Recommendations from the pros.
Your guide to all major brands and models on the Canadian market in the above ground pool lighting space.
With over 10 years of first-hand installation experience, we have tried every major brand and model available to the Canadian pool market. Every brand has its pros and cons, but we feel there is a clear winner that we routinely use on our pool installations to this day.
The Hayward Elite is one of the most popular lights on the above ground pool market. It is typically used on new installations, and sold by pool dealers that primarily use Hayward products. Although this light is not LED, it is still fairly bright. The Elite must be cut into the pool wall using the hole saw included in the box. Cutting this hole into your pool wall opens up a lot of possibilities for leaking, rusting, and other forms of early failure. Personally, we have seen many older pools that have had this light since day 1 experience rusting and leaking issues that can lead to early wall failure if not addressed. Although the light is bright, it is not a multicoloured bulb, and therefore when the pool owner wishes to change colours, they must use the coloured lens caps. This limits the range and intensity of the colours available to this light. However, this light is very easy to winterize. It is powered by 12v low voltage bulbs that steps to 120v at the transformer.
(+) Bright light
(+) Easy to winterize
(-) Not easy to retrofit on existing pool
(-) Cutting a hole in the wall can lead to rusting and leaking issues
(-) Non-coloured bulb that is not LED
Unlike the Hayward Elite, the Pentair Aqualuminator does not require an additional hole to be cut into the pool wall, but instead will replace your standard jet return fitting. This makes the Aqualuminator fairly easy to install on all pools, both new and existing. The Aqualuminator doubles as both your jet return and lighting feature. The Aqualuminator will not cause rusting in the same way the Hayward Elite can, due to the fact that it utilizes the existing jet hole that has been cut in and sealed by the factory. The Aqualuminator can reduce the power of your circulation as the Aqualuminator has wide fins that disperse the water over a wider area. This reduces the power of the jet as the water is being aimed at one centralized point while being forced through a small bottleneck. Like the Elite, the Aqualuminator is also a "white" bulb, that is not LED. The Aqualuminator includes red, green, and blue coloured lens caps. The light is decently bright. Winterization is not overly difficult but specialty expansion plugs should be used for best effect. The Aqualuminator is powered by a 12v low voltage bulb that steps to 120v at the transformer.
(+) Easy to retrofit, doesn't cause rusting
(+) Decent Brightness
(-) Decrease in water circulation
(-) Non-coloured bulb that is not LED
Faceplate lighting is often sold mainly by online pool retailers or as an aftermarket accessory in your local pool store. Although faceplate lighting can seem like an inexpensive, entry level option into pool lighting, it does have a few draw backs. We find that the skimmer faceplates do not fit well with certain brands of skimmer. If you are using an Olympic or Champlain Plastics skimmer, they tend to fit well, but Hayward brand skimmers not so much. Whether this is due to poor build quality or lack of foresight, we have seen skimmer faceplates that either won't clip on, or don't snug up quite enough and fall with water or wind turbulence. Skimmer faceplate lighting has an LED bulb, with plenty of multicoloured options. They can definitely shine adequate light on smaller pools, but aren't as bright as other LED options such as the Carvin Starbright. The installation of the faceplate light is just about as easy as it gets, provided your skimmer matches correctly. Olympic and Champlain brand skimmers often come with a pre-cut hole at the top of the skimmer that allows the installer to run the light cord through without any modification. Hayward skimmer would need a hole drilled manually, which can void Hayward warranty. We feel this option best suits DIY pool owners looking for the simplest solution with the least amount of work to retrofit. The faceplate light is powered by a 12v low voltage bulb that steps to 120v at the transformer.
(+) Multicoloured options, LED bulb
(+) Easy installation (provided correct skimmer brand is in place)
(-) Doesn't fit with all skimmers contrary to marketing, possibly due to low build quality. May need to drill a hole in your skimmer for the power cable.
(-) Not as bright as other options
Magnetic Puck Lights
Magnetic puck lights offer the lowest barrier to entry of any pool lighting on the above ground market. Magnetic puck lights are battery powered, and stick to the inside of your pool wall using their magnets. The lights are powered by a remote, and come with a variety of colour options. Although they are very cheap and easy to move around, they are notorious for quickly draining their batteries or failing prematurely due to faulty watertight seal. For an above ground pool owner that is looking for a cheap, temporary solution, magnetic puck lights could fit the bill. Keep in mind, the larger the pool, the more lights that are required.
(+) Cheapest option on the market, easiest install
(+) Multicoloured options, LED bulb
(-) Battery powered, requires constant changing which can lead to leaks
(-) nowhere as bright as any other option
(-) Low quality, tend to last only a few seasons at best.
(-) Best used as temporary or interim lighting option
The Carvin Starbright is a jet and light combo, similar to Pentair's Aqualuminator. The Starbright will replace a standard jet fitting, acting as both the jet for the water being pumped back into the pool, as well as the light. This eliminates any possible rusting as it will utilize the existing jet hole and not require a separate hole to be drilled into the wall. The Starbright has smaller jet fins that do not disperse the flow of the water as much as the Aqualuminator, making it much better at maintaining proper circulation. The fins can also be adjusted in order to aim your jet to the desired angle. The Carvin Starbright uses a multicoloured LED bulb, identical to the bulbs used in their inground pool lights. This makes the Starbright the brightest option amongst all the lights on this list. The Starbright can be controlled by a remote, allowing the user to control the colour, brightness, and cycles of the light. The Starbright is not the most expensive of all the options listed, nor is it the cheapest. For a price point that falls in the middle of the pack, it delivers the best bang for your buck in our opinion. It is easy to retrofit into existing and new pools alike, and the quick disconnecting union built into the plumbing side makes winterizing a breeze. The Starbright is powered by a 12v low voltage bulb that steps to 120v at the transformer.
(+) Brightest light on the above ground pool market, using inground pool light bulb
(+) Easy to retrofit on new and existing pools, doesn't cause rusting
(+) LED light with wide range of colours, light shows, and brightness levels
(-) Not the cheapest, but not the most expensive
Conclusion - Our Pick
With all of the information available on pool lighting options in the Canadian market in mind, we feel the clear choice is the Carvin Starbright. The is the only pool light we trust on both our new pool installations and service call retrofits. The multicoloured LED with remote controlled options has been very well received by our customers, and the jet light design ensures we are warranty compliant with our pool wall manufacturers. The price point is perfect for the quality of the product, and is an affordable option for pool owners both new and old. The Starbright is easy to winterize, and Carvin stocks all components should a replacement part ever be needed.
Feel free to view a video of the Carvin Starbright in action below!