Any pool built more than a few years ago is probably equipped with either incandescent or fiberoptic lighting. These pools — and there are millions out there — represent an excellent opportunity for service professionals to build their businesses by installing LED illumination for their customers.
LEDs have several advantages a service tech can use to encourage their customers to upgrade. The first is energy savings. LED pool lights use between 20 and 50 watts per hour. Fiberoptic lights are in the range of 150 to 200 watts, while incandescent lights burn up to 500 watts of energy. Thus, some pool owners can expect enormous cost savings, and depending on usage, the reduction in energy bills can pay for the conversion in a year or two.
“The energy savings are significant,” says Stephanie Jeffers, marketing manager for J&J Electronics in Irvine, Calif. “It’s starting to change people’s mindset. In the past, there was a perception that running a pool light was expensive, but those who have gone with an LED light say, ‘I can afford to use this all evening. It looks nice in the backyard and costs only pennies compared to my incandescent.’ ”
Lower maintenance costs are another way to sell LED conversions. Incandescent lights must be replaced every 2,000 hours and fiberoptic lights last three to seven years before needing replacement. In addition, fiberoptic lights require other components such as motors and color wheels that can require replacement.
“One of the advantages of an LED light is their lifetime is more than 10 times what you’d get out of an incandescent light,” says Greg Fournier, senior product manager for lighting and automation at Elizabeth, N.J.-based Hayward Pool Products. “With an incandescent light, you need to pay to replace that bulb every 2,000 hours. With an LED light it is very likely that it will be in there for 10 years plus.”
Making it easier to upgrade are the profusion of LEDs that will fit in the niche formerly occupied by the old incandescent light. Fusion offers niche covers that will fit any pool or spa. The larger cover is designed for pools and can hold one or two LEDs. A smaller cover is used in spas.
Hayward’s Universal ColorLogic LEDs are UL listed for virtually any niche. “One of the reasons this is so popular is that a servicer doesn’t have to understand which style of niche he might be dealing with, because it works in all of them,” says Kevin Potucek, Hayward vice president for product management.
Simplicity of installation is also one of the virtues of Pentair’s GloBrite lights. “It’s an all-plastic light, so there’s no grounding or bonding required and there’s no niche-cage required,” says David MacCallum, senior global product manager for lights and automation for Pentair Water Pool and Spa in Sanford, N.C. “The other great thing is that GloBrite can work with gunite, fiberglass or vinyl pools.”
But the big appeal of LED lights is their ability to bring new colors to a pool. Pool owners can choose among several colors or, in some cases, can program a light show to match the theme of a party.
“I think people like LEDs because they’re maintenance-free, I think they like them because they’re low energy, but I think when they understand that they can light up their pool with different colors, they’ve got party scenes they can use,” says David Goldman, director of product development at Zodiac Pool Systems in Vista, Calif.
And when a customer changes over to LEDs, the changes aren’t limited to the pool.
“We’re not just thinking of changing that incandescent light,” says Bill McFadyen, president and CEO of Fusion Pool Products in Dallas. “Our platform allows you to add 10 to 15 lights on a 100-watt transformer. So you can add landscaping lights, waterfeature lights or outdoor feature lights.”
Those additions can mean more opportunities for service techs.
“There are 5 million incandescent lights out there that will need replacing. What’s the sense of going in and replacing the light when, for almost the same amount of money, the service tech can add to the customer’s lighting?”
Fiberstars focuses on LED replacements for fiberoptic lights. “We’re the only company that has a small-niche LED light that will go into the wall fitting and replace the fiberoptic cable,” says Steve Gasperson, president of Pleasanton, Calif.,-based Fiberstars. “It will go into a special controller called the ‘Power Tower.’
“Inside it are two built-in 12-volt transformers. A wireless remote comes with this. A service technician can pull out the existing fiberoptic cable and slide in our Fiberstars Treo light. Those are pulled back to where the fiber-optic tower used to be. Put the Power Tower on, wire the lights and hand the customer the remote.”
Fiberoptic replacement is also a priority for Fusion. “The cost to replace a color wheel or any of the parts inside the generator is enormous compared to the cost of LEDs now,” McFadyen says. “You can replace it with an LED light with seven colors and two shows, and it really makes the pool come alive compared to the old fiberoptics.”
Zodiac’s Goldman sees an advantage in allowing the customer to control their backyard LEDs remotely. “One of the reasons we’ve had a lot of success with iAqualink is because it allows you to control the pool with a smart phone or tablet,” he says.
But which came first, the chicken or the egg? “We’ve been selling a lot of colored lights because people are buying iAqualink, they look in the iAqualink brochure, they see that they can change the colors of their lights, and they need to upgrade their lights,” Goldman says.
Almost all LEDs run on 12 volts, with a transformer at the power source. Grant emphasizes the safety inherent in low-voltage illumination. “We’ve always encouraged people to convert their systems to 12-volt, but we offer both high-voltage and low-voltage,” he says. “As far as I know, the only deaths that have occurred in pools from electrical causes have been from high-voltage pool lights.”