Pool Automation

autoWith a system like the Pentair Easy Touch, scheduling and operating your filtration cycles, heating, pool and landscape lighting, sanitizing, waterfalls and fountains all will be blissfully automatic. System controllers and remote controls have been designed to be push-button simple, with easy-to-read digital displays and step-by-step menu driven instructions. Even if you are out to dinner or on your way home from a hard day of work you can turn on your spa to heat up with the touch of a button from your smart phone. By the time you get home the spa will be ready for you to enjoy. Now that’s technology that works!

Heaters

Here are some of the different types of pool heaters available and their advantages and disadvantages.

Electric Resistance Heaters

Electric resistance heaters use electric currents to create heat. When a current is applied to the resistor located inside the unit, the resistor heats. Water then washes over the resistor and heats, causing the resistor to cool. Because electric resistance heaters require large amounts of electricity, they are primarily used to heat small, portable spas and small therapy pools.

Advantages of Electric Resistance Heaters

  • Inexpensive to purchase: many available for under $2,000
  • Operate independently of air temperature
  • Environmentally friendly: emit no air pollution

Disadvantages of Electric Resistance Heaters

  • Expensive to operate: monthly operating costs between $500 and $600
  • Expensive to install: require heavy-duty wiring and large-amperage circuit breakers
  • Not energy efficient: COP of 1.00

Gas Heaters

gasGas heaters burn either natural gas or propane to create heat. Gas burns inside a combustion chamber, which contains a series of copper coils. As the gas burns, water passes through the coils and heats. Gas heaters have historically been the most widely-used swimming pool heaters, though their popularity is decreasing due to high gas prices and the advent of and efficiency of heat pumps.

Advantages of Gas Heaters

  • Inexpensive to purchase: many available for under $1,500
  • Operate independently of air temperature
  • Heat pool water quickly

Disadvantages of Gas Heaters

  • Expensive to operate: monthly operating costs between $300 and $500
  • Not energy efficient: COP between 0.80 and 0.85
  • Lifespan of five years
  • Not environmentally friendly: emit air pollution

Heat Pumps

pumpHeat pumps use electricity to transfer heat to your swimming pool. Air-source heat pumps transfer heat from the air, and water-source (geothermal) heat pumps transfer heat from water. Because of their energy-efficiency, heat pumps have rapidly grown in popularity.

Advantages of Heat Pumps

  • Inexpensive to operate: monthly operating costs between $50 and $150
  • Energy efficient: COP between 5 and 6
  • Water-source heat pumps: operate independently of air temperature
  • Lifespan of ten to 20 years
  • Environmentally friendly: use renewable energy source and emit no air pollution

Disadvantages of Heat Pumps

  • Expensive to purchase: many available for between $2,000 and $4,000
  • Air-source heat pumps: dependent upon air temperature
  • Heat pool water slowly

Solar Heaters

solarSolar heaters use solar panels to transfer heat from the sun to your swimming pool. As solar panels sit in the sun, they collect heat. Then, the swimming pool pump pushes water through the circulation system and through the solar panels. As the water passes through the solar panels, it heats. Because of solar heaters’ reliance on the sun, many swimming pool owners use auxiliary heaters during nights and cloudy days.

Advantages of Solar Heaters

  • Inexpensive to operate: no additional monthly operating costs
  • Energy efficient: operate with your pool pump
  • Lifespan of 15 to 20 years
  • Environmentally friendly: use renewable energy source and emit no air pollution

Disadvantages of Solar Heaters

  • Expensive to purchase: many available for between $4,000 and $7,000
  • Dependent upon sun: cannot operate at night and operate less efficiently in cloudy weather
  • Heat pool water slowly
  • Unattractive installations on swimming pool owner’s roof or lawn

In-floor Cleaning vs Vacuum

Vacuum

Automatic vacuum cleaners are simple systems that clean most vacpools effectively.  Pressure and suction automatic cleaners are fairly easy to install and maintain.  Most automatic cleaners have parts that wear with time and need replacement to prevent damage to the cleaner.  These items are the wheels, bumpers, and rollers on the sweep tail.   Automatic cleaners can be completely removed from the pool for swimming by disconnecting the leader hose from the pool wall.  Another advantage with automatic cleaners is that they are relatively inexpensive when compared to infloor cleaning systems.

