Retrofit Your Pool & Spa with a Variable-Speed Pump for Big Energy Savings

Retrofit Your Pool & Spa with a Variable-Speed Pump for Big Energy Savings

If there is one piece of equipment that is dollar-smart to replace even before it wears out, it is swapping that old single-speed swimming pool pump for a new, energy-saving variable speed or multi-speed pump. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began certifying new variable-speed pumps with the Energy Star label program in March 2013. What this means is that the Energy-Star-pumps must have a rating of 3.8 or better, which indicates that the unit will pump at least 3.8 gallons of water for each watt-hour of electricity consumed. In pool-owner terms, this means that the unit will pump 3,800 gallons of water for each kilowatt hour (kWh) consumed. Although the EPA said that it is technically feasible for a single-speed pump to achieve a 3.8 rating, there is none on the market today that achieves this rating. If you are running a single-speed pump in your pool today, you are wasting your money.

The pump is a big energy-saver because it runs as different speeds, depending of the task at hand. For example, if the pump is operating the filtration system plus a number of high-flow water features, it will be running at a fast speed. If the filtration system is the only thing operating, the pump will run at a slower speed. One variable speed pump manufacturer said that because the pump uses so little energy at low speeds, a quantity of water that would cost $1 to pump with an old, single-speed pump could be pumped for only 10 cents with a new variable speed pump. That’s some savings!

According to the DOE, the variable-speed pump will save thousands of dollars in energy costs over the life of the pump, pay for itself in five years and run quieter and prolong the life of the pool’s filtration system. The DOE further suggested that pool owners check with their local utility company because many utilities today are offering hundreds of dollars in incentives for homeowners who switch out the old pump for a new for Energy Star certified pool pump.

Build in a Pool Slide for Years of Fun

Most of us can recall the days at the local park or preschool and the experience of slowly sliding down a playground slide into the waiting arms of our parents or teacher. Then we went to the swimming pool and that’s when the real fun began as we sailed down the water slide at unfathomable speeds and splashed laughing into the pool water below. Today, many pool owners and would-be pool owners want to replicate that experience for their children (and perhaps take a spin on it themselves) by installing a new slide on the backyard pool.

There are slides for backyard pools with twists and turns galore that rival anything you will find at a resort; there are also other highly affordable, high-fun slides from which to choose. The standard slide is made of acrylic or roto-molded plastic that is mounted on top of the pool deck. These are easily added to a new or existing pool. The typical weight limits of these slides are 250 pounds. Over the past 10 years these slides have had many safety features added as well as new runway styles and choices of colors.

There are also custom slides available that come in virtually every shape and size and are constructed using tile, Gunite/concrete or prefabricated flume pieces, which are sections of the slide that fit together. The prefabricated modular flume pieces are generally made of commercial grade fiberglass with a gel coating. These custom slides can be made to come down the landscaped hill by the pool, or wrap around a waterfall or grotto. The design possibilities are endless.

In the world of pool slides, bigger is definitely better. There are now modular slides on the market that have a wide and deeper flume system to deliver more water with a double water delivery system. Plus these new bigger modular slides offer a 350-pound weight limit –making the slide fun for every member of the family. Typical slide lengths will vary but the average slide is approximately 15 feet long with the longer slides averaging between 30 feet and 40 feet. A good rule of thumb is that for every one foot you build up vertically, you should build out three feet horizontally.

Increase the Sights and Sounds of Water with Fountains, Splash-Ways and Waterfalls

Your pool and spa are beautiful and enjoyable, but for just a few dollars more, you can add more sights and sounds of water to the environment with a simple fountain, splash-way, mountain stream, waterfall tumbling over rocks or a complex waterslide. Bubbling, gushing water features take many forms including:

Fountains. Fountains are a fun pool and spa accessory that offer great ambience to the poolscape and can be added to the pool package at the time the pool is built or later to an existing pool. Designed into the pool from the start, fountain designs are virtually endless. Later, fountains can be easily added to the deck or landscaped areas of the pool scape.

