There are few pleasures more tranquil than a midnight dip, especially when a pool is beautifully lit against the dark sky. But going for a swim in pitch darkness is a little less fun and an indicator that you might need some pool light repairs.
Sometimes, a dead bulb is just a dead bulb – but other times, a broken pool light is a harbinger of a completely different issue and is part of maintaining a pool. Learn how to troubleshoot your pool lighting in a few simple steps with our ultimate guide to pool light repairs.
Note: These tips can help you better understand how to identify the problems you might be having with your pool light, but you are still dealing with water and electricity. It is not a good idea to troubleshoot your pool light if you have never done so before or are not confident in your repair abilities. Contact a professional, and make sure to read this article thoroughly. The use of any of the information in this guide is at your own risk.
What You’ll Need for Pool Light Repairs
If you’re looking to figure out why your pool light is broken, you will want a handful of diagnostic tools at your disposal.
The first and most important is a multimeter. The multimeter is every DIY electrician’s best friend and is a simple handheld tester that measures voltage (volts), current (amps), and resistance (ohms).
The job of the multimeter in this instance is to make sure that there is no power in the line before you begin opening up a pool light fixture, as well as testing bad breakers, line continuity, and tripped GFCI protection.
The next thing you’ll want is a Philips’ head screwdriver. Most pool light fixtures are attached to the pool with one or two simple lockscrews. These are, most likely, on the 12 and 6 o’clock positions on the fixture’s cover.
Finally, grab several dry towels. You’ll want to set the fixture down on them when checking it out, both to prevent scratching the lens of the light, and to pat it dry before opening.
Start at the Source
Before you inspect your pool light, you will want to make sure that all power to the pool lights is completely shut off. You can do this by paying a visit to your circuit breaker box and flipping the switch for your pool lights.
If it isn’t labeled, and you don’t know which switch corresponds to the light fixtures in the pool, don’t worry. You can enlist the help of a second person to go through the house and help you correctly label each switch, or, if you’re a tenant, give your landlord/landlady a call.
The breaker box is also the first place to check if you’re having suspicions about the breaker itself, or if your light fixtures aren’t working due to a tripped breaker.
Tripped breakers must be completely reset, either by flipping them back to the ON position or by first flipping them to the OFF position (if the trip doesn’t do that already, as with some breaker styles), then back to ON.
A bad breaker can be identified via your handy multimeter. The first sign of a bad breaker is that it keeps tripping, so if your lights happen to work after a simple reset of your breakers only to stop working soon thereafter, you might have a bad breaker on your hands. This is more likely with older houses, as breakers themselves tend to have a life expectancy of a few decades.
Start by turning off everything attached to the tripped breaker. Your pool fixtures should have light switches near them, perhaps where the pool pump is.
Remove the front panel from the breaker box to expose the terminals. Make sure to label the switch for the pool light breaker first.
Your multimeter should have a black and red lead. The black lead should be connected to a port labeled COM or Common, while the red lead should be connected to a port labeled with a V or Ω.
Use the multimeter’s red probe and touch it to the screw of the breaker you’re testing. Touch the black probe to the neutral bar/base row. It’s a terminal bar with white wires attached to it.
If you have a double pole breaker (two hot wires, a single neutral wire), you should be reading 220-250V. A faulty double pole breaker may read only 120V and would still have to be replaced. If you have a single pole breaker (one hot wire, one neutral wire), it should read around 120V. If it’s broken, it will read 0. A broken breaker needs to be replaced.
Check Your GFCI Protection
Some pools come with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for the pump and pool light fixtures. A GFCI is basically a circuit breaker that trips at the sign of a potential ground fault, which can cause serious bodily harm.
It’s often a safety requirement in places where circuits can come in contact with water, like bathrooms and pool areas. GFCIs trip based on current change, and they can trip at a fairly low current change (as low as 5 milliamp).
If your pool lights all suddenly stopped working, and you have a GFCI installed, see if it was tripped. If it trips regularly without any signs of danger, then the circuit may be too long (this is called a nuisance trip, and there are other potential causes), or you might need a new GFCI.
Check the Fixture
If your breakers are fine, then check the fixture itself. Your pool light fixture or the bulb may be compromised. All you need to make sure before you head on over to the pool is that your breaker is set to the OFF position. Make sure there is no power going to your pool light.
Grab your screwdriver and use it to remove the lockscrews on the cover of the fixture. Most fixtures can be safely removed from the pool wall, the power line feeding into the fixture should be long enough for you to pull it out of the water and lay it on the poolside.
From here, you can inspect the fixture itself to see if there is a water leak. Most fixtures use a spring across the filament of the bulb to prevent water in the fixture from causing an electric shock in the pool. Leaks can be caused by a corroded seal or gasket. If the fixture is completely fine, and there doesn’t seem to be a problem with the breaker, it could just be the bulb.
Check and Change the Bulb
Light bulbs break. They don’t last forever, and when they burn out, they need to be replaced. You can replace the light bulb in your light fixture like any other – just be sure to firmly replace the gasket and ensure that the fixture is correctly reassembled before reinstalling it.
Of course, light bulbs are meant to last for some time. If your new bulb happens to burn right out again, then the fixture may be at fault. You can use the multimeter to probe the light socket in the fixture.
Call a Pool Repair Professional
Some problems can’t be solved safely with just DIY knowledge and a multimeter. A problem in the line between your breaker box and the fixture itself will have to be narrowed down between junction boxes and repaired by a pool repair professional.
Lines can be faulty or corroded, and installing a new line takes special know-how. The ideal inspection must be done by someone who has extensive pool repair knowledge and experience. Contact PoolSense today!