Lights don’t just improve your dock’s visual appeal — they’re also a necessary safety feature. Illuminating the water’s edge at night prevents boats from bumping into your dock and people from falling off of it.
So what’s the best way to light up a dock? You can get a lot more creative than you might think. But before we get into dock lighting ideas, it’s important to know the types of power you can choose from and the unique pros and cons of each.
Solar vs. Wired
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Should you go the eco-friendly route and use solar-powered lights, or should you stick to traditional, wired lights for your dock?
Solar power has a reputation for being expensive, but when it comes to dock lighting, it is actually the more affordable option. And without any wires to worry about, installing solar lights is an easy DIY project anyone can do. It should go without saying that if your dock doesn’t see much sun, solar probably isn’t the best choice for you.
Solar Pros: Easy to install, inexpensive, won’t add to your electric bill
Solar Cons: Batteries must be replaced regularly, not very bright if they don’t get enough sun
Installing wired lighting is going to require more know-how and cost more upfront, but you get what you pay for. Wired lighting tends to be brighter and longer-lasting than solar, and is not limited to the sunny surface of your dock.
Wired Pros: Bright, highly customizable, reliable, long-lasting
Wired Cons: Add more to your electric bill, requires a transformer
As you weigh the pros and cons of each power type, keep in mind that you can use both!
Low Voltage vs. High Voltage
Where should the power for your dock lights come from? A common mistake some first-time dock owners make is powering their lights with their household voltage (120V). For a private dock, this is extremely dangerous and presents a fire hazard.
When it comes to dock lighting, low voltage is always best. While this type of power is far safer and virtually resistant to hazard, it has its own downsides. For starters, you’ll need to invest in a transformer to convert your home’s 120V electricity into 12V electricity. You’ll also need to install the transformer close to your dock (recommended within 100ft) to prevent the light from dimming.
High voltage lines provide a lot of light without the need for a transformer, but for small residential projects, the higher risk of electrocution just isn’t worth it.
Dock Lighting Ideas: Ways to Light it Up
Now that you know a bit about the different types of power dock lights use, let’s look at 6 lighting ideas to give you some inspiration for your next project.
1. Underwater Lights
One of the coolest ways you can illuminate your dock is with underwater dock lights. Low-voltage LEDs make it possible to safely place the lights in the surrounding water. There’s a reason most underwater LEDs are green — the color attracts fish! This type of lighting is a must-have for serious anglers or anyone who just wants to watch fish gather around their dock at night.
The bright colors can also help you better identify your dock and steer your boat onto the correct side. However, you’ll probably need additional lighting on the surface of your dock so that you can safely walk along it.
2. Flush Mounted Lighting
If you want your dock lighting to be practically unnoticeable during the day, then flush mounted lighting might be the right solution for you. These dot lights are installed flush (flat) with the surface of your dock and are designed to be walked on. For this reason, they’re also a popular way to light up outdoor stairs.
3. Piling Lights
Another very aesthetically pleasing option, piling lights are an ideal option for private docks. They give off a nice ambient light that isn’t harsh on the eyes but is bright enough to improve the safety of your dock.
Solar piling lights are easy to install on your existing dock and come in a variety of styles. Some even double as caps to protect your piling from rot and prevent birds from nesting.
4. Wharf Lights
Looking to give your dock a more nautical feel? A row of wharf lights overhead will do the trick. Not only do they provide ample light when the sun goes down, but they also look fantastic during the day.
While their metal finish is what makes wharf lights so attractive, it also means that you’ll need to be careful to choose lights made from high-quality metal that can withstand marine conditions. Look for powder-coated aluminum lights that are certified marine-grade.
5. Power Pedestals
Power pedestals are the best of both worlds – a source of light and a source of power. The pedestal acts as a mini lighthouse with lights that shine 360 degrees downward. It can also be used to safely supply power to boats and other lights on your dock.
6. Motion-Activated Floodlights
You want your dock to be bright enough that you can see clearly, but you don’t want it to be so bright that the lights keep your neighbors up all night. A good compromise is to install motion-activated floodlights on your dock. When you return from a bit of night boating, the area will be brilliantly lit by these powerful lights to help you get everyone off safely. But when you leave, they’ll turn off on their own, allowing for as little disturbance as possible.
As you can see, you have a lot of options for lighting up your dock. But no matter what you decide on, always make sure you’re using marine-grade materials, especially where electrical wiring is involved. At Decks & Docks, you’ll find a wide selection of lighting solutions designed specifically for marine construction. If you’d like some advice on what type of lighting is best for your project, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help!