Pooling Resources

The buzz about energy conservation has come to life with the green movement, and industries and organizations are doing more than just talking about it. The rising fuel and energy costs over the past several years–combined with a growing awareness of the need for renewable energy sources–have stirred many to take action. This includes the aquatic industry. Today, it is vital for all operators and managers of public aquatic facilities–including municipal pools, water theme parks and fitness and wellness centers–to recognize that one of the greatest operating expenses is the cost of maintaining heat within both indoor- and outdoor-pool facilities.

Newer technologies now enable operators to determine if retrofitting existing heating equipment to a more efficient method will achieve a purposeful “payback” period. Approximately 95 percent of energy (heat) losses come from evaporation, radiation and convection, while the remaining 5 percent of loss comes from conduction. Conduction is energy lost through the pool shell into the cooler ground behind the vessel. It is important that as much of the heat recovery in an indoor system be captured through proper ventilation and air distribution. Heat-recovery units have been developed to work in conjunction with the pool-heating equipment to maximize heating efficiency.

When evaluating a facility for cost savings, it is important to consider a comment made by Matthew Wald in a 2007 New York Times article: “Efficiency, not just alternatives, should be promoted as an energy saver.” Thus, facility operators and managers must look at the efficiency of the heating equipment when implementing a green renovation.

Here we look at three heating technologies–gas, solar and heat pump–and how to evaluate efficiencies and effectiveness for a facility.

Gas Heating

Over the past decade, the gas pool-heating manufacturers have raised their efficiency levels to 95 percent. Twenty years ago, 65-percent efficiency seemed adequate conservation; however, as the gas energy costs began to rise, it was prudent to develop a more cost-effective means of using gas to heat pools. Operators renovating existing gas heaters with the higher efficiency ratings need to consider the cost of increased ventilation in the mechanical room, as well as the increase in gas heating piping from the original gas-line source. The positive is fast heat, and the quickest method of heating the pool is with fossil-fuel systems. Fossil-fuel calculations are based on a simple formula–the ratio of usable output to energy input. As an example, an 80-percent-efficient heater will produce $80 worth of useful heat for every $100 worth of fuel. The chart below shows the value of installing a more efficient gas heater.

Solar Heating

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