LIGHT TYPES - Pool lights come in three types: INCANDESCENT, HALEGON, and LED. The older style INCANDESCENT lights have light bulbs much like the standard bulbs used in your house before we went the newer more cost efficient CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs. They only provided white light. HALEGON lights came next. They were much more compact and operated with less power but they also were limited to producing white light. Some halogen lights did produce limited color with a mechanical rotating disc in front of the white light. The newest light is the LED type. LED lights have several benefits. They are significantly cheaper to run and they not only produced color light, but they give you the option of generating up to 5 distinct color in up to 7 different predefined programs. LED lights are also available in white only for commercial pools that require white light by code.
VOLTAGE 12V vs 120V - Pool lights are designed to operate with 12V or 120V. In some areas of the country the local code requires a low voltage 12V light while in other areas it is fine to use a 120V light. Before installing a light, find out what your local code require. If you install a 12V light you will need to install a transformer to convert the 120V house voltage to 12V. If you are replacing an existing light and do not know your voltage you may try the following techniques to find this information: 1.) Look on the face of the light bulb for the voltage rating. 2.) Look to see if you have a transformer wired before the light. If you have transformer then you have a 12V light. 3.) Check the back of the light housing where the cord connects into the light, there will be a label specification of your light. The brightness of a 12V and 120V will be the same. Some manufactures do not recommend using a 12V light if the cord of the light is going to be longer than 100' feet because you may have a voltage drop. Note: Brightness, discussed more below, is a function of light wattage not voltage. The brightness of a 12V or a 120V light will be the same.
POWER – Power is measured by watts. The higher the wattage, the higher the cost to run a light. Incandescent lights generally run from 100W to 500W; LED lights from 30W to 90W. LED lights as much more efficient. For a rough comparison a 45W LED light will generate as much light as a 300W incandescent light – an 85% reduction in operating costs. This will vary by manufacturer, but the newer LED light designs are continually increasing light efficiency
BRIGHTNESS – The brightness of a 12V and 120V is the same. Brightness is generally measured by lumens but you won’t see that number published consistently. For incandescent lights, the higher the wattage the brighter the light. LED brightness is more vague. You may have to dig into the descriptions to get a brightness comparison to incandescent light. In general the newer LED technologies will be brighter for a given wattage.
LIGHT BULB BASES - The base of the light bulbs in the incandescent and halogen lights come in several different styles and sizes. Different styles include screw in, bayonet, and wedge. This is important when you are trying to replace an existing light bulb with a new one or when replacing an old incandescent bulb with a LED light bulb. If an Incandescent bulb has as standard Edison base, it can only be replaced with an Edison based LED Bulb.
CORD LENGTH – Lights come permanently attached to the power cord. They come in several cord length from 15’ to 150’ with 30’, 50’, 100, and 150’ being the most common. When you buy a light, you have to buy one that will reach from the pool to the power source plus 10 feet. You cannot slice into this cord to make it longer.
NICHE COMPATIBILITY – Generally when a pool is built, the contractor installs permanent fixtures into the side of the pool wall to hold the light fixture. The most common niches are made by Hayward, Pentair and Sta-Rite. Some lights are compatible with any of these niches, but that is generally not the case. See our guide on "How To Select a LED Color Changing Light to Replace an Old White Light" for more information.
BULB REPLACEMENT – Most of the incandescent and halogen light failures can be fixed by replacing the light fixture’s bulb. If you want to replace an incandescent light bulb with a color changing light bulb, see our guide on "How To Convert to a LED Color Changing Light by Changing the Light Bulb”. Only a few incandescent light fixtures can be converted with a bulb change. The rest will require a complete light fixture change. There is no bulb color light conversion for halogen lights.
CONTROL – Most lights can be turned on and off at a wall switch or incorporated into a control box to be turned on and off automatically. The newer LED color changing lights have several options for color and light programs. If you don’t have the lights linked to a control box, these options can be selected by switching the wall switch on and off until you reach the color or program you desire. To sync multiple LED lights to be controlled together, you would tie them to one switch through a common junction box. One or two LED lights like Pentair’s Intellibrite or Intellibrite 5g light have an optional remote controller to select the color/programs more conveniently.