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What to do When Your Swimming Pool Lights Don't Work

You May Be Able To Repair Your Own Pool Lights, But If In Doubt, Contact A Pro!


Senior woman wearing bikini standing in swimming pool, underwater view
Zac Macaulay/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Do I have to drain the swim pool to fix my light? You shouldn't need to empty the swim pool.

Be very careful when working with electricity and water. Make sure to follow every possible safety precaution and to turn off the power at the main circuit breaker, and mark it to be left off while you are working.

The first thing you will need to do is to make sure that the circuit breaker is not tripped. If the circuit breaker is tripped, turn off the light to the pool and try turning on the circuit breaker. If it trips immediately, you have a short circuit, in which case you need to get an electrician to correct this problem. If the circuit breaker is not tripped, you can now proceed to check the GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter).

You can think of a GFCI as a circuit breaker that is much more sensitive than your standard 15/20 amp breaker in an electrical panel. It is designed to trip when it detects a very small current going to ground. If you don't understand this, just know that it is designed to prevent electric shock to swimmers from your pool lights.

The GFCI could be found in several locations. It is easiest to locate by the test button that is part of it. The most likely locations for the GFCI are:

  • your main panel box for your house
  • a subpanel box at your pool filter system
  • an electrical outlet near the pool

Once you have found the GFCI, check to see if it has been tripped. With the pool light switch still off, push the test button. If it "pops," you know that there is power to this point and that it was on. If it doesn't "pop," try pushing in the reset button and see if it holds. If it doesn't hold or immediately trips, you will need to call an electrician to track down the problem and correct it. If it does hold, try turning on your pool lights. Note: At this point your light may come back on. This can be due to a small amount of water being inside your light fixture which the light may heat up and vaporize. This can then cause the GFCI to trip. GFCIs are also known to trip from extreme humidity. Be sure that the outlets that may be on the same GFCI circuit are covered to help prevent this.

If, after turning on the pool light switch, the GFCI trips, the most likely cause is water inside your light fixture. If the GFCI doesn't trip and the light is off, you probably have a burned-out bulb. In either case, you must now proceed to pulling your light fixture out of the pool...

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