“What fantastic lighting!” isn’t always the first comment someone makes upon entering an indoor pool, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a hugely important factor. Even though lights may play only a supporting role in the overall functionality of a pool, they impact the functionality, safety, and aesthetic appeal of the facility.
Here are some things to think about when considering your pool lighting project:
1. What’s the purpose of the pool?
Lighting levels vary depending on the function of the swimming pool. Is it (or is it going to be) used mainly for recreational purposes? Do you plan to host competitions and swim meets? Is it going to be a training pool for athletes? Will anything be televised? Or will it be used for a variety of activities? Based on how you use the space, you’ll need to meet specific lighting standards. Keep that in mind when selecting your lights.
2. Safety First
One of the most important considerations when choosing pool lighting is the safety of the swimmers. Installation angle and selection of fixture makes all the difference between a pool that is brighty-lit, or just incredibly reflective. Understanding how different light sources interact with different surfaces can help increase the light’s maximum depth penetration. Not only does this help lifeguards see activity in all areas of the pool, it also increases the visual appeal of the pool. For even better visibility, try adding lights on the inside of the pool. If it’s a personal pool, and you want to get a little fancy, experiment with different colours.
3. Daylight Harvesting
One of the best ways to light your pool isn’t even using lights. Windows can provide 60-70% of the necessary lighting for daytime pool operation. Having large windows facing east or west is a great way to naturally light up your facility. This can be bolstered with light from fixtures, but in order to be more energy-conscious, consider shying away from the traditional four-brick-wall swimming pool layout.
4. From the Window to the Wall
Another non-light method to brighten up your facility is changing the interior paint colours. Painting over dark blues or greys with a light yellow or green can immediately make the area seem larger and more open. For a better effect, try two colours on the wall – a light colour around the base of the wall, switching to white closer to the ceiling, with a matte finish to avoid glare. Try to avoid going to the other extreme and painting everything white – you don’t want your facility to look stark and clinical, either. Applying similar concepts to your pool tiles can help brighten up the space even more.
5. … and then the Ceiling
Another thing to consider (or re-consider, if it’s an existing structure) is the ceiling. Similar to the idea of harvesting natural light from the windows, having skylights is another great way to light up the area. Keep in mind that the way you place your fixtures should take into consideration these external light sources, so it may be wise to get a lighting expert in first to take a look and give you some guidance.
6. White Light
We recommend using whiter light for indoor swimming pool lighting. It’s easier to see what’s in the water with lights of higher colour temperature, and so opting for 5700K lights over 3000K can increase visibility in and around the pool area. White light also makes the pool area look cleaner. The deck looks bright and the water looks blue.
7. Ratings and Performance
A table-stakes criteria for your pool lighting should be that it is suitable for operation in humid or wet conditions. Look for a fixture with a minimum of an IP65 rating, which qualifies it to withstand high humidity levels. Also make sure that the fixture is corrosion proof to handle the chlorine from the pool (or salt, in saltwater pools).
These are just some tips and considerations for improving your pool lighting system. To see an example of some of these tips in practice, check out the lighting renovation we conducted at a pool in Belleville, ON. Learn more about how to identify problem areas, select appropriate light fixtures, and see the difference the right lights can make for a swimming pool.
This post was written in consultation with Geoffrey Walling, a lighting specialist at RAB Design Lighting.