05 Jul Landscape Lighting Around Your Pool or Spa
By Mike Gambino
You may ask yourself, “Do I really need landscape lighting around my pool?”
Good question, and the answer in most cases is yes for two main reasons: Safety and Aesthetics.
As a Designer/Builder of Landscape Lighting Systems, we’ve installed thousands of landscape lighting projects over the past 30 years in multiple states and abroad.
The first question is,
“Why Should I light the areas around my Pool or Spa?”
Whether you custom built it or inherited it with the purchase of the home, you have much invested in the Pool and Spa and its ongoing upkeep. It would be a shame if that investment could only be appreciated and fully enjoyed solely during daylight hours.
Pools and Spas are a beautiful and functional upgrade to any landscape space. They can also be a danger zone and a potential liability to the property owner. Just like it is your responsibility to keep it as safe as possible during the day, at night this responsibility becomes even more important. Keeping pool and spa lights operating for extended periods of time inside the pool is not practical, can be expensive to operate and change out when they burn out and they need to be replaced. They may illuminate the interior of the water but do little to effectively illuminate the surrounding space. This is where landscape Lighting comes in.
Where to place lights around your pool
Where you place lights around your landscaping will depend on your backyard, the features that it has, and the elements that you would like to illuminate around your pool or spa.
Your landscaping might consist of grass, trees, and flower beds, or you may have mostly concrete and tile. You may even choose desert landscaping with rocks, pottery, and minimal plant life.
No matter the style of your pool area landscaping it should be illuminated no matter how minimal or intricate, here are some of the most common places to install outdoor lights:
- Paths and walkways
- Water features
- Trees and plants
- Statues and decorations
- Seating areas
- Garden beds
When done right, Lights embedded in concrete steps, stairs, and walkways can make your backyard more functional and beautiful. Beyond aesthetics, lighting these areas is a necessary safety precaution to prevent people from tripping and falling. In most instances these types of fixtures must be planned for and installed for during your hard scaping construction.
Accent lights can be placed in or near trees, along walls, and around water features (like fountains and waterfalls) to highlight these areas and increase the beauty of the space.
Statues, a fire pit, or even a koi pond. You’ll want to shine some light in, around or on these focal points so that you can enjoy them after the sun goes down.
Softly illuminating Patio, garden, and perimeters make the spaces where people spend the most time more visible, pleasing and safe at night. These can be lit with soft lighting to add warmth or with stronger, more powerful lights to make the space more functional or a combination of both with the use of separate switches.
Types of landscape lights
Now that you have a better idea of where and what you need to light, we can move on to the types of lights that can be used.
In general, there are 7 types of lights commonly seen in outdoor spaces:
These are good for lighting large areas, especially when you want them to be well lit. Floodlights can illuminate entire portions of your yard, like a patio or a garden. Effective garden lighting requires multiple lower wattage light sources illuminating very limited garden spaces for beauty and glare control as opposed to using few light sources which blast light out over a large space and create annoying and mood destroying glare.
Spotlights are used to highlight your favorite features, such as a tree, a wall, or a fountain. You can use spotlights to create uplighting or downlighting for different effects.
Uplighting is when the light is pointed upward at an area or object, such as a plant, wall, or statue. Downlighting is when the light shines down from above, like from up in a tree downwards towards the ground.
- Hardscape lights
These lights are usually embedded in concrete and stone steps, walls, and pathways for safety reasons.
Pro tip: These types of lights by their very nature of being embedded in steps can tend to be very concentrated, spotty and do not do a good job of spreading light effectively to illuminate steps and may attract attention to the fixtures themselves instead of what is being lighted which are the steps or changes in grade for safety. Most times and wherever possible lighting from adjacent trees or landscaped areas can prove to be more effective.
Strip lights under toe kicks are often more subtle but still provide enough visibility for people to see where they’re going. You might use this type of lighting in steps leading towards the pool or integrated in seating areas around it.
- Path lights
Path lights are used to line and light pathways and stairways. These commonly substitute for hardscape lights and come in a wide range of styles.