Waterfalls. Waterfalls are another accessory that is limited only by the imagination. They are best installed at the time that the pool is built. In fact, many waterfalls, as in a vanishing edge pool, are integral to the project. Best yet, a variety of waterfalls can be installed at very little cost as the pool is being built because the accessory works off of the existing pipes and plumbing.

Water Slides. The slide is a many splendored thing rising above the pool often with a stream or double stream of water added to help speed children of all ages cascading into the water. Today’s slides can range from an 8-foot to a 13-foot fiberglass beauty or it can be a custom slide of 36 feet or longer that is constructed in sections.

Create a Pet Safe Pool

You, your family and your pets can have years of safe fun around your pool, but it requires training the pet, the pool users and the person responsible for establishing its safety equipment and safety procedures. In creating a pet-safe pool, focus is on the family dog, because the family cat will typically keep far from the pool to avoid getting splashed.

The first line of defense for creating a pet-safe pool is to strictly adhere to all local codes regarding the installation and maintenance of fences and gates around the pool to block unwanted entry into the pool area by children and pets. In addition, an automatic safety cover is suggested that can be closed after a pool user is finished with the pool. These recommendations will go a long way in protecting your pet.

According to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), for the safety of the dog and of swimmers, be aware that dogs can panic in water and try to climb on top of the rescuer or near-by person in a pool. Children and pets need constant adult supervision in and around swimming pools.

Here are tips from the APDT on creating a pet-safe pool:

  • Gradually introduce the dog to the swimming pool, holding him snugly and walking into the pool. Let him swim to the exit of the pool.
  • Teach the dog proper swimming techniques. While all dogs know how to do the dog paddle, the inexperienced dog-swimmer will sometimes use only his front legs, just like an inexperienced human swimmer will use only his arms. This results in vertical swimming, lots of splashing and quick exhaustion of the animal.
  • Dogs have poor depth perception. If you have a beach entry or steps going into the pool, mark it with a big, potted plant so that the dog associates the plant with the exit. If there are no steps, provide a non-slip ramp and train the dog to use it to get out of the pool if it is alone.
  • Keep safety floatation devices nearby. If the dog gets in trouble or panics, a floatation device with line is the best course of action to take. A large dog can drown a human. If you need to rescue the dog, get it to take the floatation device and pull him toward you.
  • Train the dog to “wait” at pool’s edge or at the steps rather than cascading into the pool.
  • Teach the dog to “come” when in the pool, just like on dry land.
  • Consider the dog’s breed, Heavily muscled dogs expend a lot of energy when swimming. Consider a lifejacket for them. If taking such a dog to a lake or ocean, definitely get a life jacket.
  • Be watchful of the dog’s nails and pads around pool because the nails can quickly wear down and the pads become raw.
  • Unless your pool cover is a safety cover that can support your weight, do not leave it on the pool if there is a chance the pet will be around the pool unattended. Once they fall into the pool, they can become disoriented by the cover.
  • Avoid letting the pet drink pool water. Keep an ample supply of fresh water near the pool for the pet to take.
  • Rinse off pet after a dip in the pool to get all chemicals out of the dog’s hair.
  • If the dog is old or sedentary, check with your vet before allowing vigorous exercise in the pool.

Add a Solar Water Heating System

If your pool’s old, conventional heating system is about to run out of steam or if you currently have no heater on your pool, consider the addition of a solar heating system. Not every location is ideal for such a system, but if yours is, you will enjoy years of “free energy” after the initial investment of the system. Typically, such a system will pay for itself in just a few years and after that you will enjoy summer after summer of warmed water.

The solar hot water heating system is composed of solar collectors that allow sunlight to enter it and heat pool water that has been pumped into the collectors; a filter to remove debris before the water is pumped through the collector; a circulation pump (which could be the pump already installed on your pool); and a flow control valve—automatic or manual—to divert water through the collector. Automatic diverters have sensors so that when the temperature within the collector is sufficiently greater than the temperature of the pool water, it allows water into the collector so that it can be heated. At those times when the temperature inside the collector is lower than the pool water temperature, the water will bypass the collector.

