Poolscape Outdoor Lighting

The poolscape is one area where many people give in to the temptation to overlight. The area ends up looking like a soccer stadium. The impulse behind this may be honorable. You want to make sure the area is safe. But there are plenty of ways to secure safety without sacrificing aesthetics.

Properly lit, a poolscape will be both safe and pleasing to the eye. It will help swimmers see what's around them, and it will also define the whole space (not just the pool itself) in which they are swimming.

The same basic techniques that work for garden and yard lighting can also be applied to poolscapes.

Downlighting - Installing lights on roofs or in trees can shed light over a broad area. An advantage to this in a pool setting is that it keeps the fixtures out of the way of both the water and barefooted walkers. You want to be careful, though, not to angle the light directly at the pool. This can provide an unpleasant and disorienting glare to swimmers looking up.

Uplighting - Uplighting is a good way to extend the vertical space by sending light up walls or trees. This can be particularly awe-inspring to the swimmer looking up from ground level. Uplighting is the ideal way to show off a waterfall with an aerated spray if the pool has one. The light shoots up through the water, breaks the surface, and is scattered about by the spray. However, underwater lighting requires a lot of power-150 to 1500 watts.

Shadowing - Using shadowing effects on a wall is one thing. Positioning the light to send the shadow across the surface of the pool is another. The shadow plays along the top of the water, bobbing up and down with more motion than wind alone can provide.

Silhouetting - Setting a light behind a tree or statue and angled up can dramatically emphasize its shape. The drama is enhanced if that shape is reflected in the pool.

Variation - The best way to avoid the football stadium effect is by varying the level of light at different "zones" throughout the yard. Highlight some areas and use soft, low light for others to create a layered effect. Some pool lighters even prefer not to use the lights within the pool itself. Rather, they rely upon the exterior lights to reflect off the water and make a pleasing interplay of light and shadow.

But of course, as you do all this, you don't want to forget about safety. Make sure the perimeter of the pool is well defined. Check to see that steps and stones and barbecues and sharp corners are well lit. Don't angle the lights so they distract the neighbors or drivers coming down the road.

If you've done all that, it's time to sit back and enjoy.

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