Navigating Swimming Pool Lighting

Any industrial or commercial facility presents its own unique challenges. But, perhaps one of the most interesting of all is the challenge of lighting natatoriums and indoor swimming pools.

Not only do these types of facilities have special lighting requirements, but they also need lights that are able to hold up to the unusually warm and wet environment of natatoriums.

Thankfully, there are plenty of LED lighting solutions, like high bays,  to overcome this problem. And, although each pool or natatorium will have its own set of lighting challenges, pretty much every single natatorium shares three different concerns, glare control, beam spread, and uniformity.

Achieve Even, Balanced Light Distribution

An even light distribution helps to reduce glare, but more importantly, it ensures that there aren’t any dark spaces around the natatorium.

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This is especially important because a well-lit indoor pool reduces the risk of accidents and falls.

So how do you choose lighting that combats all these issues and meets the specific lighting requirements of natatoriums? That’s what we’re here to address.

Combat the Glare

Glare happens when light bounces off reflective surfaces and confuses the cornea. And, with a reflective surface like water everywhere, reducing glare in a commercial swimming pool is often the greatest lighting challenge. You can combat glare by carefully choosing lumen levels, opting for higher CRI lights, and planning out your lighting to determine the optimum beam angles. We’ll go over these in more detail later, but for now, just know that although glare is a severe problem, it can be combatted by choosing the correct lighting.


Swimming Pool Lighting Design: What You Need to Know

Natatorium High Bay2

How Many LED Lumens Will You Need?

Lumens are a measure of brightness, and perhaps the most important thing you need to understand about swimming pool lighting. Below, you’ll find suggested IES lumen requirements for different areas of the natatorium.

Keep in mind that it’s just as bad to over-light these spaces as it is to under-light them because the glare from a too-bright light is just as debilitating as dim light.

As we can see from the above table, the IES lighting requirements for a recreational swimming pool is about 500 lux but for something more significant, like an Olympic pool or other types of competition aquatic centers, you’ll need up to 1000 to 1200 lux.

This is because professional swimming pools often have a broadcasting crew and a large audience surrounding them. And this brings up a good point.

Although we do need to provide illumination to the pool and immediate surrounding areas, you also need to provide light for everyone around the pool and in the audience.

If we refer to the IES regulations, the suggested lux level of the swimming pool’s spectator area is approximately 150 lux.

This brightness is also used in other areas, like the changing room, aisles, and chemical storeroom, which all require light but a similarly low lux level, so as to not blind swimmers, audience members, or staff.

How Many LED Watts Will You Need?

With LED lighting, we tend to focus on lumens rather than watts, because LEDs are much more efficient than other bulbs. But, that doesn’t mean that you should forget about watts altogether.

If we use the Olympic-size swimming pool again as an example, we know that the size of the pool is 50 x 25 = 1250 sq. meters. This means that you will need 1,250,000 lumens (1250 sq. meters x 1000 lux = 1,250,000) to provide enough light.

And because the efficacy of the average LED light is about 140 lumens per watt, the estimated wattage requirement of this particular swimming pool lighting is about 8,390 watts (1,250,000/140 = 8930).

But keep in mind that this is just a theoretical example. In real life, LEDs have varying efficacy and the spaces have different IES lumens requirements, so it won’t be the same for everyone.

Natatorium lumens

Natatorium and Pool Lighting Layout

It will come as no surprise that the layout of commercial swimming pool lighting is extremely important. It’s the best way to fight glare and create an even light distribution.

So, how do you know what the ideal lighting layout for your facility is? You could download a free photometric lighting plan, which will tell you exactly where and what your lights should be. But we can provide some general guidelines below as well.

Although you’ll need flood lights in such a large space, we don’t suggest positioning them directly downward above the pool because this will create an intense glare. Instead, we recommend installing lights around the pool.

Another natatorium and lighting option is to use secondary reflection, in which the lights are pointed at the ceiling and then reflected into the pool.

This method is inefficient as far as foot candles are concerned, but it does allow for a bright shine above the pool, with no glare.

Indoor Natatorium With Led Lighting

Beam Spread

Beam spread refers to the size of the space covered by a light source. Also known as ‘beam angle’ or ‘spread of light’, this is the angle at which light is dispersed. As light moves further away from its source, it becomes weaker. All light sources have a beam spread. This is true for halogen lamps and LED lamps. The beam spread can be as narrow as 4° or as wide as 120°. The beam’s angle can significantly affect the lighting of the natatorium, which is why it’s very important to get it right. Another element that can have a huge impact on the pool’s illumination level is the interior’s color.