Many of the pools constructed today have sun shelves, benches, or shallow areas that an automatic cleaner is not able to reach. Therefore, you would need to brush these areas and push the debris to the main pool so the vacuum could clean properly. Another disadvantage is that automatic cleaners do eventually wear out and need to be replaced.

In-Floor Cleaning System

ifcsInfloor cleaning systems have a series of pop up sweeping heads that push debris to the deep end of the pool where it is removed by a specialized drain. From this point the debris is carried to a container that has a large basket which traps large debris and the fine particles go into the pool filter.  The basket is cleaned much like a skimmer would be and the filer is cleaned by backwashing or cleaning the cartridges.  The pop up sweeping heads operate much like a lawn sprinkler head; working in zones to sweep the pool from shallow to deep.

Pools with shallow depths and zero depth entries can be cleaned without manually brushing. You don’t have to worry about the leader hose getting tangled and the cleaner not doing its job. There is no real visible sign of the cleaner in the pool. There is minimal maintenance associated with infloor systems other than empting a strainer basket located at the pool equipment pad.

The main disadvantages to infloor cleaning systems is the initial cost associated with installation. This type of system is triple the cost of an automatic cleaner.

Sanitization Systems

Many homeowners struggle while trying to select sanitization systems for their swimming pools because they have many options to choose from. The truth is: no single system is best. You should therefore consider a number of variables when selecting a sanitization system, including initial costs, maintenance costs, maintenance tasks, climate, and number of swimmers. Here are some of the most popular swimming pool sanitization methods and we list advantages and disadvantages of each.

Chlorine

Chlorine has historically been the most widely-used chemical for swimming pool sanitization, though several alternative sanitation methods have recently gained popularity. It kills bacteria by undergoing a simple chemical reaction. In this chemical reaction, chlorine breaks down into hypochlorous acid and hypochlorite ions, which then oxidize bacteria until they are neutralized or destroyed.

Advantages of Chlorine Sanitization

  • Chlorine has a long half-life and can therefore be stored for long periods of time.
  • It is available to consumers in many different forms. It can be found as a gas, liquid, or solid.
  • Chlorine has a residual effect: not only does it neutralize contaminants when it is first added to swimming pool water, but it also continues to neutralize long afterward.

Disadvantages of Chlorine Sanitization

  • Byproducts of chlorine are chloramines and trihalomethanes (THMs), which cause skin and eye irritation to swimmers.
  • After being added to a swimming pool, chlorine dissipates very quickly. Swimming pools that utilize chlorine must therefore be regularly tested and maintained.
  • Chlorine Byproducts have been associated with a number of health issues, including respiratory problems.

Salt Chlorine

scSalt chlorine generators utilize a chemical process called electrolysis to form hypochlorous acid (a sanitizer) from salt and water. The key characteristic that distinguishes salt chlorine from its sanitizing counterparts is its ability to recycle itself. After the hypochlorous acid sanitizes the swimming pool water, it reverts back to salt, and then the process repeats. Salt chlorine generators have gained much popularity with homeowners recently, and the market for them is likely to expand further in the near future.

Advantages of Salt Chlorine Sanitization

  • Because the chlorine generated is so concentrated at the point of production (inside the salt cell), swimming pool water is superchlorinated when it passes through the energized cell. This superchlorination helps combat the buildup of chloramines.
  • Swimmers experience less skin and eye irritation in salt chlorine swimming pools than in traditionally-chlorinated swimming pools.
  • Salt chlorine produces nearly neutral pH levels, so few additional chemicals are required to balance the pH levels in salt chlorine swimming pools.