A solar pool heating system usually costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to buy and install. This provides a payback of between 1.5 and 7 years, according to the Department of Energy, depending on local fuel costs. Solar hot water systems typically last longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters. Your actual cost and payback will depend on many factors.

Many solar heating system pros use worksheets to figure out the best system for you, because one size does not fit all and you need a system customized to your site and orientation, the size of your pool and space available for the installation of solar collectors.

Create Your Own Olympic-Size Swim

If you want an Olympic-size swim, but you do not have the space or the budget to install an Olympic pool, consider a swim spa. The swim spa is about twice as large as the typical spa; usually about 13 to 15 feet long and about 6 to 8 feet wide. The concept behind the swim spa is to have strong jets of water moving against you as you swim.

The swim spa is a natural for an urban environment and can add an elegant yet highly useful touch to a townhouse garden setting. The swim spa can work miracles in a small suburban environment as well. Many swim spa adherents install them inside the house in the basement or private pool room for 365-day use. Others install a swim spa at their second home and add fully automated controls. With the push of a smartphone app, the swim spa heater is turned on and ready when the swimmer arrives for the weekend.

If you already have an existing pool that is not quite large enough for that big swim that you want to take everyday, you are still in luck. Existing pools can be fitted out with a hydro-jet. One manufacturer has a system that can be used in an existing pool that furnishes 2,000 gallons of water per minute for the most vigorous of swimmers or kayakers to work against. Naturally, for the person who wants a far more leisurely current to work against, the unit has many other settings.

Switch to an Alternative Sanitizing System

For new and existing pools and spas, you can begin enjoying softer water that is easy on the skin, hair and eyes by switching to alternative sanitizing system. Chlorine has been the powerhouse swimming pool sanitizer for decades and continues to be used on most pools today and is the sanitizer of choice, but now there are new technologically advanced methods that rely on far less chlorine to keep water clean or eliminate the need for chlorine entirely.

Chlorine generation system. This system is known by different names, such as the chlorine generation system or the salt pool system. While it uses chlorine as the sanitizer, there are only minuscule amounts of the chemical in the water compared to a traditional chlorine system. Here is how the system works. Table salt is added to the pool water, but it is nowhere near the levels of salt found in ocean water. This water is then pumped into a chlorine generator where it is exposed to two electric plates. Through the process of electrolysis, small amounts of chlorine gas are produced and dissolved in the water, which then flows back into the pool to act as a sanitizer. The resulting water feels soft on the skin because its pH is much closer to the human body’s pH than typical chlorine-laced pool water.

Ozonator system. The addition of an ozonator to your new or existing pool is a smart move that will lower but not eliminate the need for chlorine or other pool chemicals such as bromine. Ozone is a natural oxidizer that attacks waste products. The ozonator mechanism pulls air into a chamber and passes it in front of an ultraviolet light where the O2 in the air is changed to O3—ozone. Then that ozone goes into the pool water. Ozone is biodegradable and is said to help diminish the use of chlorine in a pool by 60 percent to 90 percent.

Ultraviolet systems. Ultraviolet light is a bacteria killer. In swimming pools, a UV system uses UV light waves to destroy bacteria in the pool water. A backup sanitizer like chlorine or bromine is still needed but at reduced levels.

Biguanides systems. The full name of this sanitizer is polyhexamethylene biguanide and contains no chlorine. It is gentler on the skin and eyes than chlorine, and it is considered a good alternative to chlorine in pools and spas.

Ionization systems. The ionization system releases silver and copper ions into the pool water, which kills bacteria and algae. Silver and copper ions need to be replaced now and then and the pool needs to be shocked weekly.

Adding a Diving Board? Handle with Care!

For many of us, the focal point of youthful summers was the local swimming pool and the centerpiece of that pool was the ubiquitous diving board and the thousands of joyous plunges that we took off of the board and into the cool water. If you want the fun of a diving board on your new pool project or if you wish to add one to an existing pool, a word of caution: let a professional guide this project. This is no project for an amateur.

