What to consider when lighting indoor swimming pools

What to consider when lighting indoor swimming pools

When lighting indoor swimming pools there are a few aspects that need special attention in order to create the best lighting design for a safe and enjoyable swimming facility. Light levels, glare, fixture placement, ratings… The addition of lighting controls help increase energy efficiency, safety and visual comfort.

As we all become more health conscious, recreational facilities, especially those with indoor aquatic features, are on the rise, according to Recreation Management’s Research*. These facilities can attract new residences and engage all ages from youth to seniors while encouraging healthy and strong communities. The challenge for facility managers and designers is to balance the needs of their community with the growing cost of maintaining safe, inviting and energy-efficient facilities.

Here are several important factors to consider when selecting or improving the lighting in your indoor swimming facility.

Lighting Levels

Does the current lighting provide a clean, inviting atmosphere that will encourage guests to use your facility? Recommended lighting levels are determined by the class or use of your facility. Is yours a recreational facility or will it be used for competitive televised events, or something in between?

The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) provides recommendations of the minimum lighting levels and uniformity ratios for different scenarios. However, depending on the specific needs of the facility, higher levels might be needed. For example, 4K TV cameras require at least double the light (>150 fc) when filming at ultra-high-definition and even higher light levels for slow-motion videos. But more importantly, you need to provide enough light to keep everyone safe in your swimming facility.

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Placement of Light Fixtures

In addition to following the National Electric Code (NEC) requirements, it is best to mount fixtures out of harm’s way, clearing swimmers on diving boards, slides, platforms or elements unique to your facility.

Glare on Water’s Surface

Glare is often the result of light fixtures directed towards the pool’s surface. This can create a dangerous situation when the lifeguard’s vision is obstructed by glare. It also creates visual fatigue for swimmers, instructors, spectators and lifeguards who are continually looking at the swimming pool’s glary surface. Lastly, lap swimmers do not appreciate being blinded by lights as they attempt to do a back stroke. To avoid much of this glare, if possible, always consider indirect lighting in your facility.
Lighting Glare on Indoor Swimming Pool

Indirect Lighting

Install the light fixtures rotated upward, directing their light on to the ceiling. If designed correctly, this creates a uniform glow on the ceiling with even, diffused light on the swimming pool’s surface, eliminating glare. When using indirect lighting, it is critical the ceiling and wall finishes are of the lightest color in a matte finish. All obstructions such as structural joists or acoustical panels need to be considered in this type of lighting layout.


Light fixtures that can be angled or rotated to facilitate light spread will further reduce hot spots and achieve a more uniform light level throughout the facility. This option is especially helpful when working with a lower ceiling height or trying to maximize fixture quantities in a space.

Interior Finishes

Light-colored, low-sheen finishes are recommended throughout the space. This helps to maximize and diffuse the lighting, reducing glare while increasing the efficiency of the light fixtures and improving the safety of the environment

Designers often specify ductwork, wainscoting or acoustical panels in a bright color, which can add to the vibrancy of the space. If bright or dark colors are used, they must be considered by the lighting designer. Indirect lighting focused on a red acoustical panel will not only absorb most of the light but will also provide an unintentional red glow to the space.

Lighting Controls

Clearstory or window walls can bring in natural light, contributing to the overall aesthetics of the space. By installing lighting controls, facilities can take full advantage of this natural light when it is available. When it is not, the controls will bring the lighting up to recommended levels, further improving the overall systems efficiency and safety of the facility.

Adding lighting controls to your lighting system will assure constant recommended light levels are maintained in the pool environment. They also allow dimming for social events, timed control for off hours and can further improve energy consumption. Plus, all can be managed from the facility managers’ smartphone!

How to Choose the Right LED Fixture

Between the corrosive chlorine air and the constant humidity of an indoor pool environment, the wrong lighting fixtures will fail quickly. LED fixtures designed for this environment must be of an aluminum construction to avoid rust and corrosion. All fasteners, hooks, cables and mounting brackets must be corrosion-resistant stainless-steel. It must be an IP68-rated light source, with fully potted, WET-rated drivers and power supplies. Anything else and you will be disappointed!

Generally, when re-lighting a swimming pool, the existing lighting is at dangerously low light levels, creating an unsafe and uninviting environment. Traditional light sources lose light output very fast and can be a maintenance nightmare with staff working around pool closings to re-lamp or replace ballasts, often resulting in a rainbow of colors and rising energy costs.

Avoid low-cost LED fixtures, they cut corners on key components, diminishing performance and life quickly. Instead, look for well-established manufacturers that guarantee the performance of the entire fixture, including light levels, and are financially solvent to stand behind their warranty.

We Are Here to Help!

Through a great lighting plan, your indoor swimming pool facility can be safer, easier to maintain and much more energy efficient, allowing you and your staff to focus on further improving yourselves and your community!

If you have a facility you would like us to review, please contact our Linmore LED Lighting Applications Team at info@linmoreled.com.

Our experienced lighting consultants will work with you and your design team to determine your space requirements and meet your design goals. We will provide your team with lighting layouts, renderings and accurate fixture costs.


*References: Recreation Management by Signet Research Inc., an independent research company