ceiling fan, a good electrician can wire the light to two light switches; one on and off, the other to cycle through the settings. You can still wire the light to a single switch but in order to turn off you may be required to cycle through all the colors and show options.


Fiber optic lights are another option for adding some color into your pool or spa. Fiber Optic Lighting consists of two components, the illuminator (source of the light) and the fiber optic cable. The illuminator is a box that houses a special lamp and a wheel that turns in front of the lamp. The fiber optic cable is inserted into the illuminator and the colored light passes through the strands.  Fiber optic lighting has no electrical element in the pool which is one thing many homeowners do like. Fiber optic cables come in different strand counts and that will determine the lights brightness. The cables can be run to waterfalls,underwater lenses, landscape fixtures, laminar jets, and around the perimeter to outline your pool or spa with colored light. There are also separate remote control kits available to control the light source for many models or you can often tie it into an automated control system. Fiber optic systems often have a higher upfront cost which primarily depends on the amount of cable you will need. The illuminator will also have a bulb that needs to be replaced between 6-10k hours on average, they are often not covered under the warranty and may be pricey to replace.



Floating lights are a great option for above-ground and in-ground pools alike. Floating lights can either be battery-operated or solar powered. Many of the floating light models are able to be used both in and out of the pool to provide you with lighting where you need. Many floating lights also have an extra touch to them, some provide a disco ball look and feel; others may look like stars at the bottom of the pool. Floating lights are normally used for a decorative element but when purchased correctly can adequately provide light to your pool at night.


In-Ground Pool Lights can be any of the above lights.


Above Ground Pool Lights will normally be any of the above lights, but there are also nicheless models. The use of a niche is explained below.


Remember: Pool Lights will often draw bugs so try to do some landscape lighting, tree lighting or another lighting source to help the backyard safe at night. Buyers who are shopping for lights for pools made before 1968 may need to search for specialty lights. 


Light Options and Accessories


General Lighting Options are the size, voltage, face type and cord length. Most lights come in two sizes. Pool lights are often 9-11” diameter and spa sizes are 5-6”. Many smaller pools actually use spa lights; remember that when ordering a new light. The majority of pool owners will be looking for 12 volt models, lights rated at 120 volt are generally used for larger pools or pools with a dated electrical system. The standard electrical current is normally 120 but some local code restrictions require you to reduce to a 12v with the use of a transformer.  Transformers are specifically designed to supply 12 volts to your pool / spa lights. Many light models will be offered in Plastic or Stainless Steel faces.  Cord length is determined by the distance from the pool light to breaker. You should always allow some extra for maintenance of the light, it should be able to pull completely out of the water and rest on the top of the deck area.


All the installed pool and spa lights require a niche. The niche is a housing permanently installed in the pool wall that allows the light to properly be seated, it also provides a pathway for the cord light to pass to the outside of the pool wall to be hooked up. Not every light works with every niche. When you are replacing a light, try your best to replace the light with the same exact light model. If you are unable to do that, you may need to contact the manufacturer to have them help identify the lights that will work with your existing set up. 


If you have any other questions about picking the proper pool light, please contact us for more information.


View All Our Swimming Pool Buyers Guides.