How To Make Your Pool More Energy Efficient
According to a study done in 2008 by the Natural Resources Defense Council, there are more than 4.5 million residential swimming pools in the USA alone. The total estimated energy costs for these pools is between 1.1 and 1.6 billion dollars per year. Energy efficiency in swimming pools is a global issue and one with a very large, very deep footprint, which is presumably filled with chlorinated water. Energy efficiency in swimming pools is an important issue and one that is far greater than the financial savings you yourself can experience from improving the energy efficiency of your pool. When considered in the global context, even marginal reductions in wasted energy will have massive net reductions in the energy consumed by the country as a whole - and it all starts in your backyard.
Swimming pools are an expensive luxury and one that, quite honestly, wastes a lot of energy unnecessarily. Pool pumps, at least traditional single speed pumps, are a huge energy hog...actually one of the largest individual draw appliances in the average home. Pool heaters use so much energy that there should basically be a slot in the front of the machine where you can feed $100 bills directly into it. Chemical balancing in swimming pools should involve very few chemicals once you know what you are doing. Essentially chlorine and some occasional pH control is all that the average pool needs to have corrected regularly...all of those extra chemicals that you are using you need most likely because you did not manage your chlorine or pH correctly in the first place. If you were to tighten up all of these loose ends then you would actually notice a marked improvement in the efficiency of how your pool operates, chemically speaking, and the amount of money that your pool costs you on a yearly basis.
If you are like me, and spending money unnecessarily causes you physical pain, then try to adopt these important energy saving (and money saving) tips. Having a swimming pool is certainly a luxury, but your costs to maintain your pool do not need to reflect this!
Buy A Variable Speed Pool Pump
You just turn your pump off part of the day to save money already...you don't need a variable speed pump. Wrong. Dead wrong. You are thinking linear however the energy calculation for pump motors is dynamic, not linear. Let us assume you run your 1.5HP pool pump for 8 hours per day, and shut it off for 16. Smart move. Your pump will almost certainly meet your minimum turnover in 8 hours, plus you get to save 16 hours per day of running time. Voila, energy savings. The problem with this line of thinking is that you are not taking into account pump affinity laws which show that reducing a motor RPM by half will result in an electrical draw of only one quarter the full speed draw.
So how would a variable speed pump save you energy compared to a 1.5 HP pump running on full speed (3450 RPM) for 8 hours? For the same amount of energy that it would take for your 1.5 HP pump to run for 8 hours, a similar sized variable speed pump could run at 1725 RPM for 32 hours. Or at 875 RPM for about 128 hours.
How do you not want a pump that can efficiently and effectively move water for 128 hours for the same energy that you can get 8 hours of pump run time for? One day of filtration instead of 5 for every day that you run your single speed pump!
Shutting off your pump will never even come close to the energy savings that you get from variable speed pumps. In addition to the energy consumed by the motor being vastly superior with variable speed pumps, the water moving through your filtration system will do so much more efficiently. Moving water at a very high rate of speed, as single speed pumps do, is actually a very inefficient method of water filtration. There are appreciable energy losses in the pipes from turbulence and friction, not to mention poorly designed hydraulic systems which plague the residential pool and spa industry. When you are serious about making your pool more energy efficient, the very first conversation that you need to have is about variable speed pumps and how vastly superior they are from a technical perspective versus the current industry standard single speed pumps. If you would like to know more about VS pumps then you can read these variable speed pump reviews or this article that shows you in dollars and cents exactly how much you can save with a variable speed pump. Also worth noting is that 2017 saw a new energy bill passed in the USA which will soon require minimum efficiency standards for residential pool filtration pumps - for many pool owners shortly you will have to - by law - get a variable speed pool pump.
Pool Covers Improve Energy Efficiency
It is little wonder that putting a cover on your pool will help to hold the heat in. The problem with this is that putting a cover on a pool is a little bit of a pain, and you can't just leave the cover on for extended periods of time as this can cause algae to grow and turn your water green. This means that two times every single day you need to go out to the pool and either cover it or roll the solar blanket back up. While it is not a huge task, rolling up solar blankets can be a pain, especially on your own, and people tend to tire of the task.
