The comparison between 12V Pool Light and 120V Pool Light

12V Pool Light vs 120V Pool Light

Both 12V and 120V pool lights are very popular in North America. This article will explain the differences between these two types of pool light to help you choose the best lighting solution. At present, LEDs are the absolute dominant force in pool lighting, so this article will use 12V LED pool lights and 120V LED pool lights for comparison.

120V Pool Light

120V Pool Light

120V pool light is more common in North American countries where household electricity (e.g. the USA, Canada) is 120V. You can connect 120V pool lights directly to the home’s electrical system in these areas without needing an additional transformer.

Shown here is the Pentair IntelliBrite, which is available in 120V and 12V options.

12V Pool Light

12V Pool Light

Following the development of low-voltage LEDs, 12V pool lights have become increasingly popular in residential pools. Although an external transformer is required, the safety benefits more than makeup for it.

Shown here are Pentair IntelliBrite replacements, available in 12V and 24V.

Feature Comparison

With the table below, you can easily understand the main differences between the two products by comparing them.

Feature12V Pool Light120V Pool Light
SafetyLow voltage, often considered saferSafe, but needs to be properly installed and guarded
Energy-savingPool lights of the same wattage consume the same amount of electricity
Purchase costNeed to buy an additional transformerExpensive than 12V pool light but no transformer needed
Service lifeNo difference
Market trendsGrowing popularityOnce a mainstream choice, it still holds a share today
Whether affected by pressure dropYesNo
Restrictions on useNoYes

This is followed by a detailed description of these differences, including how they differ in terms of design and application.

Differences between 12V and 120V Pool Light

Transmission Loss

The energy consumption of a 12V pool light is the same as that of a 120V light, but when you consider the energy consumption of the entire lighting system, the 12V lighting system uses more energy. What is the difference? The answer is that there is more transmission loss due to voltage drop in the wire system.

In an energized circuit, the current is transmitted from point A to point B, resulting in a voltage loss. The voltage drop refers to the potential difference in the circuit. The voltage at point A is 12V and the voltage at point B is 11.2V. This process has a voltage drop of 0.8V. The voltage drop in the circuit reduces its power and efficiency. In the case of swimming pool lighting, this is manifested as a decrease in light brightness.

When the current increases, the voltage decreases, and the circuit is too long, it will cause the voltage drop to become more influential. Under the same power, the current of a 12V pool light is 10 times higher than that of a 120V pool light, which is more affected by the voltage drop.

Therefore, there is no doubt that using 120V pool lighting in a large pool project will greatly reduce transmission losses. However, the importance of safety is far more important than saving this amount of electricity. Today, low voltage lighting is becoming the norm for both domestic and public pool lighting.

Pool and water feature lighting often use not only the most common 12 V voltage, but also 24 V voltage. In the blog Does 12V Voltage Suitable for All LED Underwater Lights? a detailed comparison of the characteristics and application areas of 12V and 24V low voltage pool lights is presented.


This is the main reason why 12V pool lights are more popular than 120V pool lights. 12V is a safe voltage to minimize the effects of an electric shock on the human body in the event of a leakage incident in the field.

The safe voltage limit for human exposure is a complex issue, heavily influenced by the environment and individual circumstances. It is now generally accepted that healthy adults should not be exposed to more than 50V (AC) for prolonged periods of time, otherwise, it can be life-threatening.

Properly wired 120V lighting systems equipped with GFCI circuit breakers and grounding wires are also very safe. However, a small number of electrocutions can still occur, often due to wiring irregularities or accidents during installation or maintenance. 12V lighting systems can protect us from the risk of electrocution from these accidents.

Some UL-listed 12V pool lights are constructed with all plastic housings (including recesses) and are completely sealed. These pool lights no longer require bonding or grounding to be sold in North America and are considered safe by UL.

Initial Cost

Considering only the cost of the light, 12V pool lights are often cheaper than 120V pool lights of the same size. However, 12V pool lights require an additional transformer in the lighting system, which can add to the initial cost. All in all, the total purchase cost of a 12V pool light will be more expensive than a 120V pool light.

You may already have an old transformer that you would like to wire into your new pool lighting system. To avoid overloading, it’s best to use a transformer rated for 130% of the total wattage of the lighting system. You can consult your pool lighting supplier before doing this and they will help you to assess whether this is feasible.


In some areas of the United States, local codes require the use of 12V lamps, while other areas have no restrictions and can use 120V lamps. Please check your local code requirements before purchasing.

Design Differences

LEDs, being a low-voltage lighting product, cannot be used directly in high-voltage environments such as 120V. However, all 120V LED pool lights incorporate a small voltage converter within the light body. It allowing them to connect directly to a 120V circuit.

12V LED pool lights require an additional transformer in the circuit to reduce the voltage before feeding into the pool light.

How Do I Replace My 120V Pool Light With a 12V?

The ideal installation and usage can be achieved using a small amount of expense. This requires you to have some experience with electrical operations and to have a compliant transformer on hand. It’s a good idea to find low-voltage LED replacements for 120V pool light, which can greatly reduce the expense. For a step-by-step guide to replacing your pool light, we recommend you read How To Change A Pool Light?


We believe you have learned the difference between 120V pool lights and 12V pool lights in detail from the above. For home users, we recommend considering 12V pool lights, which are safer. If you have to choose 120V pool lights due to a huge project or other reasons, please follow the safety regulations when installing them.

WAKING Lighting is a professional low-voltage LED pool lights manufacturer, we produce good quality and affordable 12V/24V pool lights. If you need lighting products or have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

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

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