How To Understand Pool Light Options


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There are many brands and types of pool lights on the market today. This guide discusses the different options available in wall mounted pool lights. Other pool light options for perimeter or feature lighting are discussed in another guide.

Step by Step


Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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

Step 4

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.

Step 5

FACE RING – Most lights have two options for the Face Ring around the face of the light: STAINLESS STEEL (SS) and PLASTIC. Most Plastic Face Rings are white but they can be offered in gray and black.

Step 6

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.

Step 7

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.

Step 8

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.

Step 9

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.

Step 10

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.


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 Posted: 2/20/2019 

It appears my niche will no longer accept screws/bolts from light somewhat corroded. The niche does not leak-recently checked. Is there an option to fix and tap new holes or is a new niche/light system the correct option? Light fixture very old I beleive it is a Hayward SP-540-z-1 needs replacement as well.

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 2/21/2019 

Hello - your best option would be the light wedge repair kit (132). The wedge and screw lock your light into place without having to alter the niche. Another option is the CMP Inground Pool Light Adapter, but this product requires that you drill into the niche.

 Posted: 2/22/2019 

Thank you for the reply, Matt. What do you suggest for a pool fixture. To fit the niche or are they all the same size? Would like to go with an LED fixture that is economical and fits the Hayward SP-540-z-1 niche we have.

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 2/27/2019 

Your best will be the Pentair Intellibrite or the Pureline PureColors if you decide to go with the PureColors. These two models have similar performance and specs to one another, but the PureColors is significantly less expensive.

 Posted: 2/18/2019 

I need to replace 2 Pentaur pool light bulbs. Each 300 watts with LED equivalent. The requirement I have is I don’t want colored pool water. Like to keep the same color that incandescent lites give off. Do I need to buy the commercial grade white bulbs? Do u have part number? Thank you

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 2/19/2019 

Hello TH - We'd recommend the 35W Pureline white LED bulb. The 120v bulb is part number PL5849 and the 12v bulb is part number PL5848. We'd also recommend replacing the lens gasket when replacing the bulb. The Pentair pool light lens gasket is part number 3525-07.

 Posted: 9/5/2018 

Hello Hygie - What is the make and model of your pool light fixture?

 Posted: 9/1/2018 

I have an old 500W incandescent pool wall light. I will only install an LED light if I can directly screw it in with no other changes. Have you got one like that?

 Posted: 2/8/2018 

Is there a difference between r40 led for a pool light and the r40 led used in our homes?

 Posted: 12/5/2017 

Ed - Here's the link to "How To Convert to a LED Color Changing Light by Changing the Light Bulb". And you are correct. Technology has changed since this was written. Give one of our Inyopools service reps a call at 407 834-2200 to discuss the compatibility of the newer and less expensive PureLine Pure Colors LED Pool Bulbs.

 Posted: 11/28/2017 

Please provide a link to the "How To Convert to a LED Color Changing Light by Changing the Light Bulb” referenced in Step 9. It is exactly what I want to do. How long ago was this guide written? I would think demand for a color changing LED light and improvements in technology would have simplified this effort.

InyoPools Product Specialist  Posted: 7/20/2017 

showme - If you need any more information, give us a call at 407-834-2200. Several more light options have come out since this guide was written.

 Posted: 7/18/2017 

We are installing a light in our pool. The guy is coming to look at it today. We want to purchase the light online. I believe, this guide will help us do that. Thank you. A