A solar blanket might be the single lowest cost, highest returning energy efficient improvement that you can make to a swimming pool. You can consider the work it takes you to put the cover on and take it off to be sweat equity in exchange for energy savings. With the cost of heating swimming pools being so high you would think that every pool would be covered with a thermal blanket every night. The reality is that only a very, very small portion of pools actually get covered.
When you use a thermal blanket regularly you will reduce chemical use, water evaporation and heat loss in your pool dramatically. Under ideal conditions a solar blanket could reduce the amount of wasted heat energy your pool loses by over 90%. This is a return of over 90 cents for every dollar you spend on pool heat - or more specifically something that will prevent you from wasting 90 cents of every dollar you spend on heating your pool water. If you are the type of person that values money and loves your pool...but you can not justify the ongoing costs of maintaining your pool, then dedicated use of your solar blanket is the single biggest thing that you can do manually to reduce what your pool costs you.
Reduce System Operating Pressures
Every pool owner is familiar with the small pressure gage that is attached to your filter. On most pools these get broken and never replaced. What most pool owners do not fully understand is just how much that system pressure is hitting them in the pocket book. High system pressures on a pool filtration system means that there is a lot of restriction in the system, and very likely a significant energy efficiency loss. The lower the system pressure, the more efficiently in which your system operates.
The cost of high pressure in your system might be more than you think. The San Francisco Pacific Gas & Electric swimming pool conversion program reports that for every PSI increase of your pool plumbing system, this will cost you an additional $276 per year to operate your system (based on 24h/d running). This means if you tend to let your filter be on the dirty side because you do not clean it, or backwash it as often as you should, then you are paying extra as a result. If your system operates just 10 PSI higher than it needs to then this would be costing you almost $3000 extra per year.
This is one of the many reasons that it is important to design swimming pool plumbing systems with proper flow dynamics in mind. Every additional bend, fitting, valve and appliance adds to the head pressure, or resistance, of the system. Most often, plumbing fittings are used with reckless abandon and absolutely zero thought into the long term flow dynamics or efficiency of the system. If you want to improve the energy efficiency of your pool system then you need to keep your filter clean and avoid unnecessary increases in system pressure - as well as eliminating unnecessary plumbing fittings and worst-offenders like street elbows. Another great way to reduce system pressure and efficiency losses in your plumbing system is to increase the size of as much of your plumbing system as possible to 2" or larger pipes. This will reduce the flow velocity for a consistent volume of water and will reduce friction and turbulence losses through the system. If you want to learn a TON more about this aspect of pool plumbing then you should absolutely watch my 50 part video review series on pool equipment installations.
Energy Efficient Swimming Pools
A swimming pool does not need to be small in order to be energy efficient. In fact some of the most expensive pools in the world are also the most efficient ones as there are many ways that incorporating known technologies can increase the efficiency in which pools operate. From a theoretical standpoint swimming pools will one day need to be redesigned, as some builders are doing, with energy efficiency being paramount in the design. As seen with some of the cutting edge designs of world class pool builder Barry Justus, of Poolscape Inc. in Burlington Ontario Canada, making a more efficient pool starts from the ground up. Literally every part of a swimming pool can, and eventually will, be designed with more effective efficiency in mind.
As Poolscape showcased with the Greenest Pool In Canada you do not need to sacrifice, design, function or style to have a more efficient pool - you simply need to incrementally improve every possible aspect of the pool from top to bottom. If you follow the steps outlined on this page then you are well on your way towards improving the efficiency of your pool by reducing the biggest areas where energy is typically wasted on swimming pools. When the public stops accepting lower quality, less efficient swimming pools, then builders will be forced to adapt new technologies into their designs and become more familiar with building to suit both design, but also function.
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