Going Green At The Pool

Swimming pool operators know pools can be hogs of both energy and water. Water is lost to evaporation, heat is lost to the surrounding environment, heaters and pumps can be inefficient, and pool chemicals are a toxic hazard.

With the rising cost of fuel, wise pool operators are greening-up their operations–benefiting their pocketbooks, their employees and the environment. “Going green has always been good,” says Tom Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation. “With energy costs so high, going green is like gold.”

Pool operators have a multitude of options in becoming more environmentally friendly. These include efficient heating, programmable controls, hydraulics, filters, chlorine generators, variable speed pumps, lighting and dehumidifiers.

Options For Efficient Heating

The electrically powered heat pump captures the heat from the atmosphere and returns that heat to the water. “There is no combustion process, it is just transferring the heat,” says Jeff Farlow, program manager of energy initiatives with Pentair Water Pool and Spa, a global manufacturer of swimming pool and spa equipment and accessories. When selecting a heat pump, check to make sure it uses R410A refrigerant, which will be mandatory in 2010.

“It takes much less electricity to run a heat pump than it does gas to heat a pool with a gas heater,” says Connie Sue Centrella, program director and professor of Aquatic Engineering and Technology at KeiserUniversity. “The key to the heat pump is the coefficient of performance (COP). The higher the COP number, the more efficient the heating will be. So in laymen’s terms, if you have a COP of 4.5, that means that for every dollar of energy, you are going to reap $4.50 in energy because with a heat pump, you are increasing the efficiency.”

Geothermal heating units use the heat from the ground to heat pool water. “It is like mining the earth for heat,” says Centrella. “It takes the earth’s ability to store heat, and transfers it into the pool heater.”

The ultimate pool heater is solar energy; however, it only works in those areas that have sufficient ultraviolet rays and warmer weather. “With a solar heater, you pump the pool water through a series of panels facing the sun,” says Centrella. “The water circulating through the panels warms up, and the warm water is returned to the pool.”

The disadvantage of solar heating is that you need to have the same square footage in solar panels as you have in swimming-pool surface.

Technology has helped improve the efficiency of gas heaters from 75 percent to 95 percent. For example, a 75-percent efficient gas heater will only use 75 percent of the fuel for heat production, so for every dollar of fuel used, you are only getting a return of 75 cents. With a 95-percent efficient heater, you are getting a return of 95 cents for every dollar of fuel used. An energy-efficient heater provides more heat for your dollar, which saves money.


By providing wider pipes, larger filters and fewer bends in the pipe, you can decrease the amount of energy the pump needs to move the water through the system. In addition, by bypassing the water flowing through the heater, you can reduce the amount of energy needed by the pump. “Water pressure drops when it passes through a heater,” says Farlow. “If the heater is plumbed with a bypass, you can avert the flow from the slow down of passing through the heater when the water doesn’t need to be heated.”

“Go with the largest filter size that you can because it will reduce the amount of resistance,” says Centrella. “When you lower the resistance, you also lower the total dynamic head, and that means less horsepower is required to achieve the same flow rate.”

“There is nothing wrong with using an oversized filter,” says Farlow. “With the large surface area, there is less pressure drop over the filter, and you can extend the time between cleanings.”

Filter Selection

Sand filters need to be cleaned by backwashing, which can waste between 500 gallons to 1,000 gallons of water unless it is captured in a settling tank. The captured water then can be recycled into the pool once the particulates have been removed.

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