ST. GEORGE — The summer of 2021 was brutal for many private pool owners in Southern Utah. A chlorine shortage combined with sizzling temperatures made owning a pool an expensive endeavor. The good news is, there are lots of ways to retrofit an existing pool to cut down on water, chlorine and soaring energy bills.
Just how much water is needed for a residential pool? On average, it takes between 18,000 and 20,000 gallons to fill a private pool. Many are surprised to learn pools consume less water than it takes to maintain the same square footage of grass. That said, pools use and lose huge amounts of water, but there are workarounds.
Easy eco retrofits
When it comes to setting pool standards, Ken Gregory helped write the International Pool and Spa Code which the State of Utah adopts every six years. Among other things, the code addresses a number of safety issues. Gregory said putting a cover on a pool saves lives and water.
“The No. 1 cause of death for children five years and younger is drowning,” Gregory said.
Pool covers aren’t just a safety measure, they drastically reduce the amount of energy used to heat the pool. They also cut down on water lost to evaporation.
“Because of our arid temperatures here in the desert southwest, a typical pool would lose one-eighth to one-fourth inch of water a day due to evaporation,” Gregory said. “With a cover on, that is almost eliminated.”
Covers for odd shaped pools can be tricky, usually requiring a retracting mechanism that has to sit on top of the deck. For some pool owners, this is a deal breaker because they don’t like the aesthetics. In these cases, a solar cover is a good alternative. Although solar covers don’t provide any safety measures, they greatly reduce evaporation, hold the heat in the pool and keep the surface free from debris.
Pools can suck up a lot of energy, but they don’t have to. As a manager for the Pentair pool system, Gregory said the products he sells use what’s called a variable speed pump. These systems come equipped with rare earth magnets which use far less energy than the traditional copper coil systems found in a lot of pumps. This can save up to 70% of the energy that a copper coil system would use.
Private pool owners can save even more by installing a solar pool heater which harnesses free energy provided by the sun. Gregory also advises anyone who is building a pool or upgrading their existing system to buy products that carry the Energy Star seal.
Clean and green
Private pool owners in Southern Utah may have noticed chlorine was hard to come by this summer, with shortages being reflected in higher prices. Jeff Gale, president of Pacific Pools, said saltwater systems provide an easier, cheaper and healthier alternative to traditional chlorine pools. These systems make their own chlorine through a process called electrolysis.
“It’s actually a chlorine generator,” Gale said. “The chlorine is coming from the salt that you put in the pool.”
One of the newer technologies being used in private pools are UV sanitation systems. Gale said these systems provide a very high level of sanitation and reduce the amount of chlorine needed to keep a pool clean.
“The water is subjected to UV light which kills a spectrum of bacteria you couldn’t kill with normal chlorine treatment,” Gale said.
Gale notes that UV systems are already in place for commercial pools and splash pads. This sanitation device can easily be added to existing pool systems.
Swim for less
Above-ground swim spas are increasing in popularity. These units are large hot tubs that can be used for swimming, therapy and even wake-boarding. Darrin Steele of Red Rock Spas in St. George said swim spas use less space, energy, chemicals and water than regular pools.
“The cost is going to be under half the price of an in-ground pool,” Steele said. “The less water you have, the less chemicals you use.”
Swim spas use a fraction of the amount of energy it takes to run a regular pool pump. Steele said energy bills for these units average $30 a month for a 12.5-foot spa.
“As an added bonus, people can take their swim spas with them when they move,” Steele said.
Year round swimming
Private pools aren’t feasible for many Cedar City residents due to the cooler temperatures. Ryan Malin, a salesman at Red Rock Spas in Cedar City, said this makes swim spas a good alternative.
“It’s a solid year round swim option,” Malin said. “The tub itself is designed to maintain temperature.”
Malin said swim spas are increasing in popularity as people look to “stay-cations” due to the pandemic.
“People have found it’s a lot more relaxing to just enjoy their own backyard,” Malin said.
It’s not too late to save
Southern Utah pool owners don’t have to suffer through another summer with high energy and water bills. Existing systems can easily be retrofitted with energy efficient pumps, salt water chlorinators, UV sanitation systems and solar heaters. Many of these upgrades are inexpensive and save on pool expenses for years to come.
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