How To Change A Pool Light Without Draining The Water

Have you noticed that your pool light seems a little dim lately? Or maybe it’s stopped working altogether? A burned-out bulb is likely the culprit. But before you go draining your whole pool just to change that bulb, hold up!

Replacing a pool light bulb is actually a pretty straightforward job that you can totally handle yourself in just an hour or two, without draining a drop of water. All it takes is a little know-how, a few basic tools, and a dash of caution since you’ll be dealing with electricity near water.

In this handy guide, I’ll walk you through the full process step-by-step so you can get your pool light looking bright and beautiful again in no time. Let’s dive in!

Turn Off Electricity to Pool Light

Safety first! Anytime you’re working on electrical equipment near water, it’s crucial to cut the power so you don’t risk getting zapped.

Here’s how to make sure the juice is off:

Locate Your Electrical Panel

  • The circuit breakers that control power to your pool equipment are usually located in the main breaker box on the outside of your house.
  • But in some cases, pools have a secondary sub-panel just for the pool gear. Check around pool area just in case.

Identify the Breaker for the Pool Light

  • Inside the breaker box, look for a switch labeled “Pool Light” or something similar.
  • If it’s not obvious, flip switches one-by-one until pool light turns off.

Flip the Breaker to “Off”

  • Double-check that you’ve got the right breaker by flipping it all the way off.
  • The pool light should go dark if you’ve got the correct one.

Verify Power is Off

  • Grab a handheld non-contact voltage tester and touch it to light switch and fixture to confirm dead.
  • If it still beeps or lights up, keep hunting for the right breaker.
  • Remember, it’s wet work so better safe than sorry!

Once you’ve confirmed the power is totally off, you’re ready to move onto removing the light itself.

Remove Light Fixture from Niche

The underwater fixture that houses the bulb and lens is mounted inside a recess in the pool wall called a “niche.” Here’s how to extract it:

Find the Screwlock

  • Reach your hand into the pool and feel around the top of the light fixture.
  • There should be a large screw called the “screw lock” that holds it in place.

Unscrew the Screw lock

  • Use a Phillips head screwdriver to loosen and remove the screw lock.
  • Set it aside someplace safe like a shirt pocket so it doesn’t get lost.

Pry Out the Fixture

  • Wedge a flathead screwdriver into the bottom of the fixture and gently pry it away from the niche.
  • It should pop out fairly easily if you work it from side to side.

Pull Fixture Onto Deck

  • Draw the fixture out of the niche by the power cord.
  • There should be plenty of slack cord to lay it on the pool deck.

Unravel the Cord

  • If the cord won’t pull out, reach into the niche and give it a few sharp tugs.
  • This will release more cord so you can remove the whole fixture.

With the light freed from its aquatic abode, you’re ready to swap out the bulb.

Open and Disassemble Light Fixture

Most light fixtures come apart in two stages – removing the lens cover, then accessing the bulb itself.

Remove the Lens Cover

  • Place fixture on a towel to avoid scratches.
  • Unscrew any perimeter screws or pry out press-fit tabs.
  • Remove the lens cover and gasket.

Disassemble the Housing

  • Take out any screws fastening the housing to the outer frame.
  • Carefully remove housing and set parts aside.

Clean and Inspect

  • Use a dry towel to wipe down inside of fixture and parts.
  • Look for cracks or corrosion and replace damaged components if needed.

Now the bulb is ready for its extraction.

Remove Old Light Bulb

Out with the old, in with the new. Just a few simple steps to swap bulbs:

Grip with Towel

  • Always handle halogen bulbs with a towel to avoid oils from fingers which can lead to early burnout.

Unscrew Old Bulb

  • Grasp base of bulb through towel and turn counterclockwise to unthread it from socket.

Remove and Wipe Down

  • Lift out old bulb and dispose properly.
  • Give the empty socket a wipe down with dry towel.

Install New Light Bulb

Here’s how to safely get that new energy-efficient LED or long-lasting halogen bulb sealed into place:

Avoid Direct Contact

  • As mentioned before, grasp new bulb through a towel.
  • Never touch with bare hands!

Thread in New Bulb

  • Place bulb end into socket and turn clockwise to tighten.
  • Don’t over crank it! Just snug is fine.

Test Fit

  • If it feels loose, give it an extra quarter turn so it makes firm contact.
  • You’ll test it powered later, but shake to check snugness now.

With the new bulb nested in its socket, we can now reseal the fixture.

Reassemble and Close Light Fixture

Retrace your steps from disassembly to put the light back together:

Replace Any Corroded Screws

  • Use new stainless steel screws if existing ones are very corroded.

Check Gasket for Damage

  • Look for cracks, tears, and compression marks in the rubber gasket.
  • Replace if deterioration prevents a good seal.

Position Gasket and Lens

  • Place gasket around perimeter of lens.
  • Set lens over bulb and align any screw holes.

Reattach Cover

  • For screw-on models, tighten down cover.
  • For press-fit tabs, push firmly until tabs snap into place.

Ensure Proper Seal

  • Double check that gasket forms a complete seal between lens and housing.
  • This keeps water out!

Now we can give it a test run before putting back underwater.

Test New Bulb Briefly

Here’s how to verify your handiwork before you finalize the installation:

Restore Power at Breaker

  • Return to electrical panel and flip pool light breaker back to “On” position.

Verify Operation

  • Turn on pool light switch to check if new bulb illuminates.
  • If not, recheck wiring and fit.

Immediately Cut Power

  • As soon as you confirm operation, turn breaker back Off.
  • Don’t leave on more than 5 seconds!

Any longer without water cooling could overload the new bulb and cause it to fail prematurely. But if the test was successful, it’s ready for immersion!

Reinstall Light Fixture in Niche

Almost there! Let’s get this thing back on the pool wall:

Wind Up Excess Cord

  • To avoid pinching wires, wrap cord around fixture 3-4 turns.

Insert into Niche

  • Holding by cord, guide fixture back into opening.
  • Take care not to bump or scratch lens.

Check for Leaks

  • Slowly submerge and look for bubbles indicating a leak.
  • If found, double check gasket seal and repeat.

Secure with Screw lock

  • Once water-tight, thread screw lock into top of fixture and tighten.
  • Hand tight is plenty; don’t overdo it.

Last step – send energized water through those wires!

Restore Power and Confirm

Here’s the moment of truth to see your handiwork illuminated:

Flip Breaker Back On

  • Return to electrical panel one last time and flip breaker to “On”

Verify Light Operation

  • Turn on pool light switch and admire your bright upgrade!

Make a Final Leak Check

  • Walk around pool and look for any stray bubbles coming from light fixture area.
  • If noticed, there may still be a leak in the seal so repeat gasket steps.

Enjoy Your Bright Pool!

  • Once no leaks are observed, go relax poolside with your favorite beverage and take a swim after sunset.
  • You’ve earned it after successfully upgrading your pool lighting!


Changing a pool light bulb without draining is totally doable with some careful preparation and by following safe electrical practices.

The most important thing is to keep safety top of mind when working around water and electricity. So be sure power is OFF and confirmed dead before touching any fixtures. And don’t cut corners on resealing the light to prevent leaks and corrosion.

A little scheduled maintenance like this to replace wear items like bulbs, gaskets, and screws can significantly extend the service life of your pool’s lighting system. So take a day once a season to show your underwater lights some love!