Most swimming pools are equipped with at least one underwater light. And, like any light, the bulb can burn out and need replacing.
One of the latest trends to hit the pool industry is LED lighting – and it’s not hard to understand why! Thanks to its versatility and cutting-edge technology, it now accounts for more than half the lighting market in Australia for new pool installations and retrofitting.
So what’s all the fuss about?
While LED lights have been around for decades, improvements in technology, lower prices and energy efficiency have made them the future in the lighting space. Much of this is due to the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs, not to mention a growing trend towards environmentally sustainable lighting.
Unfortunately, swimming pools haven’t always had a great reputation when it comes to energy efficiency, such as running single speed pumps or even pool lights.
Recently, however, the pool industry has responded with products and initiatives that are making backyard swimming pools more sustainable, such as Climate Care Certification, mineral pool sanitation systems and, yes, even energy-saving LED lighting.
So if you’re in the market for new or replacement lights for your swimming pool, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll give you a rundown of what LED lights are, how they compare to halogens and why they can help you save energy, minimise costs and keep pool light maintenance to a minimum.
LED lights are the latest innovation in home and garden lighting solutions. Unlike halogen lights, which use burning filaments, LED lights (or light-emitting diodes) use a semiconductive device that emits light when electricity passes through it. This technology uses very little energy, making LEDs an eco-friendly solution. As a result, they’ve become the industry standard, not just for households and businesses, but also for Australian pools. There are different types of LED pool lights – and they all perform different functions. You can choose one, two or all of these lighting options, depending on the design, size and location of your pool. Here’s a quick summary.
In-ground lighting: Providing both aesthetic appeal and visibility, underwater LED lights are located on either the wall, floor or steps of the pool. They can be flush-mounted, giving them a seamless look, or surface-mounted, giving them a raised appearance.
Magnetic lighting: Magnetic pool lights are common in above-ground pools. These cord-free LED lights are fully waterproof and have a magnetic mounting that attaches to the steel sidewall of your pool. The lights run on batteries, can be controlled remotely, and provide different lighting modes and colours.
Floodlighting: This is an overhead light that illuminates your pool and/or entertaining area. LED floodlighting is easy to install and provides visibility in a large area.
Floating pool lights: Designed to complement existing lighting systems, these LED lights use solar or battery power and float on water. They’re fully programmable and come in different colours and shapes (e.g. sphere, pyramid, lotus, etc.) While they have a short running time, they’re perfect for above-ground pools or parties where you want to illuminate the water and create atmosphere for your guests.
Landscape lighting: Landscape lighting can enhance the appearance of your pool and provide safe access for family and guests. You can even adjust them to light up different parts of the garden, like your pool deck, entertaining area or garden bed.
Whether you’re building a new pool or updating an old one, lighting is essential for the visibility and safety of your pool at night. And while halogens may be cheaper than LEDs, they’re not the most cost-effective or energy-efficient option over the long term. If you’re unsure which to get for your pool installation or retrofit, here are some reasons why you should choose LED pool lights over halogens pool lights for your swimming pool.
Due to their higher energy output, LED lights are brighter than halogen bulbs. This provides greater visibility when swimmers are using the pool or outdoor area after dark. Halogens also cast a narrower skirt of light, which means you need more of them. Plus, their yellow tinge can make your pool look green, even when there’s no algae in it!
The other advantage of LEDs is that they turn on quickly compared to other lights. You don’t have to wait for them to reach full capacity – the pool is fully illuminated and you can dive right in. Also, LEDs don’t degrade as quickly as halogens if you switch them on and off frequently.
Pool owners are always looking for ways to make their pool more eco-friendly – and LEDs are a step in the right direction. LEDs use a quarter of the energy of halogen globes. That’s because they have a semiconductor that creates light with almost no heat. In fact, the little heat that’s produced is absorbed into the heatsink (often built-in), which radiates it back into the air, keeping the light itself cool.
Halogens, on the other hand, run power through a tungsten filament, which produces both light and heat. But here’s the problem: up to 90 per cent of the energy produced in a halogen globe is lost in heat. That means you get less energy to power the light, giving you a shorter running time and a burning-hot globe!
When you compare the two, LEDs put less pressure on our energy grid and produce fewer carbon emissions. What’s more, LED pool lights don’t have to be replaced as often, which means less overconsumption and landfill.
While LEDs lights can cost more than a halogen or incandescent globe, their longevity and energy efficiency make them a cost-saver in the long run. In fact, if you change 20 halogen lights to LED lights, you could save up to $210 a year. In addition, if you take advantage of state incentives to upgrade your household lights to LEDs (see here for NSW and here for Victoria), you could save up to 90 per cent on supply and installation costs.
