Colour Changing LED Pool Lights: The Definitive Guide

colour changing pool light

Nowadays, LEDs with colour-changing functions are common.

In domestic lighting, people widely use warm white, natural white, and pure white LEDs in most scenarios.

In swimming pools, water features, and amusement parks, the colour-changing effect of the light is very important. Outdoor entertainment scenes are the main application scenarios for colour-changing LEDs.

What are colour-changing LED pool lights?

The colour-changing LEDs have individual red, blue and green LED chips inside. Light controller changes the colour, brightness and speed of change of the light emitted by the colour-changing LEDs to produce rich lighting effects.

Some sellers will mention “colourful”, “multicolour” “RGB”, and “RGBW” in the title, description or specifications of their colour-changing pool lights. Actually, they all belong to colour-changing LED pool lights.

The colour-changing principle of LED lights

Three primary colours of light

Most of the light emitted by LED lamps is a mixture of the three primary colours of light R (red), G (green) and B (blue) to create a new light colour. Mixing the three primary colours of light can produce a very wide range of colours.

The RGB colour system uses three sets of values to distinguish each of the light colours. These three sets of values represent the luminous intensity of red, green and blue from left to right. Each primary colour has a luminosity range from 0 to 255, with a total of 256 values. 0 means no light is emitted, and 255 means the brightest light is emitted.

Changing the luminance of each of the three primary colours produces a new light colour. In this calculation, 256 × 256 × 256 = 16777216, a total of over 16 million light colours. Below are the three most basic colour mixing schemes :

  • Red (255, 0, 0) + Green (0, 255, 0) = Yellow (255, 255, 0)
  • Red (255,0,0) + Blue (0,0,255) = Magenta (255,0,255)
  • Green (0, 255, 0) + Blue (0, 0, 255) = Cyan (0, 255, 255)
  • Red (255, 0, 0) + Green (0, 255, 0) + Blue (0, 0, 255) = White (255, 255, 255)
RGB colour change principle

Colour change principle of LED chips

A number of LED chips make up the light emitting part of an LED light. When energized, they produce the photons that are emitted outwards – the light that we see being emitted. Colour-changing LED lights require three types of chips – red, green, and blue. That’s why the total number of chips in RGB LED lamps with SMD chips is a multiple of three.

colour changing pool light

This is an LED pool light that uses SMD chips. These LED chips are arranged on an aluminium substrate according to certain rules. The brightness of the LED chips changes when the red, green and blue types of chips receive different voltages. As a result, after the three LED chips have changed and mixed, the overall colour of the light will change. This is often referred to as the colour change of the light.

pool light

This pool light uses COB chips. The single chip is large and contains red, blue and green light chips. There is also a lens for adjusting the beam angle of the light.

The difference between RGB lights and RGBW lights

RGB and RGBW are the most popular types of colour-changing lighting today. Many luminaire manufacturers label their products as RGB or RGBW to indicate support for color-changing. Mixing the three primary colors achieves color-changing LEDs.

RGB and RGBW luminaires differ in the following ways :

White light

The white light produced by RGBW lamps(SMD chips) is not a mixture of red, green, and blue light, but an additional white light chip for a purer colour. If you have higher requirements for white light, RGBW lamps are the recommended choice.


Using the underwater pool lights and pool light bulbs generated by WAKING Lighting as an example :

Our regular DC pool lights use 4 wires for RGB functionality and 5 wires for RGBW functionality. Three negative wires are used for the red, green, and blue chips, and the other is the positive wire. Pool lights from other manufacturers may have slightly different wires than ours.

DC Pool Light Bulb

This is a DC-powered RGBW PAR56 bulb that has 5 wires

Our regular AC pool lights have 2-3 wires (steel housed lights have one more ground wire than plastic housed lights).

If the pool lights use a DMX512 control system, they are wired differently than regular AC or DC pool lights. These fixtures require additional signal wires to connect to the DMX512 control system, so they come with one set of power wires (AC or DC) and one set of signal wires.