Why? Unlike many projects around the pool and spa that can be handled by a handy homeowner, such as shrub replacement or the installation of a replacement barbecue, installing a diving board is a difficult, complex and exacting task. Errors in installation of the diving board could cause serious injury to those who use the board.

There is a group called the American National Standards Institute or ANSI, which creates standards and guidelines for products including diving boards. Working with the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP), an ANSI standard was developed for diving boards. This standard is called the American National Standard for Residential Inground Swimming Pools ANSI/APSP/ICC-5 2011. SR Smith, a company that manufactures diving boards, offers a copy of these standards. By clicking on the standards, you can appreciate the sheer complexity involved in diving board design and installation.

Here are some key facts about diving boards that you should understand and discuss with your pool professional to get the equipment you want.

Diving boards are available in many styles, shapes and sizes and are offered in various degrees of flexibility. The diving board and diving stand are defined by their level of flexibility and the board and stand combination that you have for your new or existing pool will be limited by the size of the pool’s diving envelop:

  • Jump board. The jump board is a flexible board attached to a base with spring mechanism
  • Diving board. A diving board is a flexible board on a rigid base.
  • Jump platform. The jump platform is a rigid board and rigid base

The ANSI/APSP standards mentioned above details what type of board and stand combinations can be used with specific pools based on the “diving envelop” of the pool. According to the standards, residential pools are defined as Type 0 through Type 5 pools, depending on the diving envelop.

Putting Pools & Spas on Cruise Control: Swimming Pool Automation

Swimming pool and spa automation adds to the fun of using the pool by taking your mind off the need to control the various functions of the pool to simply enjoying it. Today, every function done manually several years ago can be automated today, such as maintaining clean, pure water, pool temperature, chemical balance, turning on and off the lights and landscape lighting, when to heat the pool and spa and so much more. Best yet, through automation, the pool and spa can be controlled poolside, from inside the house or from a continent away by smartphone.

Communicating with the pool and spa on the smallest task is easy and usually done with one click of the switch or push of the button. When you want to filter the pool, no more turning on the filtration system, intending to shut it off in six hours and then letting it run all day wasting money. Now, you can set the time you want the pool filtered and forget about it.

The high-tech systems on the market today offer great convenience. Here some of the things you can do remotely:

    • Check pool temperature
    • Check spa temperature
    • Turn on/off the water falls and spillovers
    • Turn the LED color lights or landscape lights on or off or simply dim them
    • Start the pool cleaner, filter pump or booster pump
    • Start the irrigation or sprinkler systems, fountains.
    • Completely automate the chemical needs of your pool and spa
    • Boost up the heater in the spa on your way home from work.

Increase Pool Fun, Save Money, Enhance Safety with a Pool Cover

You can add considerably to the enjoyment of your pool and its surroundings and save money with the addition of a pool cover. Your pool cover can enhance safety, cut evaporation, keep dirt and debris out of the pool, save energy and protect the pool and equipment.

Admittedly, it would be tough to find all of the above qualities in just one cover, but thanks to the seasonal nature of pool use here in the Northeast, you do not have to. Pool covers fall into six broad categories and various covers can be used during the year including: the winter cover, mesh cover, sheet vinyl cover, bubble solar cover, automatic cover and foam cover.

Here is more detail on each type of cover:

Winter covers. The winter cover is made of a sturdy, durable material to hold up against all that the cold season can throw at it. A person can safely walk on a properly installed winter cover. These covers are typically a fine, strong mesh with reinforcing that allows rain water to flow through, but keeps out dirt and debris. These are not quick-on, quick-release covers. These covers are typically held in place with steel or brass fittings installed in the pool deck and meant to stay on the pool for the winter. By the water flowing through this pool cover, it prevents water and ice from puddling on the cover, which is safer for your pets and children. It also relieves a tremendous amount of weight that could build up over the winter.

