Pool Lighting Options - Part 3

Fiber Optic Lighting

Pool with Star Floor Fiber Optic Lighting DesignFiber optic pool lighting consists of long, thin strands of glass—about the diameter of a human hair—that are arranged in bundles, or optic cables, and transfer light over long distances. There are two types of fiber optic lighting: end glow and side glow. In end glow fiber optics, the fibers are covered in an opaque black or white PVC jacket, and the light is emitted through the end of the fiber. When combined with lenses, this type of fiber optic cable creates a spotlight effect. It can also be used to create “stars” on the bottom of the pool, as seen in the pool picture at right.

Side glow fiber optic cables are covered in a clear PVC coating which allows light to escape through the sides of the cable. They resemble neon tube lighting and are used for perimeter pool lighting—they do not illuminate the body of water. Side glow fiber optic cables are applied to a track placed under the pool coping and create an outline of the pool shape. They can also be applied to steps or risers to highlight the change in elevation, which adds both safety and decorative appeal.

How does fiber optic lighting actually work? Fiber light is transmitted through a glass cable placed underwater or around the rim of the pool. The fiber optic cable runs back to an external box—called an illuminator—that contains a halogen, LED, or halide lamp which produces the light to the fiber optic cables. The illuminator is located away from the pool or spa, which eliminates the need for electrical wiring in the pool and provides more safety. Additionally, because there is no electricity running through the cables, no heat is emitted.

Pool with Color Fiber Optic Lighting and WaterfallAs with LED lighting, fiber optic pool lights come in a variety of colors. A color wheel connected to the illuminator allows you to change the colors, as well as control the display rate to create different effects. Fiber optics are not as bright as LED lights, however, so they require more cables to produce that same amount of light.

The cost of fiber optic pool lighting depends on the light source (quartz halogen, LED, or metal halide bulbs) and the amount of cable you’ll need. Most fiber optic lighting kits cost around $800 – $1,500. While more expensive than incandescent and LED pool lighting, fiber optic lights are easier to maintain because their light source is located outside of the pool. The bulbs of fiber optic pool lights generally last 3 – 7 years and cost $200 – $300; fiber optic cables rarely need replacement and can practically last forever.

Photos courtesy of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools & Landscaping; photography by Ed Pirone