If this hue is dark, it might be a good idea to buy LED lights that have narrower beam angles to make sure the pool is properly lit. It’s a well-known fact that darker tones absorb more light, so if that’s the case, you will probably need to install lights to achieve the desired effect. However, if the natatorium’s interior is light, you can use wider beam angles as they can distribute light more evenly.

Color Temperature & CRI of Pool Lighting

Color Temperature and Color Rendering Index are important aspects of choosing natatorium fixtures, especially if the pool is a space that is often televised.

Below, you’ll find general CRI and color temperature recommendations.


Type of Swimming Pool Light Color Temperature CRI
Recreational / Public Pool 4000K 70
Competition Pool (Televised) 5700K >80 (R9 >80)
Customized Application 7500K >80

IP Ratings

Understanding IP ratings is crucial when choosing the right natatorium fixtures.

Some lights need to be able to be perpetually submerged without taking on water, while others need to be resistant to splashes Others only need the ability to withstand the extra humidity.

The IP rating of each light is the only way to know whether the fixture will be able to handle the unique conditions. You will need a rating of IP65 or higher.


Natatorium and Pool Lighting Challenges and Solutions

Effective indoor pool lighting systems require three characteristics: water resistance, safety, and durability. Natatoriums present multiple challenges when it comes to their lighting. Lighting designers must assess a number of features when selecting lighting fixtures. First, they must establish the purpose of the pool. Some swimming pools are for leisure while others are for competitions. It is also important to be familiar with the rules and regulations that govern lighting in the environment.

Also, the safety of the swimmers and pool staff must be addressed. Lastly, the durability and resistance of the LED lights must follow the set regulations. Let’s talk about some of the challenges posed by indoor pools and the solutions LED lights offer.

Natatorium Location

The lighting levels in an indoor pool usually vary according to its function. Is the pool located inside a hotel or a condominium?

Will it be used only for recreational purposes, or will it host swim meets and swimming competitions? Will the pool be used for a variety of activities or televised competitions?

Some indoor swimming pools serve as training grounds for athletes. Others host diving lessons and pool activities such as water polo.

It is essential to know the end-use of the pool before selecting the lighting fixtures. Different pool activities must meet specific lighting standards.

Natatorium Safety

The top consideration when picking lighting for indoor pools is safety. In this regard, the type of lighting you choose as well as the angles at which it is installed can make a world of difference. LED natatorium lights are well-designed and highly reflective.

Once you get an idea of how different surfaces respond to different sources of light, you can increase the light’s biggest depth penetration.

This can be of great help for lifeguards as they will be able to easily see what’s happening in every pool area. Plus, it can improve the aesthetics of the pool.

Installing lights in the interior of the pool is highly recommended to boost the pool’s visibility.

Humidity and Chemicals

Pools are highly humid areas, and they are popular for their corrosion-causing properties. These two features can easily impact the lifespan and longevity of luminaires.

Indoor pools have extremely high humidity (up to 60%) and a large amount of chlorine vapor which helps accelerate the corrosion of materials.

Besides that, the way most pools are designed makes it hard and very expensive to regularly maintain their lighting. For this very reason, it’s extremely important that these installations are durable and done properly.

Pool LED lights need to have high IP ratings. For example, IP ratings over 65 are considered good for this purpose. Lights rated IP67 or IP68 are ideal as they are safeguarded from water nozzles and submersion for certain time periods.

Natatorium and Pool Lighting Level Recommendations


Competition Level Pool (foot candles) Pool Uniformity Deck (foot candles) Deck Uniformity
Professional – Class I 75 fc 1.7:1 max/min 50 fc 2.5:1 max/min
Collegiate – Class II 50 fc 2.5:1 max/min 20 fc 4:1 max/min
Intermediate – Class III 30 fc 3:1 max/min 10 fc 4:1 max/min
Recreational – Class IV 30 fc 4:1 max/min 10 fc 4:1 max/min
Reflections Of Light On Swimming Pool Water

Dwayne Kula

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About the Author

Dwayne Kula is President of LED Lighting Supply. On any given day, Dwayne is writing content for the site and helps manage the marketing initiatives that are on-going. He has a Software Engineering degree and still dabbles in writing software for the company as needed. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, working out, playing the occasional game of golf and exploring New England.

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