Swimming Pool Lighting Tips

Whether you’re installing a new pool or looking to update your old lighting, we’ve got ideas for illuminating around and inside your swimming pool.

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By: Maria Conti and Peter Walsh

Good lighting is everything, and that adage applies to your swimming pool, too. Pool lighting is an often overlooked and underestimated feature that elevates your swimming pool design and adds a layer of much-needed safety to your outdoor space. From integrated LED light systems and floating luminaries to budget-friendly bistro lights strung overhead — you have endless options to illuminate your pool and create the ultimate, inviting outdoor oasis after dark.

Pool and Wall With Vines

Swimming Pool and Wall With Vines

The pool is a beautiful scene whether or not you're in the mood for swimming. Arched fountains line both sides and a vine-covered wall is a lovely backdrop.

Photo by: Jimi Smith

Jimi Smith

But here's the catch: Having too many choices at your fingertips can quickly spiral into feeling like too much of a good thing and leave you uncertain about what direction to take. The good news? We’re covering all the bases to help you make the best lighting plan for your swimming pool. Whether you’re in the beginning stages of designing a piscine for your pad or are looking to accentuate the splashy features of your existing one for late-night swims — we have you covered.

Below, we’re giving you a crash course on pool lights, comparing different types of pool lights and breaking down all the best ways to brighten your inground or above-ground pool for every budget and aesthetic goal. Read on to get information on pool lighting and check out helpful tips from the pros along the way.

Villa and Pool at Night

White Villa and Pool at Night

At night the outdoor areas are still 100 percent usable thanks to lovely lighting illuminating the patios and the pool.

Photo by: Phyllis Browning Company, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Phyllis Browning Company, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Safety First

We’ll be the first to admit it: We’re suckers for swimming in an ambient, Instagram-worthy pool after dark. With that said, we encourage you to boot aesthetics to the backseat and, instead, make safety your chief priority when plotting out your swimming pool lighting. Whether you’re the proud owner of an inground or above-ground pool or are knee-deep in designing la piscine of your dreams, it’s paramount to make lighting an integral part of your pool design to ensure the continued safety of your household, guests and pets when taking a dip after dark.

So, where does one install lighting to maximize safety and elevate the aesthetics of their pool? We thought you’d never ask.

Pool at Night, Light from Living Room Windows Fills Backyard, Trees

Contemporary Lap Pool at Night

This contemporary home's meticulously landscaped lawn features an inviting, modern lap pool. Light floods the yard from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room, making the pool the perfect spot to relax at night.

Photo by: Water Line Designs

Water Line Designs

Where to Place Pool Lighting?

The location of your lighting is perhaps the most critical safety factor for owners remodeling an existing pool or designing a new one. Integrated interior pool lights should be installed into the pool walls, illuminating the pool’s perimeter and highlighting the entrance and exit points of the feature. Underwater pool lights should be between 4 and 18 inches below the water’s surface to avoid an unsightly glare and sidestep any overheating issues.

We recommend working with a trusted local pool contractor and certified electrician to determine the best placement for your swimming pool lights and ensure your selections meet current regulations.

Heated and Cooled Swimming Pool

Heated and Cooled Swimming Pool

Plants form a green privacy screen for this heated and cooled swimming pool. Fountains built into a low wall and underwater and overhead lights provide plenty of charm.

Photo by: Smith & Associates Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

Smith & Associates Real Estate, a member of Luxury Portfolio International

How Many Lights Does Your Pool Need?

In-ground pools used to have one or two large lights embedded into the wall that light up the water for nighttime swimming — one in the deep end and one in the shallow end of the pool. Above-ground pools got a spot or floodlight mounted to a tree or on the house. While those built-in lights are still popular, there have been significant changes to pool lighting over the years.

Determining the number of lights necessary to illuminate your pool depends on the shape and size of the pool itself, the lining color and your overall aesthetic goals. Traditional white pool liners require fewer interior lights to illuminate the water after dark, while those with a dark charcoal or blue liner call for more. Another consideration is that different types of pool lights cast varying degrees of brightness. In other words, the type of pool light you select will impact the number of lights required to achieve the desired brightness of your pool.

"You can have customized lighting packages spread around the pool that offer different colors and can be programmed with reflective qualities that don't shine in your face," says Tom Mortland, pool division manager, Liquidscape.

HGTV Smart Home 2022 lights up the night with easy to install solar powered lighting that uses less energy than typical incandescent lighting for a climate conscious solution that doesn’t compromise on style.