Disadvantages of Salt Chlorine Sanitization

  • Salt chlorine generators typically cost approximately $1,500.
  • Salt cells typically must be replaced once every three to five years.

Bromine

broBromine is very similar to chlorine as it applies to swimming pool sanitization, though bromine’s byproducts differentiate it from chlorine. When chlorine reacts with contaminants in swimming pool water, chloramine is formed. Similarly, when bromine reacts with contaminants in swimming pool, bromamine is formed. The difference lies in the effect of these byproducts on the swimming pool. Whereas chloramines offer no benefit to swimming pool water, bromamines retain the sanitizing characteristics of bromine. For this reason, many homeowners have turned to bromine as their swimming pool’s sanitizing agent.

Advantages of Bromine Sanitization

  • It is more stable than chlorine in warmer temperatures, which makes excellent for sanitization in indoor or covered spas.
  • The smell of bromine is less pungent than that of chlorine.
  • Bromine continues to work even after it combines with contaminants, and it therefore sanitizes for a longer period of time than chlorine.

Disadvantages of Bromine Sanitization

  • Bromine is a weak oxidizer.
  • Bromine is more expensive to purchase than both chlorine and salt.
  • Though the smell of bromine is less pungent than that of chlorine, the smell of bromine is more difficult to get rid of.

Ozone

Ozone is an unstable, inorganic gas that is created when free oxygen atoms collide with oxygen molecules. It is manufactured by subjecting oxygen molecules to either a high-voltage ionization process or to ultraviolet radiation. Most ozone generators utilize the high-voltage ionization process because it results in a much higher concentration of ozone (20% by the high-voltage ionization process versus 5% by ultraviolet radiation).

Advantages of Ozone Sanitization

  • Ozone is a strong oxidizer. Specifically, it is 100 times stronger than chlorine.
  • It reduces the need for swimming pool maintenance: it breaks down filter-clogging contaminants such as grease and oils.
  • Ozone has no effect on the pH levels of swimming pools. Swimming pools that utilize ozone, therefore, require much less pH adjustment. This translates to less chemical usage.

Disadvantages of Ozone Sanitization

  • Ozone has a short half-life: it cannot be stored, but instead must be used soon after it is produced, and is only effective as it mixes with the water in the return line. After it returns to the pool, Ozone is released back to the atmosphere.
  • It alone is not a sufficient sanitization method for most swimming pools, as it cannot eliminate all swimming pool contaminants. However, Ozone is compatible with Chlorine or Bromine.
  • Ozone gas is harmful in high concentrations.

Ionizers

Ionizers release ions of copper and hard metals into swimming pool water. Basically, they kill bacteria by exposing them to these ions. Two forms of ionizers exist. The first is an electric ionizer, which utilizes electricity to charge the metals until they release ions. The second is a mineral cartridge ionizer, which utilizes the water flow through a mineral packet to steadily release the metal ions.

Advantages of Ion Sanitation

  • Ionizers are inexpensive to maintain. The electrode components of ionizers typically last between three and five years, and they are fairly inexpensive to replace.
  • Ionizers reduce the need for many swimming pool chemicals. (I question this point. It only adds copper to prevent the need for copper based algaecides, which most people do not use, unless they have an algae problem, and may provide a minimal sanitizing effect. It may reduce the amount of chlorine needed, although as you mention in the disadvantages, sanitizer is still needed.  More pH testing will be needed, as the pH will greatly affect any staining potential of the copper on pool sufaces.)
  • Unlike chlorine, the metal ions produces by ionizers do not negatively affect swimming pool equipment. The equipment in ionized swimming pools therefore has a longer lifespan.

Disadvantages of Ion Sanitation

  • Ionizers do not oxidize swimming pool water.
  • The metal ions released by ionizers are slow-acting and, as such, take several hours to start fighting contaminants.
  • Though they reduce the need for many chemicals, ionizers cannot alone sufficiently sanitize swimming pool water. Some amounts of chlorine are still needed.
  • pH must be maintained within a certain range or copper staining will occur.

