Oh, shucks! The light is out in your pool or spa! Not only is this annoying, but can be dangerous. Or maybe your light works fine and you just want to upgrade an old incandescent to a more energy efficient (and cool) LED white or color change light. Whatever the case may be, here is some basic info on how you would do it.
Pro Tip: Make sure you have a functional GFCI. We need to use caution when working around electricity and water.
Check the Breaker
If your swimming pool or spa light goes out, the first thing you’ll want to do is to check the breaker. The breaker itself may need to be replaced. Or, an older fixture may be tripping the existing breaker. If this is the case, you may need to replace the entire light fixture. If the breaker is in good, working order, you may be able to get away with just changing the bulb and gasket.
Changing a Swimming Pool Light Bulb and Gasket
If you are at all uncomfortable, hire a professional. Safety outweighs saving a couple bucks. First of all, you’ll want to turn off the power. Believe it or not, draining some water is optional. It can make things easier, but is not required. If you do drain some water, keep in mind you will need to rebalance the swimming pool chemicals after you are done with the light and have added the water back
Next, we take the pilot screw out of the light. A lot of times this is located near the top. I wish I could tell you if your light uses a flathead or a phillip’s head, but since all lights vary, alas, I cannot.
Gently pry out the entire fixture. It looks like a silver cone-shaped bucket. When the light was originally installed, the person left some slack on the cord to allow for future repairs or replacement. Set the light on a towel on the deck of your swimming pool.
The safest route would be to test the light’s wiring to make 100% sure there is no power running through them. This can be accomplished with what is called a “multimeter” If you are certain there is no power, proceed to taking the fixture apart. The different parts are:
- Screws and/or clamp
- Lens Gasket
- Face ring
The older the light, the more corroded the parts may be. If you had water in your existing light, you may have no choice but to replace the entire fixture. Unless you want to risk ruining another bulb and all your hard work will be for nothing. Use another towel to wipe away any dirt and debris.
Go ahead and remove the old light bulb by unscrewing it from the fixture. Clean the inside of the fixture too. Now you are ready to install your new light bulb. You may have an incandescent, halogen or LED bulb. People often ask me if they can out an LED bulb in their old fixture. My advice is only if the fixture is less than 10 years old. Otherwise, you would be risking damaging an expensive bulb. Older fixture? Go ahead and replace the entire thing.
Pro Tip: Never screw the light bulb in too tightly to avoid the risk of breaking the bulb.
Don’t forget to replace the gasket! A swimming pool light gasket is the only gasket you don’t want to lubricate. If you want to “pepper” some lube on the face of the gasket to clean it off, that would be fine. Test the light before you put it back in. Then turn off the power again. Remember, water and electricity do NOT mix!
I have learned you can check for leaks by submerging the fixture and making sure there are no air bubbles coming out. If not, you have a nice, tight seal. Replace the fixture by pushing the wiring back in. You’ll want to make sure where the pilot screw goes is lined up correctly. Replace the screw and viola! You now have an illuminated swimming pool!
Replacing the Entire Fixture
If you have deemed this is the right choice for you then you follow similar steps. We still need to ensure the power is off! We still remove the pilot screw. We still place the fixture on the deck. It can get tricky here. You need to attach the new cord to the old cord and pull the conduit through and connect it to the breaker box. If you have to ask “should I install my swimming pool light by myself?” then the answer is always, “no”… Pulling a new light can be an arduous task. Especially if you have red brass conduit or a lot of angles to finagle. This is where hiring a pro may make the most sense. Once the new conduit is pulled, attach it to the GFCI and test.
LED vs Incandescent
LED bulbs are 90% more efficient than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs last approximately 2,000 hours, whereas LED bulbs can last for 20,000 hours! I always recommend doing a color change LED. Solid white is one of the options in these types of bulbs, but you gain the option of a variety of light shows and colors. This allows you to enjoy the ambience of your backyard even when not using the swimming pool. Sure, they cost a bit more upfront, but you gain so much more.
Pro Tip: If you have automation, make sure you purchase a fixture that will “communicate” the light shows correctly.
I want to circle back and end with my two cents that I feel this is a project for a professional. See you poolside!