Solar Powered Style

HGTV Smart Home 2022 lights up the night with easy to install solar powered lighting that uses less energy than typical incandescent lighting for a climate conscious solution that doesn’t compromise on style.

Photo by: Robert Peterson, Rustic White

Robert Peterson, Rustic White

What Types of Pool Lights are Available?

Halogen Pool Lights

Halogen lights were once the gold standard for pool design due to their unparalleled brightness. Because of their far-reaching capabilities, you require fewer halogen lights to illuminate your pool than contemporary LED lights. With that said, these gleaming additions have a far shorter life span than LEDs, are less energy efficient and have a reputation for running hot to the touch over time.

LED Pool Lights

While there are many swimming pool light options, LED lights are the most popular for brightening up new swimming pools today. LED lights are more expensive than their halogen and solar-powered counterparts but they’re worth the investment as they are long-lasting and provide unmatched energy efficiency. In other words? While you may pay more for LED lights up front, they will cost you less each month on your electric bill than old-school halogen pool lights. Practical reasons aside, LED lights provide ambiance with color-changing technology and even remote-controlled light displays that elevate any late-night swimming soirée.

Solar-Powered Pool Lights

Solar-powered pool lights are a fantastic, budget-friendly option. Because they rely on sunlight, solar pool lights won’t eat into your monthly budget and require virtually zero upkeep. The catch? Solar-powered lights aren’t the brightest and are not ideal for illuminating large pools. In fact, weeks with extended limited sunlight may affect the output of solar-powered lights altogether. So, when should you reach for these swimming pool lights? Solar-powered lights are perfect for packing panache in the pool for after-hours entertaining via whimsical, floating luminaries like colorful orbs, floating flamingos and glowing blooms. Solar landscape lights around the edge of your above or in-ground pool provide a pretty, polished touch to your pool deck or patio.

Infinity Pool and Hot Tub

Infinity Pool and Hot Tub at Night

The pool echoes the clean angles and geometry of the cantilevered home and is a sparkling blue focal point between the house and the bay.

Photo by: Lifestyle Production Group

Lifestyle Production Group

Can You Add New Lights to an In-Ground Pool?

Can you install new built-in lights in your existing in-ground pool? Yes, but it will cost you a pretty penny. And while we love a DIY project, installing electricity in a body of water is best left to experienced professionals. The professional installation fees for retrofitting pool lights for a concrete or vinyl pool may cost you anywhere between $700 and $1,500+ per light, depending on the size. Note: This does not account for the additional (often extensive) renovations necessary to supply electricity to the pool. Because of this, we encourage you to make lighting a part of your swimming pool design plan from the beginning, if possible.

The good news? You can illuminate your existing swimming pool without draining your bank account (or the pool itself, for that matter!) using solar-powered lights or submergible battery-powered lights. These options are cost-effective, require zero digging and can be attached to the wall via suction cups, magnetic backings or adhesive backplates.

Pool With Fountains at Night

Swimming Pool With Fountains at Night

Arcing fountains make a splash all along this stunning swimming pool. At night, the setting is magical.

Photo by: Jimi Smith

Jimi Smith

Update Your Old Pool Lights

Want to give your pool a renewed glow for summer? Update your swimming pool by replacing its existing halogen or incandescent light fixtures with energy-saving LED lights. The first and singularly most important step to this update is turning off all electricity to your pool. Next, decide whether to replace existing light fixtures with LED counterparts or change a few bulbs.

Older in-ground pool lights most often require E26 light bulbs, so the easiest, most cost-effective way to update your swimming pool lights is by retaining the original fixture and replacing the halogen or incandescent bulbs with E26 LED bulbs.

Alternatively, you may choose to replace your dated fixture entirely and install a new LED light through the existing electrical conduit. This approach is a bit more involved than replacing a light bulb and, as such, may be safer to outsource to a professional electrician, depending on your comfort levels with the removal and installation of light fixtures.

Swimming Pool With String Lights

Backyard Pool With Strand Lighting

Outdoor lights strung across the backyard of this stately home give the space its "wow factor" and add a festive ambiance. Ample windows and terraces connect the house to the backyard and brings the indoor and outdoor spaces together.

Photo by: LGB Interiors

LGB Interiors

Illuminate Overhead With String Lights

In the market for above-ground pool lights? Or, are you looking for a lighting solution that doesn’t require a full remodel of your inground pool? Allow us to introduce you to our secret tool for creating unmatched ambiance and added safety for inground and above-ground pools: string lights. These outdoor entertaining mainstays double as dreamy overhead pool lighting and are available in all styles, sizes and lengths to cater to your design style and landscape. The best part? String lights are a wallet-friendly lighting solution that leaves plenty of room in your budget for fancy-new floats and your poolside cocktail fund.

