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How to Choose a New Pool or Spa Light

Taking a dip in your inground pool can be as enjoyable in the evening as it is during the day. Watching the stars glimmer above as you float in the water is a peaceful way to unwind. That is, as long as you have adequate lighting. If your pool light croaks midway through your float, your sense of calm can quickly dwindle as you drift through the dark waters. Who knows what might lurk below! Thankfully, all you need to do to rein in your imagination is replace your pool light!

Before you can actually change the light in your inground pool or hot tub, some research is required to get the correct replacement bulb or fixture. Unlike purchasing a basic bulb for your desk lamp, buying a new hot tub or pool light can be a bit more technical.

Don't worry, this process isn't as overwhelming as it may seem. It might take a little investigative work on your part. But if you follow the steps in this guide, you'll have all the information you need in no time. Let's get to it!

Identify the Pool or Spa Light Currently Installed

Before you can purchase an appropriate replacement light or fixture, you'll need to know the manufacturer's name, model, wattage, and voltage of your current light. To find this information, you'll need to know which light you have. If you already know the exact make and model of your current underwater lighting setup, this part will be easy. You'll be able to reference all specifications from the owner's manual, or you can look up the information online from the manufacturer's website. If you aren't sure which light you currently have, you'll need to roll up your sleeves to find the answer. Follow these steps to determine which light you have:

SAFETY TIP: To determine which replacement light you need, you may need to manually investigate your current light fixture and wiring. ALWAYS turn off power at the circuit breaker before handling any of your pool's electrical components.

Step 1: Unscrew Light Fixture from Niche

Grab a Phillips-head screwdriver. Unscrew the current light fixture from its niche in your hot tub or pool wall. If the light is close to the surface, you can complete this step from outside the water. But if you need to get in the pool, bring a pair of goggles. These will come in handy if you need to look at the light fixture underwater.

pool light at surface

Step 2: Remove Light Fixture from Water

Once you unscrew the light fixture, slowly pull it out of the niche. If you have trouble removing it from the niche, carefully pry it loose with a flathead screwdriver. Pay close attention to how the cord is arranged around the light — this will come in handy when you need to put it back. Bring the light to the surface, and lay it on a towel at the edge of the pool deck. Now that the fixture is out of the water, examine the entire light and power cord for any signs of cracks, wear, or other damage. If the fixture or cord shows signs of damage, you'll have to replace the whole light fixture, not just the bulb.

Step 3: Indentify the Light

With the light fixture out of the water, look for the manufacturer's name, wattage, voltage, and model number. Generally, that information is found on the back of the canister or cone. If the light has been in your pool for a long time, this information might be a bit faded and hard to read.

Select Your New Light

Now that you know the make, model, and specifications of your current light, it's time to select a new light! Choosing the right pool or hot tub light replacement is all about compatibility.

If you're only replacing the lightbulb, simply purchase a new bulb that's compatible with your system. However, if you're looking to upgrade your light to something brighter, more energy efficient, or perhaps with extra color options, you'll want to look for something that closely matches the specs of your existing light.

The diameter and depth should fit well inside your niche and allow for extra cord — a light that's too small or too large won't fit correctly. The same principle applies for cord length. The replacement light fixture should have a cord that's as long (if not longer) than your old light. Some areas require a 12V light, while others allow for 120V, so be sure to check the regulations in your area if you're looking at a 120V light. Most modern lights can operate with either. Wattage is another factor to consider, as it will determine the size of your electricity bill. Higher wattage doesn't always mean more brightness, however, and this is why LED pool and spa lights are gaining popularity — more on that below. Aim for a similar lumen (brightness) rating to ensure your pool or spa remains well lit.

BONUS TIP: Always buy a light cord longer than what you actually need. A longer light cord enables you to easily pull the light fixture out of the water for maintenance. Not sure how long your cord should be? Measure the distance from the power source to the pool light niche, then from the niche to the edge of the deck. Add a couple feet to find your total.

Incandescent, Halogen, or LED Pool Lights?

Sometimes, too many choices can be overwhelming. But thankfully, when picking a hot tub or pool replacement light, you only have a few options: halogen, incandescent, or LED. For the last few decades, halogen lights were the standard due to their affordability and brightness. But as technology evolved, many pool owners wanted more out of their underwater lighting experience. Enter, the LED light.

Hayward LED pool light

LED lights are quickly becoming the top pick for hot tub and pool owners, and for several reasons. Not only are they significantly more energy efficient than halogen bulbs, they have greater longevity, and their light quality and output is second to none. Unlike the somewhat harsh light from a halogen bulb, LED lights offer a softer, pleasant glow, without sacrificing any brightness. LED pool lights can be as much as 80–85% more efficient than incandescent or halogen lights. They produce the same amount of light with a significantly lower wattage.

In addition to being practical, LED hot tub and pool lights are great for entertaining. Many brands feature color-changing capabilities, letting you set the mood for any occasion. However, the technology doesn't stop there. Some LED lights are Wi-Fi compatible, meaning they can be controlled directly from an app on your phone.

While they share the same basic function, there is no denying the drastic differences in technology, style, and performance between LED and incandescent or halogen lights. LED lights might cost slightly more upfront. But with their energy efficiency and durable design, they will outlast other lights and save you money in the long run. In some cases, if the lightbulb has a standard Edison base, LED bulbs may be used to replace incandescent bulbs for a quick and easy upgrade. But it's important to double-check compatibility first. Pentair makes it simple with Ameribrite lights, which are compatible with Intellibrite 5G, GloBrite, and other LEDs.

BONUS TIP: LED lightbulbs may not be compatible with certain halogen or incandescent light fixtures. These will require a complete replacement to upgrade. If you are looking to convert to LED, additional steps may be required, including some electrical work. Stop by your local Leslie's to ask about our at-home services, which include pool light replacement.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Don't let dark, spooky water ruin your hot tub or pool adventures. With the information in this guide, you can select the correct inground pool or hot tub light with confidence. Stop by your local Leslie's if you need more information or prefer the help of a professional! If above ground pool lights are what you're after, we also have what you're looking for.

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Leslie’s makes every effort to provide accurate recommendations based upon current ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011 (R2022) standards, but codes and regulations change, and Leslie’s assumes no liability for any omissions or errors in this article or the outcome of any project. You must always exercise reasonable caution, carefully read the label on all products, follow all product directions, follow any current codes and regulations that may apply, and consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Leslie’s assumes no legal responsibility for your reliance or interpretation of the data contained herein, and makes no representations or warranties of any kind concerning the quality, safety, or suitability of the information, whether express or implied, including, without limitation, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.