Welcome the pool season with an eco-friendly wave

By Teresa Nicodemus

“Go green” is the buzz phrase for energy-conscious homeowners seeking cost savings and a more efficient approach to living in today’s challenging economy. The green philosophy spans not only how we heat and cool our homes, wash our clothes, recycle our trash and eat our food, but also how we spend our summer fun in the backyard pool. Local experts help us dive in to the basics of eco-friendly pool equipment and maintenance.

Clean and Green

Taking a cue from the green movement, pool manufacturers have developed innovative alternatives to sanitizing pools by using less chlorine and more state-of-the-art technology. Why? Chlorine can be an irritant, causing red, itchy eyes and dry skin, and for a number of people, it can cause allergic reactions.

Chris Newett, owner of Pool City in Greenwood, explains a few options for  reducing or eliminating chlorine use in the pool. Mineral reservoir systems in conjunction with automatic chlorinators, for example, can regulate proper usage of chlorine and reduce amounts of chlorine needed. The use of silver and limestone minerals in a reservoir system can cut chlorine usage by at least 50 percent. “We have also installed salt generators,” says Newett, “which produce chlorine and eliminate the need for consumers to purchase large amounts of chlorine to sanitize their pool.”

The term “salt generator” can be confusing. “Often pool owners will believe salt systems are chlorine free, but the systems actually generate chlorine,” explains Allie Shrum, general manager of Angie’s Pool & Spa Inc. in Greenwood. “Even with special chlorinating equipment, shocking the pool at least once a week as needed rids the water of any contaminants.”

A non-chlorine shock alternative is an oxidizing procedure. This unique powder solution activates the inactive chlorine existing in your pool, creating a cleaner  according to Shrum.

Pool equipment manufacturers have developed a plethora of alternatives to chlorine, from the use of copper plates in ionization systems, which can reduce dependence on chlorine by up to 90 percent, to ozonators attached to your pool’s filtration system, which use ozone gas to kill bacteria.

“These sanitizing systems all need to be monitored and tested on a daily basis throughout the swim season to properly regulate the unit’s production,” says Newett. “These innovations certainly help in reducing the use of chemical sanitizers to keep your pool sparkling clear.”

Energy-Efficie nt Equipment

The most effective energy cost saving to the average pool owner is to reduce heat  loss in the water, which in turn reduces use of the pool heater. “The most common accessory with in-ground pools in the last 10 years is an automatic cover,” Newett says. “With a flip of a switch, the pool cover shields and encapsulates the entire pool’s surface, eliminating dirt and debris, reducing chlorine consumption and heat loss, and most importantly, pool covers offer the safety value of not having to worry about an open pool.”

Automatic covers offer behind-the-scenes cost savings to pool owners, too. By instantly and completely sealing the pool, durable automatic covers prevent water evaporation, which is a contributing factor to heat loss. Making your heat pump work less, along with the added benefit of using less water and pool chemicals, a covered pool can save 90 percent of water used, compared to a pool that is uncovered. Additionally, water in a covered pool is kept cleaner from debris, lessening the energy costs of the pool’s pump and filtration system.

Another option for energy and cost savings is to consider purchasing a pool filtration pump with a variable speed motor. These motors are becoming more popular in new pool installations and renovations, according to Newett. “There can be a substantial energy reduction by using an energy-efficient variable speed motor to adjust the proper speed necessary to filter your pool,” he says. The motors reduce electrical use 30 percent to 40 percent.

To green your pool even further, consider a heat pump. These energy-thrifty pumps require less energy to keep your pool heated at the desired temperature. They also require less electricity than a standard electrical heater. By using ambient air to produce temperature rises in the pool water, they are not dependent on the cost of gas and the possible cyclical price increases.

All in all, prevention is key. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” says Shrum. “A pool will be better for you if you stay on top of the water chemistry. It’s cheaper and easier to maintain a pool than it is to clean it. If it becomes cloudy with algae, it’s much more expensive to clean at that point.”