From Small Backyard Pools to Olympic Size Swimming Pools, How To Make Swimming Pools More Environmentally Friendly

Warm Up to Thermal Blankets
Harness the Power of the Sun
Lighten Up with LEDs
Bye Bye Red Eye


Looking to make waves this summer by transforming your pool into a lean, green, energy-saving machine?

According to Randy Mendioroz, principal of Aquatic Design Group (ADG), annual operating costs for an outdoor pool can cost thousands with natural gas (71% of total cost), electricity (14%), pool chemicals (10%), and water (5%).

Following are four ways to "green up" pool operations from ADG, a nationally renowned pool and aquatic design and consulting firm. These tips will help the environment and save significant money for pool owners - from consumers to commercial pool operators and municipalities.

Warm Up to Thermal Blankets

One daily task that yields major savings: thermal blankets.

While some pool owners may grumble about removing and replacing covers each day, a well-insulated set of thermal blankets on a pool (even indoors) saves more costs than just about anything else. Studies on outdoor pools have shown natural gas cost savings of up to 40% for operators who dutifully replace pool blankets every evening. At an average capital cost of $2.50 per square foot of water surface area, thermal blankets can pay for themselves in six to 12 months.

Harness the Power of the Sun

Interested in solar heating, especially with utility rates spiking? When natural gas had a unit price of $0.55 per thermal unit (therm), proposing solar was an exercise in political correctness since the payback averaged eight to 10 years and the average life of most systems was 12 years. Today, however, with natural gas prices hovering in the vicinity of $0.85-$1.00 per therm, more pool operators are going solar.

Installation cost for passive solar systems (assuming suitable mounting space with proper solar orientation) runs approximately $18-$22 per square foot of solar panel. The amount of solar panel required varies by region, but an average of 80% of water surface area is common. With a potential annual operating cost savings of $65,000-$75,000 (e.g. for 50-meter pool) and an expected full return on investment within four to six years, solar heating may be attractive to the average pool operator.

Lighten Up with LEDs

Replacing energy-consuming incandescent underwater lights with high-efficiency LED fixtures can dramatically reduce expenses. A 70-watt LED fixture produces approximately the same amount of light as a 450-watt incandescent fixture, but saves nearly 85% in the amount of energy consumed. Initial capital costs for LEDs are approximately double that of incandescent: $500 per LED fixture, as opposed to $250 for an incandescent. However, LED lights will provide 55,000 hours of light compared to 3,800 hours of incandescent light. The changeover is well worth the investment.

Bye Bye Red Eyes

Chlorine may be the most popular pool sanitizer, but when managed improperly may cause high levels of chloramines - the true culprit behind the obtrusive "chlorine" odor. By combining an adequate chemical control system - equipped with total water balance control and a part-per-million residual analyzer - and properly sized chlorine feed systems, such problems can be eliminated.

A healthy, virtually chemical-free alternative is an on-site salt water chlorine generation system. Non-iodized table salt (sodium chloride) is added directly into a swimming pool. Salt dosing levels typically range from 3,000 parts per million (ppm) to 5,000 ppm. Human tears have a salinity of 7,200 ppm (sea water: salinity of 36,000 ppm), so the concentration in the pool is relatively low: no salty smell, taste or feel.

As saline water passes through a chlorine generating cell, low electrical currents transform salt into chlorine. Once the chlorine has killed bacteria and other organic compounds, it reverts back to salt, and the process begins again.

Despite relatively high capital and maintenance costs, the advantages of salt water chlorine generation include reducing or eliminating the storage and handling of chlorine and other chemicals, eliminating the cost of purchasing liquid chlorine, and producing water with a more natural, smooth and silky "soft water" feel, akin to a European spa treatment.

Source: Aquatic Design Group

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