light the way
fiber optics for pools, stairs, wet bars & landscaping

By: Thomas M. Ciesla
Originally published in Houston House & Home Magazine; September, 2002. Article has been reformatted for online publishing

More than just a high-tech novelty, fiber optic lighting offers creative solutions to some of your trickiest lighting problems. Also known as remote source lighting, it's possibly one of the safest technologies you can use in your home. It is energy efficient, projects no heat or UV radiation with the light and provides an aesthetic appeal that often can't be achieved through any other means.

Fiber optic lighting contains three components: the light source, or illuminator, a coupler that connects a bundle of fiber optic cables to the light source, and lighting devices at the terminating end of the fiber. The illuminator contains either a metal halide or halogen light bulb, a cooling fan, and if desired a color wheel that can be set to project a specific color or continuously rotate for changing colors. The coupler that anchors the fibers into the illuminator has a fixed diameter allowing for only so many fibers to be attached to the illuminator.

With the light source tucked away in a closet, attic space or storage shed, the fiber cables carry no electricity and deliver no heat. This makes fiber optic lighting an attractive lighting solution in wet areas. As David Atiles, owner of Mirage Lighting, a company that specializes in landscape lighting explains, "Fiber optics works especially well for lighting around swimming pools, spas and waterfalls, because no electricity is brought near the water." The light fibers are available in two styles, end-emitting that produce a point of light at the fiber end, and side-emitting that provide illumination along the entire length of the cable. Side-emitting fibers used along the perimeter of a pool create a heavenly band of light that seems to magically float above the surface of the water. End-emitting fibers are often used to create points of light within waterfalls or even walkways and patios by installing the fiber directly into the concrete.

It's a dazzling effect -- imagine having a star-strewn path or floor under your feet. Add a color wheel and the lights in your sidewalk can glow almost any shade in the spectrum.

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Fiber optic lighting rings the pool and changes the pool color; not the lighting design in the concrete. (photo by Fiberstars)

Stairway lit with fiber optics: tiny fibers within the sidewalk glow so your path is strewn with a constellation of stars. (photo courtesy Lucifer Lighting Company, San Antonio)

A hot tub and pool can be lit with different colors for a dramatic effect. (photo by Fiberstars)

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