Mesh covers. As the name implies, a mesh swimming pool cover is a close-woven mesh of plastic strips with wire reinforcing for strength. These covers are strong, allow rain water to flow through but keep out debris. They also allow water evaporation. This type of cover, like the winter cover, offers good security to protect children and pets.

Sheet vinyl covers. Sheet vinyl covers are typically made of two sheets of vinyl. They have little or no insulation value, they are not strong, but they do prevent pool water evaporation. Some of the better quality vinyl covers will be reinforced with wire so that they can protect children and pets against accidental falls into the pool. Typically, this type of cover is hooked to the deck.

Solar bubble covers. The solar bubble cover looks similar to the sheet vinyl cover mentioned above, except that it has bubbles like bubble-wrap used in mailing packages. These covers have good insulation value and will allow the sun to heat the pool for free! Solar bubble covers are available in five-foot by five-foot sizes for spas and up to 30 feet by 50 feet for pools. The cover is extraordinarily lightweight and is placed on top of the water. When you want to use the pool, simply pull the cover off and store it. This cover has no safety capabilities and it is not a good winter cover. Used during the summer months, it will help heat your pool and reduce the need for your conventional pool heater.

Foam covers. A foam cover is essentially a foam board that floats on the pool similar to a bubble solar cover. Foam covers are most often used in spas because the cost of the foam is considerably more than the bubble material. These covers are placed on the surface of the spa or pool and removed when you want to use the equipment. They reduce evaporation and hold in heat.

Automatic covers. The automatic cover is a valuable asset to have on your pool. Not only is it a strong cover that can be used throughout the season, but also as the pool’s winter cover. The automatic cover offers great security and peace of mind. With the push of a button, the cover closes over the pool and protects people and pets from accidental spills into the pool. If you are in the market for a new pool, consider adding an automatic pool cover at the time that the pool is designed and constructed—it is an investment in safety and will cut down on your pool’s wear and tear.

Lighting Up the Pool & Spa at Night

If your pool and poolscape is not properly lighted, then you are getting only half the enjoyment of it that you can because there is a whole world of evening and night fun only a click of the light away. The swimming pool is the centerpiece of your home and yard, so when you are in the planning process, why not have it brighten the night. Here are some lighting choices to consider for new or existing pools:

LEDs. LEDs are all the craze throughout the home because they can save you a lot of money by lowering energy bills. Use low voltage LED systems for landscape lighting to light a stair or path near the pool or on a rocky slope that is part of the poolscape.

Fiber optics. Fiber optic lighting cables transmit light, not electricity. That means that when you run fiber optic cables near a pool or spa, which tends to get wet, electricity is never passing through the cable, only light. Often, fiber optics can be part of the landscape.

Floating Lights. What fun! Floating lights in the pool that run on rechargeable batteries. You can also buy floating lights that are recharged by solar power. Floating lights are fun because they can be faced down into the pool to create magical circles of light throughout the pool. They can be aimed skyward or they can float freely around the pool casting their light at will.

Conventional pool lights. The standard underwater pool light is mounted in a watertight niche, constructed in the wall of the pool or spa during the construction of the project. The lights come with clear plastic lenses, but there are also color lenses available to add drama and beauty to the nighttime pool setting.

Solar Lights. Light up the landscape and the night with solar lights that will cost you a penny in energy use. Solar lights are among the easiest lights to maintain and use with solar panels that recharge the battery light on bright days. Solar lights come on when the day ends and will glow late into the late night around the pool.

Underwater pool lights tied to latest electronics. Contact your pool dealer to see a display of the latest in pool lights. With today’s technology, pool lights can put on a spectacular light show. They blend and change colors in unimaginable ways to dazzle and light up the night and water.

Boost Your Enjoyment by Extending the Pool & Spa Season

Backyard pools and spas are habit forming and after a summer of fun around the pool, you may not be ready to literally throw in the towel on Labor Day Weekend. Many pool owners in the Northeast extend their seasons by opening the pool in April and keeping it open until October or November. As for the spa, that can be kept open considerably longer.