Alternate, random or formal spacing along a path in traverse areas to the pool and spa without bringing fixtures too close to the water’s edge.
Outdoor torches, or Tiki torches, can be used to light the paths or perimeter of your yard. These usually come in tropical styles and add a lot of character to the area around the pool.
Caution: You should always be careful when using open flames around your property and the property of your neighbors. Flames that are above head height with nothing combustible around or a safe space above them are more safe.
- String lights
String lights sometimes called fairy lights can add ambience but aren’t typically used for lighting as much as they are for aesthetics, but they can add both light and personality to your space.
These are good for hanging over patios and wrapping around trees and other plants. Get creative with the placement of your string lights, but be sure that you don’t hang them over your pool or any other contained water such as fountains, and ponds!
- Well lights
Well lights are usually embedded in the ground and can be used to spotlight certain areas or to create additional lighting in dark areas. They can be installed flush with the ground or they can remain exposed, depending on the application.
They certainly have their value as they are easier to conceal and hide but can be problematic in poor draining soils, have less horizontal adjustment and can become covered with soil, leaves or plant materials sooner than above ground accent fixtures and can require more maintenance.
Which lights are the best for backyard pool landscaping?
In our opinion, 12-Volt LED low-voltage lights are the best because they provide high-quality, professional landscape lighting.
12-Volt LED low-voltage lights also save energy and money!
Light color and beam options
Your landscape lights shouldn’t all be lit with the same brightness and beam spread. It’s good to have some variation in intensity and beam spread for each aspect of your property bringing attention with brighter more concentrated light where desired and less bright and more diffuse where appropriate. A good landscape lighting designer knows how to create a hierarchy of light in your space and personal desires and select the right lights for each application.
In almost all cases the use of warm white or off white toned lights look the best in the landscape.
Automating your landscape lighting
Tired of manually turning your lights on and off? You can set up a smart lighting system to control your pool and landscape lights. These sometimes include a control panel, or they may be operated using your smartphone.
Many systems have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth control options, making it easy to turn your lights on and off from different devices or locations.
Solar landscape lights
Solar lights are a budget friendly, diy alternative to traditional landscaping lights. Solar power is integrated into many stake lights, spotlights, hardscape lights, string lights, and more.
There are benefits to using solar powered light fixtures, including:
- Little to no wiring
- Save energy (and money)
- Safer near water and pool area
- Easier to maintain
There are also several downsides of solar powered light fixtures including:
- They Do Not Provide Sufficient Light
- Light it provides is Not Effective
- Color of Light is almost always too cool (bluish green)
- Fixtures are unsightly and look cheap
- Fixture Do Not Last
Pool and Spa Area landscape lighting ideas
Here are a few suggestions:
- Light your focal points such as water features, statues etc. with spotlights
- Uplight or downlight trees and plants with accent lights or well lights
- Light your paths with path lights and hardscape lights (if appropriate)
- Use floodlights to illuminate your patio and other high-traffic areas
- Softly Uplight walls with one or more accent lights
- Arrange Tiki torches around the perimeter of your pool areas
- Add hardscape lights selectively if at all for steps and seating areas
- Spotlight pottery, specimen plantings and other unique features
- Hang string lights over your patio but never over water
Who should install your lighting systems?
We highly recommend getting a licensed and experienced Landscape Lighting Design Build Specialist to install your outdoor landscape lights, especially when electrical power and wiring work are involved around bodies of water such as Pool , Spa, Fountains, Water features or Ponds.
We believe warm color temperature 12-Volt LED low-voltage lights are the best choice because they perform, look better, save energy, and are safer to install around water.
Solar powered lights, although a cheap and simple Do it yourself project are a poor choice for the reasons listed above.
Flame Torches may be safely placed and arranged around your property and add interest, diversity and beauty.
Now that you know the basics of lighting your outdoor pool area lighting, you should have a better idea of what you need to light and how it should be lighted. If you have any questions, be sure to leave a comment below or contact us directly.
This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 29 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .
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