Pool lighting for functionality and appeal

Updated Jun 28, 2023
outdoor pool area
The lighting around a pool makes it both functional and appealing.
McKay Landscape Lighting

Nothing quite beats jumping in a pool on a hot summer day. It’s fair to say that swimming pools are a quintessential sign of summer—and they seem to be more popular with clients than ever before. While the pool itself obviously gets a lot of attention, it’s the pool features that can really take it to the next level. Pool lighting in particular is incredibly important. Because customers want to get as much use out of their swimming pools as possible, the lighting around the pool is actually more of a necessity than a luxury.

Because there’s a true art and science to professional lighting, some landscapers opt to contact landscape lighting companies like McKay Landscape Lighting, based in Omaha, Nebraska, to handle the lighting portion of the job. This can be incredibly complex work and getting the best results is important to both the safety and the functionality of the pool.

“It’s very important to be able to exit the home and get to the pool safely at night,” shares Jerry McKay, owner of the company. “Often there may be an elevation change, steps to navigate, and different hardscapes to walk on, so lighting around the pool becomes critical from a safety standpoint.  

Adding appeal

Aside from safety, landscape lighting around the pool can also help accent the space and give it some extra pizzazz.

“The secret sauce to that usually is if there is a view from the house and there is some landscaping on the opposite side of the pool, you get maximum reflection with that pool if you’re lighting something on the other side,” McKay adds.

Seat wall lights or cap lights are both popular types of lighting to have around pools. For those concerned about landscaping lighting overpowering their lighting within the pool, McKay says this isn’t actually a concern.

“I tell every customer the same thing,” he says. “I’m not going to compete with your pool light. Nine out of 10 times, that light is not on. As lighting designers, we want to make sure that people can walk around the pool if the pool light’s not on and highlight the landscape around the pool.”

Tiki torches make a comeback

outdoor pool areaTiki torches add a whole new sense of fun to a poolscape.McKay Landscape Lighting

Recently, McKay says that he has seen a big resurgence in tiki torches, a lighting element that he says can work wonderfully around a pool area. 

"They are basically a really large path light that adds both aesthetic appeal and functionality," he says. "Whereas your traditional path lights are going to light up the annual flowers and smaller plants, tiki torches will light up the boxwoods and larger plants. It's another great way to be able to appreciate the landscaping in the evening hours."

Since tiki torches also use burning citronella oil, they can also play a role in keeping mosquitoes away.

"They're just a really fun light to have around the pool," McKay continues. "While you might only light them for holidays or when entertaining, it's definitely another way to add something extra to the space." 

For a large pool, McKay says you likely need no more than five lights to make an impact. You don't want to go overboard with tiki torches, either.

Bistro lights the newest trend

Outdoor pool areaBistro lights often work well over expansive areas of hardscaping.McKay Landscape Lighting

Another popular trend he's seeing more of is bistro lights. McKay says these decorative string lights first started trending in outdoor restaurant and bar settings. But now homeowners are wanting them for their pool area. 

"Bistro lights tend to work well for pools that have large, expansive hardscaping," McKay says. "Sometimes with these layouts, the question is where can we add another light when there's such a large surface area." 

The answer can be stringing bistro lights over top of the space.

"I think it is both festive and functional," he says. "Bistro lights can definitely add some additional lighting but they also dress up the space in a fun way." 

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