If you are currently in the planning stages for a new pool and spa, now is the time to plan for that extended season by having the system designed to run the pool and spa independently. That way, if you want to close the pool on Labor Day, but keep the spa open until the snow flies, you can. In addition, if you want a spa for all seasons, plan for a self-contained unit, one that is very well insulated—insulated sides, top and pipes. With this type of spa, you can fire up that little beauty in late February or March and keep it running until November or December.

For an existing pool, there are numerous steps you can take to help you extend the season including:

Heater. Add a heater to your pool and spa to extend the season and get the water to just the temperature you like during the summer months.

Solar hot water system. The installation of a solar hot water heater will keep the pool and spa warm throughout the summer months and into the fall, depending on the location of the solar collectors.

Solar cover. Use a solar cover to add days and weeks to the time you can use the pool. The great benefit of solar covers is that they allow the sun’s heat to reach the pool and they are extraordinarily inexpensive and lightweight. They look and feel like packaging bubble wrap, but work overtime to keep your pool warm and the water from evaporating out of the pool. Even if you do not keep your pool open into the fall, use the solar cover to cut down on the use of your conventional heater.

Heat pump. Heat pumps are energy efficient, even in the Northeast. If you do not currently have a heater on your pool, consider the addition of a heat pump with a solar cover.

Liquid covers. A great deal of heat is lost through evaporation of water from the pool. There are so called liquid covers on the market today that you can add to your pool to dramatically cut down on heat loss.

Pool enclosures. There are numerous pool enclosures that you can install to extend the pool season from the simplest plastic design units to an entire pool house to keep you in the swim 365 days a year.

Save Money! Cutting Swimming Pool Energy Costs

Whether you are the proud owner of a pool or planning a new project this year, you can incorporate easy energy savings ideas into the pool that will pay you back year after year over the life of the pool.

Here are some key things to include.

Variable-speed pump(s). Incorporate one or more variable-speed or multi-speed pumps to cut energy costs. According to the Department of Energy, you save at least $160 a year on energy costs in the Northeast and considerably more in warmer climates where the pool is operated almost year-around by using variable-speed pumps.

Pool timer. For pools without automatic timers, turning on the pool’s filtration system and then remembering to turn it off after a few hours is a chore you can do without. With a timer, you set it and forget it. Want to filter the pool six hours a day? Set it for six hours. If you tend to accumulate debris in your pool over the course of a day, set the timer for shorter increments throughout the day, but for a total of six hours.

Robotic pool cleaners. Robotic pool cleaners run on low-voltage electricity rather than off of the pool pump or booster pump. It collects dirt and debris around the pool and stores it in a easily-cleaned built-in filter. A study by a major utility found that a robotic cleaner used only 197 kWh per year, a cleaner powered by a filter pump used 1,675 kWh per year and a booster-pump-powered cleaner used 2,989 kWh per year. The average price of a kilowatt hour in New York-Northern New Jersey in October 2013 was 18.8 cents. That means that the robotic cleaner would cost the pool owner about $37 a year to operate, the unit powered by the filter pump would cost $314 and the unit powered by the booster pump would cost $562 a year.

Pool heating alternatives. For pools that are heated, the efficiency of the heating technology should be examined. The current federal efficiency standard for gas-fired pool heaters is 78%. However, as of April 16, 2013 that standard changed to 82%. Currently, the most efficient gas-fired heaters on the market have an efficiency of 95% — representing 18% savings over the current federal standards. A heat pump system or a solar hot water system should be considered as well. Gas-fired heaters are best suited for pools that require occasional rapid heating.

Pool Covers. Covering a pool when it is not in use can reduce your pool’s heating costs by as much as 50%–70%, according to the Department of Energy. In addition, the use of a cover can minimize your chemical use by 35%–60%, conserve water by 30%–50%, and reduce cleaning time by keeping dirt and other debris out of the pool.

