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Considerations and design guidelines for nicheless lighting

By David Goldman

To determine the best lighting system for a client’s pool and/or spa/hot tub, be sure to educate them about the different types of lights that are available.

There are many factors to consider when working with customers to determine the best lighting system for a pool or spa/hot tub. One of the most important is educating consumers on the three main types of lights available: halogen, fibre-optic, and light-emitting diode (LED). The most common pool light is a halogen bulb, which is sealed into a housing built into the pool’s wall. These lights are the traditional “old standby” method of pool illumination, which usually last about 5000 hours and require the most energy to run. Another option is fibre-optic lighting cables, which can be used to create star-like effects on pool floors and around pool rims. They are not as bright as other lighting options and require several strands to create sufficient light for nighttime safety. However, as they do not carry electricity, they are a safe option for consumers. Finally, LED lights are becoming more popular because they not only have a long lifespan, but also have low energy requirements.

A typical LED light can provide between 30,000 and 50,000 hours of use and consume less than 50 watts of power. LED lights also come in a variety of colours and options, including nicheless, which are easy to install.

In fact, one of the fastest growing pool lighting segments as of late has been the nicheless LED market. These lighting systems offer an easier, faster, and more cost-effective solution to adding coloured illumination to the pool and spa/hot tub experience. Further, nicheless lighting can simplify pool lighting installations in four ways, and for this reason pool professionals are using them to their advantage.

1. Simplified construction

Nicheless lights do not use a wet niche and; therefore, do not require the added engineering detail, steel, or gunite that is typically used to install standard pool lights. For example, some manufacturers offer lighting products that can be installed in a standard 38.1 mm (1.5 in.) return fitting, connected to plastic electrical conduit. In essence, the fitting and the conduit are the niche.

2. Bond-free and ground-free

Most nicheless lights are low-voltage LED systems with non-metallic housings and, as such, do not require grounding or bonding. Since most of these lighting systems draw little amperage and do not need a third (ground) wire, the cord sets tend to be thinner, which makes it easier to fish the wiring through tight and/or hard to reach spaces.

Nicheless lights provide a flexible lighting option for builders to meet their client’s vision.

3. Better overall lighting

Despite producing fewer lumens than typical LED lamps, nicheless lighting systems often appear brighter. This is because most nicheless lights only need 106 mm (4.17 in.) of water above them versus 457.2 mm (18 in.) for most wet-niche lights. By positioning the lights closer to the waterline, the light stays in the pool, while any bottom/surface imperfections become less visible. Also, more lights can be used for the same cost to achieve a brighter, more evenly lit pool. Since these lighting systems are less expensive than traditional lights, and installers save money by eliminating niches, a builder can install multiple lighting systems for every one traditional light they would have previously installed without affecting the client’s budget.

Further, this multiple light strategy also reduces hot spots and shadows, resulting in an esthetically pleasing, more energy-efficient lighting system.

4. Energy efficient

Nicheless lights are extremely energy efficient. Typically, they draw only nine to 30 watts (at 120 volts alternating current [VAC]). Like most other low-voltage lights, they use a 120 VAC to 12 to 14 VAC transformer for power. Since they operate at a lower wattage than traditional LED lights, nicheless lights can often use a smaller transformer, even if more lights are used.

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