Image to the left shows lifetime cost for an 800 lumen LED bulb compared with alternatives. Source: energyrating.gov.au
If you’ve used halogen lights in your home, you’ve probably noticed that they produce a lot of heat and burn out very quickly. They also have a filament that can be easily damaged and render your bulb useless. LEDs, on the other hand, produce less heat and last longer. What’s more, they have a diode encased in epoxy. This means it can’t be easily damaged, even if you bump it or drop the box, resulting in fewer light replacements for your pool.
As a rough guide, halogen globes can last 1,000–4,000 hours, while LEDs can last 15,000–50,000 hours. That’s 5–10 times longer! Of course, performance can vary across LED lighting brands, so make sure you buy a quality product. Having said that, in 2018, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Ministers introduced minimum standards to LED lights to ensure safety, compliance and longevity, making the quality gap narrower.
While lights are mostly a safety feature for your pool, they can also provide aesthetic appeal, particularly when you turn them on at night. If you have LED lights, they can allow you to create visual effects, set a mood or play with colour patterns (some have as many as seven colours). This can come in handy if you’re setting a mood, having a party or swimming with friends.
LEDs also have a higher colour rendering index (CRI) compared to incandescent or halogen globes. This allows you to choose and set colours that are bright, true and flattering to match any occasion or décor. Halogens, unfortunately, don’t have the same flexibility. To change the colour, you need to alter the lens, which can be fiddly and expensive. That’s why most halogen pool lights don’t provide a colour option.
With the latest technology LEDs now have RGBW colour light engines, meaning you have truer clearer whites, and richer colour tones. This provides a bright luminescence through and allows for stunning visuals in your swimming pool.
Due to its longevity and energy efficiency, you don’t have to change LEDs as often. This can be a relief if you have fittings that are underwater or out of reach. Depending on usage, you may only have to change them every 8–10 years. What’s more, many come in one-piece mouldings, which can prevent water entry and improve their longevity.
Most LED pool lighting systems can be programmed, either with a light controller, like Halo Lite, or a pool automation system. This means you can set a time for the lights to turn on and off, or manage them remotely with an app. Some you can even brighten, dim or change the colour during your pool party or barbecue with the touch of a button. Light automation is also a great way to minimise energy consumption and pool maintenance costs. You don’t have to worry about leaving the lights on. And if you do, you can always turn them off with your app!
LED lights use low voltage and don’t create much heat, which means they pose a lower fire risk. Less heat also means that you won’t burn your hands if you touch them, nor will the gasket or O-ring on the fitting melt (as it does with heat-producing halogens).
Another safety feature of LEDs is that they have low UV emissions. Most of the energy they produce is in the visible spectrum, some is in the infrared spectrum and almost none in the ultraviolet spectrum. This means there’s less deterioration of your pool shell, equipment or fittings, keeping your pool in optimal condition for much longer.
Maintaining LED pool lights is no different to traditional lighting maintenance. When you open your pool at the start of the swimming season, check the lights to make sure they all work. If they don’t come on or the light falters, replace them. For lights that look a little hazy, clean the cover in case there’s scale, algae or other debris blocking the light.
If the light is still hazy, you may have dirt between the lens and the cover. In that case, unscrew the fitting and use a microfibre cloth to gently clean the lens. Note: Debris in this area indicates a leak. Seek advice from a pool professional to find out if the fitting needs to be repaired or replaced.
Another LED maintenance tip is to keep your pool water clean and balanced. This prevents any build-up or scale that can damage your fittings and reduce their longevity. Also, make sure the water level is above the casing. This can prevent it from discolouring or cracking from exposure.
If you’re using floating LED lights, remember to remove them from the water when they’re not in use. Prolonged exposure to sun and water can lead to erosion, cracking or damage. Dry them off thoroughly and keep them in a cool, dry place.
Lastly, don’t undertake any electrical repairs or installations yourself (unless it’s a simple retrofit). This will ensure that the lights work correctly and pose no risk to swimmers or your pool.
Switching from halogen to LED pool lights is simple. With above-ground lights, just swap out the old globe with the new one. Retrofitting underwater pool lights is a little trickier. Make sure you choose the right fitting for your lighting or pool type. For example a flush-mounted or surface-mounted light, or if you have a fibreglass shell, look for fibreglass LED lights.
Retrofitting kits contain all the instructions you need (and yes, you can do this underwater). However, keep in mind that you can void your warranty if the lights are not installed correctly. If you don’t feel confident doing this yourself, contact a pool professional or electrician.
Whether you’re considering in-ground pool lighting, floodlights or floating swans (we don’t judge!), LED lights are the best choices you can make for your pool. Not only can they help you improve visibility and ensure your pool’s safety at night, but they can also reduce energy, cut costs and minimise lighting maintenance. And don’t worry if you’re still using halogens. A retrofit kit can help you upgrade in a matter of hours. Ready to join the LED revolution? Then explore our range of LED pool lighting solutions or contact one of our authorised dealers.