How many light-emitting colours can be achieved with LED RGB luminaires?

As mentioned above, LED lamps use different voltages to control the brightness of the three primary colour chips. In theory, LEDs can produce almost any colour in the RGB colour system.

However, the lighting control system, manufacturing cost, practicality and other factors limit the actual light colours that LED lamps can produce in the manufacturing process. The controller system determines the actual colours that colour-changing LED luminaires can achieve.

Control system for colour-changing LED pool lights

Next I will describe a few common colour-changing LED light controllers that have outstanding advantages and disadvantages.

Single remote control

The principle of this control method is to send a fixed frequency RF signal to the pool light through a remote control, and the control module inside the pool light receives the signal and adjusts to the corresponding mode according to the signal command.

LED light single remote control


The single remote control is simple in construction, easy to operate and inexpensive.


When used to control multiple lights, the reception and processing of each light signal is difficult to keep consistent, and the lighting effect is easily out of sync.

External controller

One typically uses an external controller to control a pool light with 12V/24 RGB DC power. Control commands are sent to the light via the controller’s built-in program to change the lighting effect. Different external controllers have different programs, and how the pool light changes depend entirely on the external controller.

LED light external controller


Suitable for all types of small or medium-sized pools.

External controller is more common, generally used to control LED RGB strip lights, but also for any manufacturer of 12V/24V DC RGB pool lights, external controllers generally have DIY mode function, you can set your favorite color change program.

In addition to remote controls and control panels, you can also control pool lighting via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth using applications downloaded to your phone.


12V/24V DC RGB pool lights must rely on an external controller. Without it, the pool light cannot change color.

Wiring wiring is slightly more elaborate.

Internal controller

The internal controller controls the luminous effect of the light by sending a signal corresponding to the control chip inside the light to achieve synchronous control, generally used for 12V/24V AC RGB pool lights.

LED light Internal controller


Suitable for all small and medium-sized pools.

Wiring is simpler than with external controllers.

Even without the internal controller, users can switch the built-in mode via the power switch. For 12V/24V AC RGB, the role of the internal controller is mainly to facilitate remote control by users.

In addition to remote controls and control panels, you can control pool lights via Wifi or Bluetooth using an application downloaded from your phone.


Only available for AC pool lights.

Generally, each manufacturer’s pool lights have their own fixed built-in program. So the internal controller is only applicable to the original manufacturer’s AC 12V/24V RGB pool lights and cannot be used across brands.


DMX512 is an international common control system, it is suitable for many lighting scenes. Almost all underwater luminaire manufacturers produce products that support DMX512 control. It should be noted that if a DMX512 control system is used, the fixture’s power cable will be slightly different from the original control system. DMX512 uses one set of power cables, and one set of data cables to control lights (either AC or DC pool lights).

DMX512 control


The DMX512 controller uses a common standard and is highly compatible with different manufacturers and models of products.

The DMX512 control system allows you to set individual numbering and control commands for each sub-device in the lighting system. You can even set the RGB values for each lighting device precisely. Most water fountain shows use a DMX512 control system.


The DMX512 was developed in 1986, and although it has been improved since then, it still relies on pre-programmed commands or traditional consoles and remote controls. It is cumbersome to use.

The fixture requires more wiring to support DMX512 control, which can complicate the internal structure of the fixture and increase the cost of manufacturing and purchasing the fixture. Most residential pools and water features do not require such powerful and complex lighting control effects.

How to choose?

For the average user I would recommend buying colour changing LED luminaires and asking the supplier to recommend the right controller for your application scenario.

For many large or complex lighting projects, DMX512 is a must. The versatility of the DMX512 will also protect your project if you need to switch to a new lighting product supplier for price or quality reasons.

WAKING Lighting is a professional manufacturer of colour changing LED underwater lights. If you would like more information on colour changing lights or have questions you would like answered, please feel free to contact us.

Are you looking for a professional underwater light supplier? Contact us now!

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