Pooling Resources

Solar energy is at the forefront of developing higher standards for renewable-energy systems within the pool industry. This is not new technology. The Georgia Tech Aquatic Facility, which housed the swimming activities at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, implemented photovoltaic Solar Electricity Generation. Incorporated within the facility was a solar thermal system to heat the pool. Solar energy is free; however, efficiency depends on how the sun reaches the facility. It is imperative that the sizing of the solar-collector panels be based on the following criteria:

1. Pool surface area

2. Length of swimming season

3. Average regional temperatures

4. Desired pool temperature

5. Site’s solar resource

6. Collector panel orientation and tilt

7. Collector efficiency

8. Optional pool-cover installation.

Solar panels may be installed on the facility roof or on the ground. The panels must be tilted based on the latitude of the pool geographic region. As an example, Florida’s latitude is 38 degrees north; therefore, the panels must be tilted at a 38-degree angle facing south. This will achieve the strongest sun rays and provide maximum solar efficiency. In addition, the operator also should be concerned with the location of the pool equipment pump, and whether the pump will be adequate to force the pool water through the solar collectors. Some designers prefer to have a booster pump installed to secure the proper amount of gpm through the panels. Depending on the length of sun time, it may require a supplemental gas heater for quick heat-up when weather turns cool or cloudy. Solar heating efficiency is based on a formula that allows for a 2- to 5-degree rise each time the water passes through the systems. Efficiency of solar-pool energy relies on cloud cover, air temperature, seasonality, strength of the UV rays, wind and temperature differential between the pool and air, as well as the angle of the sun and any shading of the panels.

Heat Pumps–Air And Water Source

An air-source heat pump does not burn energy to create heat. It only burns energy to transfer heat from outside air to pool water. The design is based on efficiency, which is denoted by the Coefficient of Performance (C.O.P.). The formula is the ratio of usable output to energy input. A C.O.P. of 5.0 means that for every $1 of energy input, the pool will gain $5 in heat. The C.O.P. varies based on air temperature, humidity and pool-water temperature. Because of the nomenclature between various heat-pump manufacturers, there are now testing standards developed by the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute to assure that all heat pumps will meet specific standards.

In an effort to utilize renewable energy to its fullest, geothermal or geosource heat pumps are now being manufactured for pool heating. In a water-source heat pump, the energy is generated by heat in the earth, and the absorbed heat is collected from underground. Geothermal heat pumps can also extract heat from ground wells, earth loops, surface water or cooling towers. It may sound simple, but retrofitting to a water-source heat pump requires specific engineering technologies to recover the heat from the water source.

Looking for additional methods of maximizing heating efficiencies, operators are combining two heating sources–installing a solar-heating system along with a heat pump or fossil fuel heater. A savings of just 5 degrees in heat energy will reduce the overall heating costs.

As renewable energy and greener eco-friendly heating appliances are in high demand, the aquatic-facility operator should consider the utilization of heat exchangers, boilers and radiant heat as alternative energy sources during the design stage of new pool construction.

The future of pool heating will depend on efficiencies of the heating equipment. Each type of heating has made strides to become more efficient in an effort to save aquatic facilities energy costs. It is valuable to look at the existing facility and review all costs before making a quick decision to change the method and mode of pool heating. To be a hero at the facility, the operator must do the homework–calculate the energy savings and the life cycle of the heating apparatus, assess the annual maintenance costs, and compare the return on the investment. When doing so, it is important to consider the target user-groups so the facility can maintain the specific water temperature needed for those activities. For example, teaching children to swim requires a 2- or 3-degree rise in water temperature over recreational swimming of 82.5 F. Keeping user groups coming back to the facility is a key to its success. All elements of operation and care must be considered to satisfy customers, including the proper heat of the pool.

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