Ultra Violet or UV

Ultraviolet Pools Ultra UV Ultraviolet sanitation systems provide an additional layer of protection beyond the capability of the usual chlorine or salt generator sanitizers. By immediately neutralizing the microorganisms that are resistant to these other sanitizers as water circulates through the UV reactor, maximum sanitation is achieved. This are not stand alone sanitation solutions but to be added to another system.

Filters

There are three types of filters including Sand, Cartridge and DE (Diatomaceous Earth).

Sand Filters

filter1 Sand Filters consist of large tanks filled with sand. The water gets pushed through the sand which filters out any contaminants before they end up in your pool, thus clarifying your water. Sand filters remove particles as low as 20 microns which become caught within the grains of sand. Eventually the particles will block more and more water, raising the pressure in the filter. This will cause your filtration system to backwash or flush out the system by reversing the water throughout the filter.

Pros:

  • Easy maintenance
  • Cheap to replace
  • Sand lasts 7 years

Cons:

  • Requires backwashing (almost weekly)
  • Wastes water through backwashing
  • Filters down to 20-25 microns
  • Creates the most pressure, making it less energy efficient

Cartridge Filter

filter2Cartridge Filters are energy efficient, cost effective, and readily available. They consist of a filter cartridge which sits in a tank smaller than that of a sand filter and filters water through the large surface area of the filter. The cartridge’s clarity lands in the middle, filtering down to 5 microns which are picked up through the paper-like material within the cartridge. Because the filter has a large surface area it creates the least resistance and works the best under lower speeds. The cartridge filter can be taken out and sprayed down with a hose for cleaning and doesn’t require backwashing.

Pros:

  • No backwashing
  • Filters good at lower speeds for energy efficiency
  • Greater surface area
  • Traps particles as small as 5-10 microns
  • Saves water
  • Most Economical

Cons:

  • Cartridges need to be replaced more often (every three years or so)

Have to clean the cartridges once or twice a season.

D.E. Filter

filter3D.E. or Diatomaceous Earth Filters use mined fossilized exoskeletons of tiny diatoms to filter out particles. The D.E. Filter consists of a tank with a grids inside coated with D.E. Powder. The D.E. Powder acts like sand catching particles but on a much smaller scale. It catches particles as small as 3 microns, giving the clearest water out of the three filters, but not without a higher price. The D.E. Filters have a little pricier upkeep than Sand or Cartridge Filters, requiring you to replace D.E. Powder every time you have to backwash the filter. You can do this easily by adding D.E. Powder to your skimmer but you will have to give the filter a thorough cleaning once a year.

Pros:

  • Filters particles as small as 5-10 microns
  • E. can be added through your skimmer

Cons:

  • Higher maintenance costs
  • Costly
  • E. Powder is carcinogenic in it’s powder form
  • Grids need to be cleaned once a year
  • Higher resistance than cartridge filters

Which is the best?

In terms of overall performance our pick goes to the Cartridge Filter. The Cartridge Filter allows for an energy efficient, cost effective system, that still provides you with clear water. It does this by having a large surface area which allows for great filtration while being able to allow pump speeds to remain low. The lower the speed, the lower the pressure and friction in the lines, thus decreasing the amount of energy consumed by your pump.

Pumps

pumpAll of the new pumps are variable speed pumps which are mandated by the Arizona state. Traditional pumps operate at set, unchangeable speed. Those speeds are almost always higher than required. As a result, they overpower the jobs they’re assigned to do, which waste energy.

The variable speed pump allows custom programming of optimum pump speeds for specific task such as filtering, heating, cleaning, spa jets and water features. For virtually all applications, the optimum speed is lower than the preset, unchangeable speeds of older pumps. Thus they can cut energy consumption up to 87% over traditional pumps.