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Underwater Pool Lighting: What You Need to Know

Underwater pool lighting is a surefire way to add to the wow factor of your pool. Pool lighting can enhance a pool’s visual appeal, add visibility or even change the overall mood of the pool with lights that change colors. With recent advancements in underwater lighting technology, it is important to understand the proper terminology, code standards and industry trends in order to successfully navigate the sometimes confusing world of underwater pool lighting.

Design of underwater lighting for the commercial pool industry has typically been based upon watts per square foot of water surface area. Wattage ratings for pool lights, however, are nearly obsolete, since incandescent lights are becoming a thing of the past. The latest and greatest lighting trend taking over the aquatics industry is light-emitting diode (LED) lighting. LED lights use much less energy and can last five times longer than a comparable incandescent light.

Wattage is a measure of how much energy a light bulb uses. In fact, it has nothing to do with the actual brightnLEss of a light bulb. Over time, consumers tend to gain a general idea of how bright a 60-watt light bulb is compared to a 100-watt light bulb. Because of this, people tend to associate the brightness of a light bulb based with its wattage rating. When looking at incandescent lights, this method for comparing brightness is useful. However, where other types of lights like LEDs are concerned, this method is useless.

The correct unit of measurement to use when measuring brightness is lumens. A lumen measures the amount of light that is emitted from a light source. One lumen is equal to the amount of light emitted from a standard birthday candle from one foot away. The ultimate goal is to produce the most light (lumens) with the least amount of energy (watts).

Many of the older swimming pool codes require 1.0 or even 0.5 watts/square foot of water surface area. Updated codes have taken the new aquatic trend of using LED-style lights into account, and have converted their measurement requirements to lumens/square foot. According to section 4.6.1.5.1 of the Model Aquatic Health Code, “Underwater lighting, where provided, shall be not less than eight initial rated lumens per square foot of pool water surface area.”

The location of underwater light fixtures in a commercial pool setting is vital to a safe and a visually-pleasing swimming pool. Depending on the shape and the intended use of the pool, a good general rule of thumb is to install light fixtures on opposing walls. For competition pools, it is not recommended to install fixtures at the ends of the pool, as swimmers need space for flip turns during competitions. It is important to ensure all tripping hazards and pool egress/ingress locations are adequately illuminated. This includes things like stairs, recessed steps, ledges and any slope transitions. Additional fixtures may be needed for swimming pools with deep water. For safety concerns, it is imperative that the entire floor of the pool is easily visible from the deck.

As fast as technology is progressing, it is important to stay up to speed on industry trends and terminology, even when it comes to items as simple as pool lighting. Knowledge of industry standards for lighting levels and fixture locations will guide owners to make informative and safety-driven decisions when lighting their pool. Luckily, Counsilman-Hunsaker is there to help ensure you have the latest industry knowledge available to you. Check out some of our latest projects and see our expertise today!

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