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When a “Green” Pool is Cool!

 
 

One of a pool owner’s worst nightmares is to walk out the door and see a pool full of green water.  Algae!  But there is another “green” that is becoming very popular with pool owners everywhere.  More often, every day we are asked by pool owners how they can save money on electricity, save water, and operate a pool that does not have dangerous or irritating chemicals in it.  Pool equipment manufacturers have been responding to these questions with information and new or improved products.  State and local governments revise codes addressing the types of equipment that can be used on new and existing pools.  The changes in pool equipment are part of a larger effort to reduce energy usage (electricity and gas) and improve the human environment.  

Saving Electricity  

Saving electricity has become a matter of great importance throughout the USA , particularly in states such as California and Florida . California ’s Title 20 mandated drastic changes in the type and size pumps that can be used on pools and spas in that state.  Methods of reducing the electric usage include replacing large horsepower pumps with those of lesser horsepower, use of new pumps with energy efficient motors, use of 2-speed and variable speed pumps, and significant reductions in running time for pumps on residential and private pools.

 
Reducing Horsepower

Over the last two decades, the concept of “bigger is better” came to include pool and spa pumps. The average home pool needs only a pump of 1 HP or less, yet many were equipped during construction with 2 and 3 HP pumps that used electricity like it was going out of style.  And now it has.  A modern pump of from ½ HP to 1 HP can provide adequate turn-over of the pool water in just a few hours at a fraction of the electricity used by the larger pumps.  Many pool owners are amazed when they learn that pipe size limits the benefit of a larger pump.   Learn what size pump is needed for your pool.


Energy Efficient Motor

You can get better use of electricity from an older pump just by replacing the motor with an energy efficient version.  If your pump is one of the older metal (bronze or cast iron) ones, this may not work but it is an economical alternative for the plastic pumps that are in wide service today.  Just putting on a new EE motor can reduce electricity use by up to 15% at just half the cost of a new pump.  We have a couple of words of caution when you do this; you cannot reduce the horsepower from that of the original pump without replacing some of the pump’s internal parts; and you must replace the mechanical seal to prevent water damage to the new motor.  Very soon there will be some new motors on the market that can cut electricity costs even more. Watch for them.

 
Two-speed, Multi-speed and Variable Speed Pumps

All of these pumps allow pumping the water at reduced motor RPM’s for a substantial savings, up to 80% in some cases.  The more complex the pump and control system, the more the savings over the long period. All pool equipment manufacturers now offer these multi-speed pumps as a way to control consumption of electricity and better operate the pool.  While the initial pump cost seems high, it can be made up with savings on the electric bill in a surprisingly short time.  You can see how that works at http://www.pentairpool.com/pool_pump_calc/index.htm.  The 2-speed pumps do require some additional controls to make them work as intended.  The multi-speed and variable speed pumps have integral control systems.


Reducing Running Time and Controlling the Pool

Getting control of the pool and its consumption requires just that – establishing control.  Too many pool owners just let the pump run all the time or turn it on and off when they feel like it. That does not work well for many reasons.  Without a controlled schedule of operation, water can get out of balance chemically and algae can get a foothold.  Both problems can require a lot of time and money to correct.  The pool owner then uses more chemicals than would have been necessary (bad for the pocketbook and the environment).  While just a few years ago the options were a mechanical time clock or a very expensive and complex control system, there are now a wide range of less expensive and easy-to-operate systems.  The pool owner can schedule pump running time and coordinate that with other equipment, including salt systems, heaters, lights and even features that are not part of the pool system with various electronic control systems

Low Voltage Equipment

Some types of equipment can use low voltage (12V or 24V) power that accrues considerable savings. Such equipment includes lights, robotic pool cleaners and salt chlorine generators.  The energy consumption is very small but nothing is lost by using these products.  There is also the additional safety factor, since the 12 and 24 volt products are not so dangerous around the water.  LED pool and spa light fixtures can save up to 75% of the electricity used by a conventional 120V light and the light bulbs have a much longer life than the incandescent bulbs.  Robotic pool cleaners operate on just a few cents per day in contrast to the cost of using a booster pump to run the cleaner.  Keep in mind the low voltage equipment when building a new pool or remodeling.

 
Heaters and Heat Pumps

If you have gas heater more than 5 years old, you may want to look at replacing it with either a new energy efficient heater or a heat pump.  The newer heaters provide a fuel air mix that burns more efficiently and produces fewer pollutants.  The heater parts and shell are also made to last longer and extend the useful life of the heater with corrosion resistant exterior shells.  Advances in heat pump design have produced heat pumps that save up to 80% in comparable heating costs and use more environmentally friendly refrigerants.  Not every location can benefit from a heat pump, but for those that can the heat pump can be a source of substantial savings.


Solar Heating

Another way to get more use from the pool and save money on equipment and utilities is the solar heating method. A relatively small investment (under $1,000 on most residential pools) can provide weeks or even months of extended pool use with no significant increase in operating cost, unlike the experience with a gas heater.  Solar heating equipment is available for both in-ground and above ground pools.  Average temperature gain is 10 degrees F, which can make a big difference in swimming enjoyment.

 
Pool and spa covers, solar blankets

Using solar blankets and covers can reduce heating costs and filtration (pump run) time.  Solar blankets come in a variety of forms, from the easily fitted and inexpensive “bubble covers” to the 5 foot diameter sun rings.  All of them hold in heat, preventing evaporation and other water loss and making it easier to maintain proper chemical balances.  A solar blanket can be a minor but productive investment, especially when used in conjunction with an energy efficient gas heater, heat pump or solar heater.  Deck level pool covers also come in a variety of quality and cost options and can reduce pump run time and cleaning time as well as water loss.  Spa covers insulate the spa and keep the water warm and clean when no one is using the spa.

 
Cartridge Filters

Cartridge filters can also play a role in conserving water, reducing the pump run time and extending equipment life.  Cartridge filters do not require backwashing, which wastes a lot of water from pools that have sand and DE filters.

 
Salt Chlorine Generators

Most pools still use chlorine as the principal sanitizer.  Salt chlorine generators provide chlorine for the pool by separating the chlorine from the salt molecule.  This is a pure form of chlorine that does not contain a lot of other chemicals needed to keep it in solid form. Chlorine does not need to be manufactured and transported from other locations or stored at the home, where it can pose a health and fire danger.  Pool chlorine can be maintained at a lower level than when using other methods that require shocking and frequent chemical balance adjustments.

When you look at some of the suggestions for saving energy and reducing environmental problems, one of the first things a person may think is, “Wow, this costs money!”.  It is true that some of the solutions cost a little more.  Most of them give a return on that money within the first year or two in the form of savings for electricity, gas, and chemicals. With many of the changes, there is an unseen benefit in the form of lower pollution levels.  Pool equipment manufacturers have moved quickly to produce product lines that will save energy costs and improve the environment.  

 

 

 

 

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