Maintaining the pool. Follow a regular program of preventive maintenance and backwashing or cleaning the filter as recommended by the manufacturer. Remove any foreign materials from the strainer baskets in the pump and skimmer regularly to make sure the flow of water is not impaired.

The spa. Portable spas are more energy efficient than in-ground spas because they are better insulated and usually have covers. Spa covers are important. Be sure to leave the cover on until you are ready to use your spa and replace it when you are finished. Remember, you are paying to replace any evaporating water and escaped heat!

Cut evaporation. Water evaporation wastes energy. Evaporation is the primary way that heat is lost from a swimming pool. For every gallon of water that evaporates from a pool, 8,300 Btus are lost, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The best way to reduce pool evaporation is to cover the pool when it is not in use. The proper pool cover will block evaporation as well as cut down on radiant heat loss.

Making Your Pool Accessible for People with Disabilities

Most everyone of every age and condition can enjoy the backyard pool today. With today’s products and technologies, an existing backyard pool—inground or above ground—can be made accessible for people with disabilities or older family members who may need more than just the typical entry and exit from the pool. All commercial swimming pools in the U.S. were required to be handicap accessible as of February 2013 by law. Residential pools do not have that same requirement. Naturally, if you are in the design stages for a new pool, this is the best time to plan for access for people with disabilities. A smart tip is to design a so called “beach entry” into the pool. Like the beach at the ocean, a beach entry in a pool features a gradual slope to get into and out of a pool. Beach entries are also a great feature to have when you have little children who will use the pool.

While your pool and spa professional can offer you many alternatives, here are a few access ideas to discuss:

Ramps. Inground pools can be fitted with a ramp that gradually descends into the pool from the deck. For greater safety, add a handrail.

Hydraulic ramps. There are ramps that will descend into the water with the help of a hydraulic lift.

Electronic lift for aboveground pools. You can install an electronic lift that gently lifts the user up and over the wall and into an aboveground pool. Naturally, there are lifts for inground pools as well.

Special ladders. Pool ladders can be problematic for a person with disabilities and some elderly people, but there are ladders available today that are wide with closely spaced rungs for easy access into the pool.



Eliminating Green Algae in the Pool

Green algae is an unwelcomed sight in the swimming pool that may appear as growth on the wall of the pool, green slime suspended in the water or an unpleasant greenish tint to the water. If you want to try to handle the problem yourself, visit your favorite pool supply store and arm yourself a good test kit, pool shock, an effective brush to clean pool walls and floor, algaecide, and phosphate remover.

Use these tips to get rid of the green algae problem:

  1. Brush the walls and floor of the pool to remove all growth, which will reduce the overall time it takes to get rid of the algae.
  2. Check the pH level of the water, making sure it is in the proper range of 7.2 to 7.6. If the range is higher than 7.6, the shock that is added will not be as effective.
  3. With the pool filtration system running, add swimming pool shock. Follow the manufacturer’s direction on the bag. Note: always add chemicals to water; never add water to chemicals!
  4. Run the filter for 24 hours.
  5. If the water has not improved in 24 hours, shock it again.
  6. When the color green has disappeared from the pool, replaced by white or grayish dead algae suspended in the water or collecting on the floor of the pool, vacuum the pool to waste, not through the filter system.
  7. Backwash or clean the filter to remove all algae from it.
  8. Test and rebalance the chemicals, focusing on pH level, 7.2-7.6 range; calcium hardness, 200-350 parts per million (ppm); and free chlorine, 1-3 ppm.

Preventing green algae’s return: Once the pool is back in shape, you will want to greatly reduce the chances of another algae bloom. You cannot keep algae spores out of your pool because they come in on the wind and dust. What you can do is add an algaecide on a weekly basis, following manufacturer’s directions. You also need to eliminate phosphate from the pool with a phosphate remover. Backwash the pool or clean the filter after eliminating phosphate. Keep free chlorine at above 1 ppm.

Find that Leak in Your Pool

You seem to be adding more water to your pool on a regular basis than in the past. Is it splash-out? Is it evaporation due to the wind? Is it simply the hot weather you’ve been having? Before you call your service professional, try the tips below, but document each action so that if you do have to call your service person, you will save him time and you money by not having to retrace your steps.

