Swimming Pool Blog

All About Pool Light Bulbs

All About Pool Light Bulbs
by Jonathan Ruhe  February 25, 2013

PAR16 bulb, replaces R20 bulbs
One of the more overlooked aspects of a pool is lighting. In today’s post we are going to go into a bit more detail regarding the different types of pool bulbs available and what each offers in energy savings, color and heat output.

There are many different types of pool light bulbs available on the market. You have your standard incandescent bulb, halogen, fluorescent compact florescent, and LED or Light Emitting Diode.
Within each category are different styles, for example PAR or Parabolic Anodized Reflector, Globes, BR or Bulge Reflectors as well as R styles which is where the reflector out glass is coated with a reflective material to direct the light.


Each pool bulb type and style has its pluses and minuses - typically related to cost versus the lifespan of the bulb. For instance, a basic incandescent light bulb is the cheapest out on the market, however the average lifespan of an incandescent pool bulb is only 1,000 hours. Halogens cost a little more and offer a 2,500 hour lifespan, compact florescent bulbs cost more still, but last up to 6,000 hours.


halogen swimming pool bulbs
Halogen bulbs for use in pools and spas were very popular - a few years ago. They represented an upgrade in lighting intensity, with a lower power usage. Pool light manufacturers came out with quite a few different bulbs during the heyday, shown on the left.
Halogen pool bulbs are still in use today, thousands have been sold. They are our most popular replacement pool light bulbs.


There has been a big push in the last five years toward compact florescent which use much less energy then a standard incandescent, and last six times as long – up to 6,000 hours. The downside of a compact florescent is they are very sensitive to frequent switching on and off and this could cause the bulb to fail. CFL bulbs used in pools also tend to have flat, low levels of illumination, and poor color lighting ability.


LED pool light bulbs

The most advanced type of bulb available on the market is the LED pool light bulb, LED stands for light emitting diode. LED bulbs use less than a quarter of the energy of a standard incandescent bulb AND can last up to 40,000 hours – that’s 40 times the life of a standard bulb. Deep rich colors are also possible with LED pool lights.The downside is they have a much higher upfront cost then an incandescents, but if you average out the cost over the lifespan plus factor in the energy savings - they end up being a more cost effective option in the long run.


pool light type comparison chart


Today’s pool light bulbs, regardless of their type, are offered in a variety of color options. I’m not talking about red, blue, green – granted these are available, but rather different shades of white – also known as color temperatures. A standard incandescent is a 2700k temperature bulb, which produces a warm-white-yellowish color. 
With the introduction of compact fluorescent and LED bulbs, you also have the options for clean white – 3000k, and also cool white (a bluish color) – 4000k. There are even color temperature options that simulate daylight, which is very close to the 5000k range.
Now you’re probably asking, what exactly is a K? K stands for Kelvin, and this is measured by heating a rod of iron to a certain temperature, we’ll use 2700k for example, the color the rod would glow is the K value represented.

ILLEGAL POOL LIGHT BULBSR20 bulbs are no longer available

As more efficient and more environmentally friendly options become available to the US market, the federal government has made plans to outlaw the most common bulbs currently available – 40W, 60W, 75 W and 100W bulbs by the year 2014. This is because certain bulb types contain mercury which cannot be thrown out in conventional trash and also leak UV light. The First Casualty for the pool industry was the R20 100W bulb which is now already illegal. No R20 bulb greater than 45W is permitted. This bulb has been replaced by the PAR16 60W bulb. More information on the light bulb ban.