For many years when the words green and pool were found in the same sentence, it usually meant trouble, as in algae. Today, however, green is good, if the reference is to saving energy and, by extension, our planet. The latest in pool technology can make a difference in our environment, even if applied to small residential installations. Listed below are some of the current options available to save energy and lessen the impact of both power usage and chemicals in our world.
Pool Timers and Controllers
The easiest way to reduce electrical consumption is to limit the time your pool pump runs each day. Installing a simple time clock to do this for you automatically is one option. Investing in a more sophisticated system such as the automatic controllers that govern not only the pool pump, but also many other pool and garden functions such as heater temperature, pool lights, spa operation and garden lights is another option.
Two Speed Pumps
Rather than have the filter pump run full speed 24/7, or even on a timer for something less than continuous operation, there are motors available for installation on any system that can run at a reduced rate to provide filtration only during part of the day and full rate when greater filtration or the heater is needed. Energy is saved when the pump is on the low speed. A more sophisticated alternative to the two speed pump is the variable flow pump which can be programmed to move the water through the system at specifically desired rates.
Variable Flow Pumps
Equipped with integrated software these pumps are able to adjust the flow of water needed to accomplish the desired task, such as filtration, heating, water features, etc., while at the same time minimizing the use of electricity. While these pumps are more costly than the standard pool plump, the savings realized in energy consumption will recoup that additional expenditure in about two years or less of normal operation.
Marketed as the world’s smartest pool pump, Pentair’s Intelliflo pump with its onboard computer and intelligent software automatically calculate and program the minimum flow requirements for every pool task - filtering, heating, cleaning, spa jets, water features and more - to optimize performance and minimize energy use. As the functions/tasks change, the pump self-adjusts to maintain optimal flow rates for further energy savings.
Sanitizing your pool is essential to keeping the water safe, clean and clear. There are several ways to accomplish this, but one of the easiest and “greenest” is by using a chlorine generator that utilizes electrolysis to transform common table salt into pure chlorine. And the salt is reusable! The same salt is recycled again and again to produce more chlorine. As a further bonus, the water feels softer on the skin and the smell usually associated with chlorine pools is virtually nonexistent.
Heat Pumps, Solar Panels, and Pool Covers
Pool usage and enjoyment can be increased greatly by heating the water to a desired temperature. Electric heaters are simply not practical for pools due to cost of use, and gas heaters can also be expensive to run. Heat pumps and solar panels offer two alternatives that are more energy efficient than gas fired units.
Covering a heated swimming pool will aid greatly not only in energy savings, but also in the reduction of water loss through evaporation.*
Outdoor Pool Energy Loss Characteristics
Types of Pool Covers
*Statistics cited come from the U.S. Department of Energy.
LED Pool Lights
With today’s LED lights, you can put on a lightshow in your pool with multiple, rotating colors and still save energy. Incandescent pool lights will soon be obsolete once the fact that LED’s last up six times longer and use 75% fewer watts to operate becomes well known. Some LED’s are rated for 100,000 hours of use.
There are three types of pool filters: sand, diatomaceous earth and cartridge. The first two need to be backwashed to flush out the accumulated debris (both visible and microscopic), while the cartridge element needs to be hosed off and possibly soaked in a filter cleaner. Currently, there is legislation on the books or in the works in a few states to eliminate backwashing filters into the storm water drains of the respective communities, so that pollutants from the pool chemicals do not get into streams and rivers and contaminate the environment. What are the responsible solutions to this problem?
Cartridge filters are one good answer in that they use less water to clean and do not put any of the existing pool water into the environment. Of the three types of filters, however, they require more upkeep as the elements will generally need to be changed every year or two.
Diatomaceous earth (d.e.) is a naturally occurring product composed of microscopic fossilized plants called diatoms that is mined, heat treated and looks like white talcum powder. The filter elements need to be backwashed and re-charged with fresh d.e. after each cleaning. There is a resulting residue of sludge each time this process is performed that is flushed out of the filter. Additionally, pool water and the resultant pollutants are discharged into the drain with every backwash. There are now bio-degradable substitutes for the d.e. powder made of cellulose which offer an eco-friendly alternative which would eventually dissolve after backwashing, but this product does not address the introduction of pool chemicals into the environment.
Filter sand alternatives are also available. One is a naturally occurring variety of aluminum silicate called zeolite (marketed under various brand names) which filters particles as small as 3 microns. Sand filters requiring 300 pounds of sand would take only 150 pounds of zeolite. Another option is crushed glass. Using re-cycled crushed glass instead of sand or zeolite which are mined products is certainly eco-friendly. It takes about 20% less glass compared to sand to gain optimum filtration, which increases the available filtration area. Using either zeolite or crushed glass as filter media allows not only for longer filtration cycles between backwashing due to the increased filter area, but also shorter backwashing time. Both sand alternatives are initially more expensive (by a factor of about 3) than sand, but in reality the material cost to fill a 24 inch tank would be less than $200.00.
Having witnessed the technological improvements in the pool industry over the last 35 years, we at Capitol Pool Service are both willing and happy to embrace the changes and alternatives available to us to make pool operations “greener”. Some of the changes are long overdue, such as the elimination of the standing pilot in gas heaters, while others will take more time and possibly legislation to implement. If you, as a pool owner, are interested in learning more about energy saving, eco-responsible alternatives to the way your pool is currently operating, we will be pleased to offer some suggestions.