String twinkling lights along the pool perimeter by securing them to tree branches, your roof or our DIY wooden planter posts.

Concrete Stairs and Pool

Concrete Stairs and Infinity Pool

A unique series of stairs and cantilevered concrete decks surround the Italian stone infinity pool and spa. The landscaping's low profile protects the property's incredible views.

Photo by: Manolo Langis

Manolo Langis

Elevate Your Above-Ground Pool Lights

There are many striking lighting options for illuminating your above-ground swimming pool. Submersible solar-powered and battery-operated LED lights that secure onto the interior lining of your above-ground pool via suction cups or magnetics are reliable and easy to install on your own in minutes.

Floodlights and string lights are solid options to provide ample overhead lighting for nighttime swims. Landscape stake lights or deck step lights installed along the perimeter of your above-ground swimming pool are a chic way to showcase the water feature after dark and guide guests to the entry and exit points.

Brightly Lit Pool

Brightly Lit Pool and Hot Tub

One almost expects to see mermaids or at the very least a water ballet in this glorious, multi-level pool with its shimmering lighting.

Photo by: Monette Friedlander, Monette Friedlander, Monette Friedlander

Monette Friedlander, Monette Friedlander, Monette Friedlander

Make a Splash With Color Lighting

Pull out all the stops for your evening swims and elevate your late-night alfresco entertaining in one fell swoop with the help of color-changing pool lights. You can saturate your inground swimming pool by replacing your halogen bulbs with specialized color-changing LED alternatives.

"They give off a soft glow that washes over the water," says Bill Bocken of Bill Bocken Architecture and Interior Design. "You can even have a computerized color wheel that changes colors throughout the night. Think red for Valentine's Day or blue for a martini party," he says.

Magnetic underwater lights that secure onto your pool walls are another fantastic option for creating a vibrant water display. This budget-conscious route is ideal for events and works well for in-ground and above-ground pools. Bonus: Many pool lights connect with your smartphone, allowing you to customize your colorscape and even sync to your music with just a few clicks.

Cape Cod House at Night

Cape Cod House and Yard at Night

The Cape Cod architecture of the home is beautifully complimented by rows of white hydrangeas and airy trees. Designers used the plants to create graceful separation between the backyard's different destinations.

Photo by: Marshall Evans Photography, Design By: Garrett E Brinkman

Marshall Evans Photography, Design By: Garrett E Brinkman

Add Landscape Lighting

Low-voltage lighting that saves energy and softly lights up your yard is still the best way to enhance your outdoor living spaces. Strategically placed lights that shine into the branches of trees give them a sculptural quality. Soft but effective light splashing on the pathways leading to your pool, on steps and near your patio will allow you to safely maneuver around your yard without tripping over things such as planter boxes, shrubs and furniture. Bonus: Low-voltage lighting is easy to install yourself since it comes in kits that can be added to later on as you continue to develop your outdoor living spaces.

Aside from the safety issue, installing outdoor landscape lighting will create an atmosphere that will draw you outside, so you'll want to spend time out there at night, says Joanne Kostecky, president of Garden Design, Inc. "You’ll feel more secure, plus you'll be able to see what's out there."

Modern backyard

Modern Backyard Turned Private Paradise

Tucked into the hillside and encircled by trees, this outdoor space by designer Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery seems like something out of a dream. Here, visitors can take a lap in the infinity-edge pool, stretch out on either of the lounges, or cozy up by the fire pit and enjoy views of the desert at sunset.


Photo by: Matt Vacca ©Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery

Matt Vacca, Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery

Have Fun With Floating Pool Lights

Floating pool lights are a trend we don’t see going anywhere anytime soon. Budget-friendly, beautiful and fun for all — glowing floats are the perfect addition to above-ground and inground pools. Most of these whimsical accessories are solar-powered and emit a gorgeous glow for hours after sitting in direct sunlight during the day. In other words — you don’t have to worry about changing batteries or hooking them up to charge. All you need to do to get started is blow them up, let them bask in the sun and enjoy their gorgeous glow all summer.

Floating pool lights are available in endless eye-catching colors and silhouettes, ranging from elegant globes to mystical moons and flamboyant flamingos. Treat yourself to a few on-theme floats for your next pool party, or invest in a slew of shapely spheres for everyday (or, in this case, every night) use.

Next Up

Must-Do Swimming Pool Cleaning and Maintenance Tasks (and How Often You Should Do Them)

Keeping a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule will help you work less and enjoy your pool more.

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