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Spa illumination

Staying in control

Controllers typically operate all of the light heads, modules and individual LEDs in a spa lighting package. These devices allow users to display a single colour, transition through multiple colours or select a particular colour or light show.

Spa lighting packages rely on either a standalone control unit, separate from the spa itself, or on-board controls. Standalone controllers are designed to run more complex LED lighting packages that integrate many illuminating features throughout the spa. Most are designed to work with existing power supplies. However, particularly robust lighting packages might exceed the existing power supply’s capacity; in these cases, a separate power source is needed for operation. Like cables and connection points, most standalone controllers have evolved into a more water-resistant design to ensure reliable operation.

On-board controls are designed for use in spas with a very limited lighting package, which often comprises one or two light heads providing general underwater illumination. A light head with on-board control can provide the same type of colour display as a standalone controller, but it cannot control as many LEDs.

To enhance the consumer’s illumination experience, manufacturers are also offering other means of spa lighting control. This includes spas designed with multiple lighting zones, which allow users to select spa areas and sets of features to illuminate. Also, many lighting packages offer multiple brightness settings, giving the consumer complete control over how subtle or pronounced interior and exterior lighting is with every use.

Looking to the future

In addition to lighting combinations, manufacturers have also begun developing unique lighting ‘experiences’ for their customers. Many lighting systems can provide a variety of standard colours and light shows, which consumers can select via a top-side lighting control. More commonly, custom colours and light shows are being developed to help distinguish one spa manufacturer from another, or to differentiate product lines. This can even extend to the use of a signature colour throughout the spa to visually link the lighting to a specific brand.

As spa illumination moves forward, the success of lighting above the waterline will likely encourage more lighting below the waterline, as well as lighting accents to the exterior cabinet and related accessories. In addition, more emphasis is being put on developing lighting that integrates more seamlessly and subtly into the spa environment, allowing bathers to enjoy the lighting effect without being aware of the actual components.

Gone are the days of using a single halogen bulb with a flimsy coloured lens cover to make spa lighting exciting. The future of spa illumination is undoubtedly bright.


S_Jeffers_2x3Stephanie Jeffers is the marketing manager for J&J Electronics, Inc. of Irvine, Calif., a manufacturer of LED lighting products. She can be reached at

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