You’ve had your swimming pool for a while now and you need to upgrade your old pool lights. You know that LED lights are the wave of the future, and they certainly look great on your holiday decorations! But before you automatically leap to embrace the LED option, consider all of your choices and the potential downside to LED swimming pool lights.
First a Refresher on Pool Lighting Options
Make no mistake: not having swimming pool lights is no option at all. You want to swim at night, don’t you? Obviously the safety of your children while they swim at dusk is of paramount concern! And you’ve seen enough pools to know that a well-lit swimming pool is a wonder to behold.
So where to begin? First, understand that there are three popular choices:
1. Classic and traditional halogen lighting, that you’ve seen in the bottom of every pool since the mid-20th century. Reliable but boring, and certainly the cheapest option, halogen lighting is also vulnerable to corrosion damage and also needs regular yearly maintenance.
2. Fibre optic lighting. You can certainly make your pool glorious and glamorous with fiber optics – but you’ll pay a similarly out-of-this-world price for initial installation. You’ll also pay each month when the electric bill comes due! In addition, it should be noted that fibre optic pool lighting is not currently very popular in Australia. Because it is less popular, you may have some difficulty finding a contractor to install this option – and you may find greater costs associated with initial installation and later maintenance.
3. LED pool lights. LED provides brilliant, clean light, in myriad colors. More expensive than halogen lighting but is much cheapers than installing fiber optic pool lights and can be easily used in place of your old halogen light. Best of all, LED pool lighting – like all LED lighting – is enormously energy efficient, lighting your pool for a fraction of the cost of other options.
What Exactly is “LED” Lighting?
At this point, you’re wondering how exactly we could suggest that there might be some issues with these energy-efficient, cheap to operate, highly functional and perfectly safe pool lights, aren’t you? Before we get to that, a quick explanation on what an LED light really is! LED stands for “light emitting diode,” and it works by pumping voltage through a semi-conductor which emits light. Where traditional incandescent & halogen lighting relies on burning filaments, and fiber optics require extensive and complex cable-laying, LED’s work simply – plug them into a power source. They use very little energy per LED compared with other methods of pool lighting, produce almost no heat, boast extended usable lifetimes, and are environmentally conscious. So what’s not to love?
Problems with LED Pool Lights: The Unfortunate Dark Side of the LED Option
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Slash your electric bill in half, have lights that last just about forever, and give your family an option that combines form with function.
But LED pool lights are far from perfect, and before you invest in a new and expensive LED pool lighting system (especially if you’re pondering ripping out your boring old – but very trustworthy and reliable – original halogen system), you need to be fully aware of all the drawbacks to LED pool lighting. These include 7 specific issues:
1: Do LED Lights Really Last 80,000 Hours as Promised?
All the marketing hype would have you believe that your new LED light will last for 50,000 to 100,000 hours (up to 12 years). This is a half truth really. Yes the LEDs themselves will normally last that long. What you aren’t normally told is that the other components in the light probably won’t last anywhere near that long.
2: Big $$$$$ – Part 1
Did we mention cost? The initial installation for LED pool lights will be a minimum of 2-3 times what traditional lighting costs. Of course, you may recoup some of that initial cost with lower energy bills.
3: Transformer Troubles
First, LED lighting – just like the lower tech halogen option – must be run through specific transformers and convertors in order to utilize the proper voltage that falls between 12v and 32v. These additional and required pieces of electronic gear add to the cost, and they also add a singular but troubling vulnerability to the system: when the transformer blows, the LED pool lights wink out. Fortunately, transformers are fairly reliable and not too expensive to replace.
4: Plug the Leak
Yes, just like halogen lighting, LED lights for your pool can leak! Unfortunately, many of the diodes at the core of LED lighting are susceptible to varying degrees to leakage of water. Obviously, this can be a bit of sticky wicket when you’re trying to light a pool! Fortunately, technology has largely solved this issue with the advent of resin-filled LED lights. Thus, if your current LED pool lights leak, individual lights can be replaced with the resin-filled version.
5: Nothing Lasts Forever
Unfortunately, LED lights do degrade over time! While you can probably rest assured that you’ll recoup your investment relatively quickly in energy savings, it is scientific fact that LED lights eventually lose their luster – and will require potentially complete replacement of the system! Traditional pool lights may not be as sexy, but barring corrosion issues they can sit at the pool bottom for decades without issue.
6: Beware the Passing Fad
Are they the wave of the future? Remember, you’re building your pool for your children’s children. They may own that home one day, and the pool that comes with it. Some experts suggest that LED pool lighting is akin to music CDs – sort of an intermediate step between classic vinyl and modern digital music. In other words, the classic look will always be an option, and other futuristic choices (like fibre optics) may be the next big thing. I personally beleive LED lighting is the way of the future. The entire lighting industry (not just lights for pools) is swapping their lights in favour of LED.
7: Big $$$$$ – Part 2
Lastly, as mentioned above, although the LEDs may last years, if the other components of the light fail, then you may be regretting your choice! In most cases, the lights themselves are not serviceable and will have to be replaced. You’ll need to fork out for the cost of a new light as well as someone to install it.
Please don’t think we are trying to talk you out of LED pool lighting. It is a beautiful, efficient, and cost-effective option to create a perfectly illuminated pool. But before you take that next step, go through all the pros and cons. Decide what pool lighting is best for you and your family.
Then jump right in!