Welcome to your pool, a place where water and electricity ALMOST go together. Pool lighting is unique in many ways. Builders try to use the fewest number of light fixtures necessary to achieve full pool luminescence. One pressing reason is that regulations require specific materials and methods for light conduit and housing installation; more materials & labor = more cost and hassle. Pool/spa lighting also requires water-tight fixtures and lenses specifically designed to spread the beam of light so that, instead of a blinding flashlight effect, the light is spread vertically and horizontally as far as possible.
This information plays a big role in LED light design, because most pool lights require large, high-wattage bulbs to achieve the fullest array of light in the pool. Until recently, replacement LED bulb sets were rare and did not achieve the desired effect. The replacements cost roughly 10 times more than incandescent bulbs and were not powerful enough to match the intensity of the 500W bulb they were replacing. Many spa lights were designed to receive halogen bulbs (mini-cam) that cannot accept any sort of LED bulb. In light of these facts, manufacturers began to design new LED fixtures that would meet or exceed the standard pool/spa light specifications while increasing energy efficiency.
Bulb replacement versus whole fixture
So, why can’t they just make something to thread into an existing fixture? Well, as mentioned above, these have been attempted – and Pentair currently makes a retro kit for their pool-size fixtures – but consider these facts. First, in order to install one of these expensive replacement kits, you have to break the water-tight seal and open your existing fixture. This may have already been done several times to replace the incandescent bulb, which increases the risk of the fixture not fully sealing after it is reassembled. Also, that fixture was designed to function with an incandescent bulb, electrically and from the standpoint of the lens and body. Therefore, it would be an expensive ordeal that may result in limited fixture life and unsatisfactory results.
New fixtures are designed specifically to power and enhance LED lighting technology.
- The body design of these fixtures (flatter versus conical and spread wide to the extremes of the diameter) allows for the fullest array of LED diodes, which helps with matching the intensity of their predecessors
- The lenses are uniquely molded to spread the beam of light across the bottom of the pool and as wide horizontally as possible
- Wholesale fixture engineering means the manufacturer can specify the exact amount of energy its fixture uses (versus the potential unknowns of replacement bulbs in high-energy-usage fixtures)
- New LED fixtures increase energy efficiency by 70-85% over standard bulbs, according to manufacturers
- Complete new fixtures offer the choice of pure white or full color LEDs with color shows
Color-changing LED lights
Whether your pool surface is white or richly colored, the water should always be clear. Therefore, at night, a color light show can be dazzling, regardless of what type of pool you have. Manufacturers of these color-changing LED light fixtures have specific solid colors and color-shifting programs built into the lights. The way an LED engine switches from one color scheme to the next is by the introduction and interruption of power to the fixture in specific sequence. So, if you have a standard light switch (on/off) for your pool or spa lights, you would follow the programming guide that comes with your fixtures, switching the lights on and off a certain number of times until you reach the color scheme you prefer. If you have relatively new automation, your system should be able to communicate with the system manufacturer’s version of LED fixture. Some Zodiac systems even communicate with many other manufacturers’ LED color-changing lights. For many control systems with older technology, there are system upgrades that can allow for color-changing lights (and variable speed pumps and other items currently in high demand).
Let’s get to work!
Replacing a fixture requires more time and presents more challenges than simple bulb-and-gasket replacement (in most cases). The fixture wiring runs in a conduit from the back of the pool wall (connected to a stainless or plastic niche) to a junction box where the wires are connected. The technician disconnects the wires from the power supply, connects a fish tape to the light cord, removes the fixture from its niche, and pulls the wire toward the pool body. Once the new fixture cord is connected to the fish tape, the process is reversed.
Sometimes this requires the technician to get in the pool; most often, it can be done from above. The only time draining a pool would be required is if the conduit has a restriction that prevents the cord from pulling freely. This is very rare, and the need would be determine case by case. Oh, and if the water is freezing, some installers would beg you to heat or drain the pool. But not ours. We’ll endure the frigid water to bring you some excellent lighting…but we may ask for some cocoa afterward. Call Select Pool Services today with questions about pool lighting in general or your specific needs.
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