Check for the obvious. Walk around your pool and spa and look for wet spots. Check the equipment pad for leaks. If you find a wet spot in the grass, the leak could be in a submerged pipe. If the equipment pad is wet, that leak is easily detected and fixed. If you have a vinyl liner pool, look for tears or separations by the fittings, returns, cleaner line, lights, steps and skimmers.

How much water are you losing in 24 hours? The typical pool will lose about ¼-inch of water in 24 hours due to evaporation. If there are no obvious leaks on the lawn or pad, mark the water level on the pool wall with a piece of tape or grease pencil. Check the level after 24 hours with the filtration system off. Try it again with the system running. How much did the water level fall with the system off and with it running? You can also do a bucket test on the steps of your pool. Fill a bucket with a few rocks to stabilize it and then fill it with water until it is level with the pool water. What are the results after 24 hours?

Is the leak in the pool? If the water level drops with the filtration system off, the leak may be in the pool. If the water level drops to the bottom of the skimmer opening, the leak is probably in the skimmer; if it drops to the pool light, it is probably in the light housing; and if it continues to drop past the light, the leak could be in the main drain.

Is the leak in the filtration system? When the filtration system is running, check for air bubbles in the water of the return line. If you see air bubbles, there is a leak in the suction side of the system. Check the pump basket. Is the lid on tight? Check the lid O-ring. Is it lubed and in good condition? If there are no bubbles in the water, but the pool loses water with the pump running, the leak could be on the return side. Check the waste or backwash line for running water. Caution: If you have a vinyl liner pool, the pool needs to have water in it at all times. If the water level in a vinyl liner pool is dropping quickly, call a service professional immediately!

Try the dye test. Use your pH indicator test reagent with the water calm and the filtration system off. Watch to see if the dye is sucked into a hole, crack or tear.

Call a leak detection specialist. If the above tests do not allow you to find the leak, call a leak detection specialist at the Northeast Spa & Pool Association. These pros use an air pressure test to pinpoint leaks. They inject air into the system and then use super-sensitive microphones to find the leak. They also use mini-video cameras that are snaked through the system’s pipes to track down the leak.

Hiring an Pool and Spa Professional for Your Project

Many of the projects detailed in these pages need to be undertaken by a qualified, certified professional. Members of the Northeast Spa & Pool Association are among the most qualified, educated and certified in the industry. When hiring a pool and spa builder or a pool and spa service professional, ask them about the following certifications within their companies. Our members will be glad to tell you about them because they and their employees worked long and hard to achieve them.

If you are hiring a builder, look for the following certification.

APSP Certified Building Professional (CBP). This nationally recognized designation is highly sought after by builders in the industry. Candidates for the Certified Building exam must have at least five years industry experience and evidence of 24 hours of continuing education from the past three years.

When hiring a service professional, look for these certifications at the company.

APSP Certified Maintenance Specialist (CMS). There is a special Certification for those new to the industry called the Certified Maintenance Specialist (CMS). While the course is designed for those new to the industry, the course curriculum is challenging, which requires a rigorous 16 hours of training and testing.

APSP Certified Service Technician (CST). After one to two years of field experience, the CMS is ready to move up to the next certification level, which is the Certified Service Technician. This certification requires in-depth field experience plus a 4-1/2-day course followed by a rigorous exam, which requires the service person to apply his or her technical knowledge to situations encountered in the field.

APSP Certified Service Professional® (CSP). To earn the swimming pool industry’s premier professional service designation, the field service technician must work in the industry for five years or more and be proficient in advanced technical service repair and troubleshooting.

When you need a spa or hot tub specialist, look for the following certification:

APSP Certified Hot Tub Technician (CHTT). The Certified Hot Tub Technician program is a 2.5 day live seminar that covers the essentials of servicing portable and permanently installed hot tubs and spas, and equipment repair and replacement.