Not so many years ago the options for lighting a swimming pool after the sun set were limited; many people relied on the moon, Tiki torches or plain old incandescent lights. Much has changed as lighting technology has evolved. The choices today are almost endless, and homeowners are expecting builders and retailers to know and understand all the options available in the marketplace.

According to industry manufacturers, one-touch automation systems, are one rising trend. These easy-to-use systems can control a majority of pool operations, including color-changing lights. By explaining the technology to homeowners, builders and retailers show they not only follow industry trends, but also take the time to understand them.

Another trend growing in popularity is the star ceiling, as it's a relatively inexpensive way for builders and retailers to create a high-end pool setting.

Following these growing trends and offering suggestions to clients you work with will lead to more customers — and once they see the results, they'll be back again.

Read on to familiarize yourself with some of the leading lighting trends in the industry. Your customers will thank you.

Pool owners today want an upscale backyard complete with all the amenities, but they don't want to spend a lot of energy and time operating it.

Pentair Pool Products' IntelliTouch automated control system offers homeowners the ability to control their backyard lighting and other equipment with a touch screen. The Sanford, N.C., company says the IntelliTouch system makes it simple for homeowners to manage equipment operation, whether on pools, pool and spa combinations, pools with separate spas, or water features and landscape lighting.

According to Kevin Potucek, vice president and general manager of lighting and automation for Pentair, IntelliTouch's automation is controlled by a special screen, which offers a menu of different lighting options homeowners can operate. Lighting options include an autocolor roll throughout the yard, or color synchronization of the entire pool environment. Pre-programmed color combinations, such as red, white and blue for the 4th of July, are also available within the program.

"It really gives you a chance to set the theme for your backyard," Potucek says.

Fiberstars, based in Fremont, Calif., is also introducing a system designed to achieve dramatic pool lighting through a simple, easy-to-use automation system.

Mark Masterman, general manager of Fiberstars' pool and spa division, says the company has come up with a major breakthrough in fiber-optic lighting with its Constant Color System, a feature that will be standard on all 2004 illuminator boxes, which is the light source for the fiberoptic lighting system. The system allows up to 600 individual fibers to change colors at the same time while colors blend in the rotating color wheel, allowing for new and unique lighting options.

"What Constant Color really provides is that visual impact on all the fibers, no matter how many you have — up to 600 — changing all at the same time within lighted water features, in-floor star ceilings, the main pool lights — whatever is on that illuminator," Masterman says.

Hayward Pool Products, Elizabeth, N.J., is introducing its own colorchanging light, called ColorLogic, which combines a microprocessor with LEDs to deliver high-intensity light with an extensive selection of colors.

"Consumers want the opportunity to either highlight some architecture or to highlight some landscape or to highlight the social setting they're trying to create," says Paul Canavan, product manager for Hayward's lighting and light goods.

The ColorLogic controller includes five fixed colors and seven colorchanging shows featuring different themes, such as Twilight (1,536 colors changing to create a relaxing atmosphere) and Gemstone (blue, green and magenta). According to Canavan, ColorLogic is user-friendly and has no moving parts.

"The real take-away message is the color-changing technology, and that it is the most rapidly growing segment of the lighting business," Canavan says. "People are really excited about colored lighting in general, so that segment has really taken off in the past year or two. People are really, really interested."

Starry, Starry Night

Homeowners today want unique and personal decorations for their backyards that re.ect their tastes and personalities. Just as programmable controls and color-changing lights have grown in popularity in the past several years, so have "star ceilings" for the bottom of residential swimming pools.

Because of its price tag, in the past not many builders took the time to master the star ceiling technique, which consists of applying fiber pieces in various designs to the bottom of a concrete or gunite pool floor. This could eliminate some builders from a number of potential customers.

However, Super Vision International, Orlando, Fla., may very well re-introduce some builders to this p art of the high-end market with its package of free-form fiber optics for use in star ceilings. With this package, a builder will only need to integrate the fiber into the plaster or concrete bottom of the pool so that the fiber is secure.

Richard Heiner, marketing director for the company, says that the kit includes individual points of fiber, allowing the builder (or homeowner) to use some of his or her own creativity when mapping the scene.

"There's a big push for doing lighting at the bottom of pools now," Heiner says.

Masterman says Fiberstars is also introducing a constellation package for 2004. The pre-made kit uses forms of star constellations for the bottom of the pool, making it easier for a gunite pool builder to incorporate small amounts of fiber into a .oor or to add multiple kits and create a large visual effect. The kits include finished mats of fiber and stars that are designed to lie on the floor of a gunite pool, and then be plastered over.

"We're taking custom jobs and creating forms out of them," he says. This will make it helpful for those builders who have never created a star ceiling before to present their client with a well-done, high-end project.

Color-changing systems, automation products and star ceilings are just a few products that the lighting industry offers — there are many, many more options for both the homeowner and the builder to research and apply in and around pool areas.

These lighting innovations have made it possible for homeowners to enjoy their outdoor setting just as much after dark as during the day; and builders installing the systems can enjoy the extra high-end clients their work will attract.

Decking Delight

It's as easy to install this lighting as it is to enjoy its effects.

Patio and deck lighting can create a sophisticated and dramatic background for any homeowner. This fiber-optic design from Super Vision International, Orlando, Fla., took just one day for builders to install, yet will provide enjoyment for years to come. Installation requires just a few basic skills and a little planning.

Here a builder sets Super Vision International fiber-optic light sticks before pouring a concrete deck.

The fiber is then inserted through a "T" connector for the light stick.

The fiber is inserted into the light stick.

The light sticks, which now hold fiber pieces, are then set into the already constructed step forms.

Builders then finish the concrete deck, carefully paving around the light sticks.

The finished project is a beautiful deck featuring small dots of light in concrete.