Lighting Tips to Elegantly Enhance Your Water Feature


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A water fountain is a magnificent feature of a home, garden, or outdoor space. If it is a distinctive feature on your property, landscape lighting can transform it into a dramatic nighttime focal point.

It's truly magical how the light glimmers and dances with the water.

Water features, like a fountain, are complicated to light since so much more is involved than placing a few fixtures in the water. Over the years of redesigning water fountain lighting, we often see fixtures placed at the bottom of the water, aiming towards the sky, causing unnecessary glare, and not creating the effect the homeowner desires.

To prevent this from happening to you, here are our top tips to elegantly enhance a water fountain or feature with low-voltage landscape lighting:

Consider the Space and Unique Ways to Add Light

In many cases, people light a fountain with strategically placed submersible fixtures. This technique will create shadowing effects and make the water feature visually appealing.

You can also achieve these interesting effects without submersing lights into the water.

At McKay Lighting, we often consider the surrounding space and other ways to light a fountain. For example, if you have a large tree nearby, you could incorporate down lights that shine onto your feature from above. We also include several different lighting techniques in all of our lighting designs. Multiple light sources make the space more intriguing.

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Keep the Attention on the Water Fountain – Not on the Fixtures & Wires

As we mentioned earlier, lighting a water feature, such as a fountain, is difficult. Many fountain designs are meant to be viewed from multiple angles. And you certainly don't want a lighting fixture to block or distract from the beauty of your fountain.

You want the lighting fixtures hidden as much as possible. We recommend installing the wire and fixtures while assembling the fountain. Otherwise, some parts might have to be disassembled and then reassembled to camouflage wires and fixtures.

Know that Water Plays a Major Factor...

The connections, wires, among other fixture components must be properly sealed and watertight. Especially on water features and fountains with fixtures submerged underwater. Water will cause all sorts of problems if the lighting fixtures are not sealed correctly during installation.

Some light output is lost when fixtures are submerged underwater. You will need to factor in extra wattage, depending on the water's depth and clarity. On the fountain above, we installed submersible brass fixtures in each bowl. The lower bowl has higher wattage bulbs than the upper bowls.

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As Well As the Light's Position...

When creating an outdoor lighting design for your water fountain, you want to minimize the glare with proper fixture placement. For example, you wouldn't want to install lights and later discover the light shines directly in your eyes as you walk by, creating a hazard.

The position of the light will determine the mood of the space. It should enhance the feeling of serenity and make the area safer after dusk.

And Lighting Fixture Material

You want to select a lighting fixture that will be able to withstand years of being underwater. There are plenty of submersible fixtures on the market, but we recommend a high-quality material, such as brass or copper. At McKay, we only use underwater products that we've found proven reliable through our 25+ years of experience.

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Tips for Effective Water Fountain Lighting 

In short, analyze the space around your water feature for unique ways to add light, consider where you'll hide the wires and fixtures, and finally, determine how water depth can impact bulb wattage and fixture positioning. High-quality fixtures and expert installation will help ensure the longevity of your water fountain lighting design.

Water fountain lighting is a complicated process. It takes thoughtful planning, and when properly done... the results are magical. See 

For those of you doing it yourself, please be careful when working around water and electricity. If you're hiring a professional, it doesn't hurt to test their knowledge by asking how they plan on lighting your water fountain, what types of fixtures they plan to use, or even how much experience they have with lighting water features.

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Looking to Enhance Your Property?

Our dedicated team at McKay Landscape Lighting works with you to create a custom landscape lighting design that's unique to your property. From design to installation to service, you can count on our team of experts to make sure you are happy with your lighting system for years to come.

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