Lights are an important part of your hot tub setup—they give light for safety when used in the dark and can create an important ambiance that is conducive to ultimate relaxation. When a light burns out, it can be a major inconvenience that leaves most spa owners unsure of how to replace it.
If you’re not intimidated by some light electrical work, it can be rather simple to replace a hot tub light.
Here are a few things you will need to replace a hot tub light:
New light kit
Non-contact electrical tester
Hose or water pump
A buddy to help check your work and make sure you don’t electrocute yourself
A typical spa light is a bulb housed in a stainless steel, conical shaped fixture that is mounted into the wall of a pool or spa in a container referred to as a “niche.” Replacement fixtures are sold with cords from 10-100 feet long. When you make your purchase, you should know the distance from the light niche to the junction box to determine what you need. A good rule of thumb is to buy the next longer length than you think is necessary. It’s always better to have more wire than not enough of it.
Fixtures and bulbs are generally available in 120 or 240 volts. The 120 volt option is most common for residential use.
An LED or halogen bulb will also give you the most light from a low-wattage bulb and won’t get nearly as hot as your standard light bulb. They are more expensive but save energy and need to be replaced less frequently.
The first step to fixing a light is to turn off all the power to the hot tub at the breaker. You don’t want any electricity running to the light, especially because you’ll be cutting wires during the process—sure to turn ugly if you have your feet in water and a live wire in your hands.
Find the junction box. Inside it, three wires come into the box from the breaker or switch and three go out. The three to the light fixture will be individually insulated, colored white, black, and green. They’ll be bound together with a single rubber sheath that waterproofs it all. This is the cord of the light fixture. Disconnect the three wires and unscrew the cord clamp.
The next step is to test your new light and see if it’s damaged. If you submerge it underwater (up to the wire connection) and watch for it to bubble, then you’ll know it’s been damaged. If not, then, then you’re good to install it. Make sure you dry it off completely before proceeding to the next step.
Drain the water from your hot tub. If your hot tub has a simple plug/drain release, do it that way. If not, either use a water pump (faster option) or use a garden hose to act as a siphon. Drain ALL the water from the hot tub. It’s not enough to just get the water line below the light fixture. You want it to be out of the tub completely for safety’s sake.
In the junction box, take your screwdriver and loosen the mounting screws that hold the light switch cover plate in place and take the cover off. Remove the mounting screws and pull the switch out of the outlet box. Get your non-contact electrical tester and use it to test the switch wires—if the tester lights up, turn off the circuit breaks or the main power breaker to the house until you are showing no power to the switch.
Now work on the actual light. Loosen the mounting screws on the flange surrounding the light and pull the light out of the niche in the hot tub. Cut the wires to the light close to the socket with your wire cutters and set aside.
Take out the new light kit, overlapping approximately six inches of the end of the new wires with the cut end of the wires coming through the light mounting hole and wrap electrical tape over the wires and connect to them together.
Pull the new wire through the conduit by pulling the wires connected to the switch through the switch box until the new wire appears in it. Remove the tape and separate the new and old wires.
Position the new light with the gasket over the mounting hole. Gather the extra wire and tuck it into the niche, then position the new light into it and attach it with the mounting screws.
Strip ½ inch off of the ends of each wire you pulled through into the switch box. Loosen the terminal screw with your screwdriver and connect the black wire to the bottom of the switch and the new black wire to the terminal. Tighten the screw to secure the wire to the switch.
Loosen the wire nut connecting the white wires inside the switch box and replace the old white wire with the new one coming from the replacement light. Put a new wire nut over the connection to secure the wires.
Tuck the wiring back into the switch box, remount the switch and then the plate.
The moment of truth! Turn the power back on to the hot tub and test the light with the switch. If the test is successful, fill it up with water. If not, you may need to disconnect to see what you’ve done wrong. Or have your buddy help you troubleshoot the problem.
Warning—don’t try and work on the electrical circuit without turning off the breaker and confirming that the power is off with a non-contact electrical tester. Also, do not install any hot tub light that is not completely factory-sealed. If any piece of equipment seems suspect, replace it. It’s not worth using something that may be compromised.