Important Things To Consider When Buying A New Pool
So you have decided to have a new pool installed - fantastic! Buying a new swimming pool can be very rewarding however the process of actually locating and hiring a
contractor, and having your dream pool built, can be an overwhelming experience. For most people an inground pool installation will be one of the most expensive
luxury purchases they have ever made. This results in a pool owner that is extremely emotionally invested in the outcome. When you buy a pool you are really buying
the dream of decades of fun, exercise, relaxation and family time...already making this a potential time bomb. If the process does not go smoothly then the entire
experience can be a huge drain on you emotionally and financially.
Buying a pool is not like buying a new car. New cars, while all uniquely different, all comply to a similar (and established) building standard. Not so with swimming pools. First, there are many kinds of pools to choose from such as concrete, vinyl liner or fiberglass pools. A Ford and a Nissan are two completely different kinds of cars...but they probably will both last for a similar amount of time because they are both built largely the same, using largely the same types of materials and processes. A concrete pool and a vinyl liner pool are vastly different. The only similar things between them might be the circulation equipment. Everything below ground is 100% different from a concrete pool to a vinyl pool. This is the first hurdle that new pool owners need to understand - swimming pools are NOT created equal. Not by a long shot. So which type of pool is the best and the right one for you? That is a complicated question that will be unique to each individual situation based on your budget, the local availability of builders, your geographic location, your expectations of longevity and maintenance and much more. The best advice that I can provide for pool owners asking this question is to seek answers from someone who is not trying to sell you a pool.
By the time that you are able to confidently answer the question of what type of pool you want, you are probably already exhausted. Self directed research is essentially the only way to protect yourself as a new pool owner. You need to educate yourself in order to make an informed purchasing decision, but as many new pool owners learn, there is simply too much information to absorb it all. You could spend hours simply researching the difference between different filter types alone. As a result of the information overload that happens when you research what is the best new pool to buy, there are many subjects that you will forget, neglect or simply skip completely. This article is designed to remind you of some important issues that you might want to consider when having a new pool installed. Many of these issues are relatively simple, easy and cost effective during the construction process, but once your backyard is complete it can be very difficult to add these features after.
Well Points & Sump Pits
The issue of controlling water around a swimming pool is an extremely important one, and one that new pool owners often can miss. There are a number of serious
problems that can develop on a swimming pool installation if water accumulates around the pool. Water accumulation can be from high ground water tables in your
backyard, from heavy seasonal precipitation, snow melt and floods. If you do not have any method to control the water around your swimming pool then this could
potentially result in damage to the pool, or the entire backyard.
Some pools have sump pits to help control ground water surrounding the pool, however most do not. This is not a problem for most pools however if you do not have a sump well installed already, it will be fairly expensive and inconvenient to have it added in once your backyard is complete. The reason why this point about controlling ground water is on this list is because water tables change. An inground pool is a permanent addition to your yard and is intended to last for decades. As cities grow, land is continually being developed and redeveloped. Sometimes this will impact the water tables in your area, changing them permanently. If you experience something like this with your property, or if you have flooding in your area, serious damage to your pool can happen if you do not have a way to control the ground water.
In areas where there is serious concern for ground water then you should have a sump well installed adjacent to the pool that extends to one foot below the floor of the deep end of the pool. For most pool installations this will not be required - simply add a well that extends down to one foot below the depth of the shallow end floor. Even a short drainage point like this will be enough to protect your pool from damage from floods and long term changes to the ground water tables surrounding your pool. The industry standard for a sump well installation is to have a corrugated pipe that extends down vertically into the gravel bed surrounding the pool. You can either have a sump pump permanently installed in the pit, or you can drop in a submersible pump as needed. The top of sump well should terminate in the pool deck and should be covered by a skimmer lid. Skimmer lids all come with screws to hold them in place however usually only commercial pools go so far as to use them since regular cleaning of the skimmer basket would be a pain if you had to unscrew the lid every time. A sump well lid is not the same. You must be absolutely sure that your sump well is secured and not able to be accessed by children or animals.
Automatic Water Fill Valves
New pool shoppers often do not yet appreciate how much work it takes to maintain a pool. Not that it is overwhelming, but more that it starts to add up when you
consider cleaning, skimming, vacuuming, chemical balancing and dozens of other minor tasks that all add up to a significant amount of time. While having a fully
automated pool might be beyond your budget expectations, adding an automatic water feeder to your pool to maintain the ideal water level should be something that you
consider. Adding a water leveler to your pool once it is finished either requires extensive trenching and cutting the pool deck, or having a water fill valve that sits
on the pool deck - neither of which are a great option. Most pool builders will only charge a few hundred dollars to add a fill valve such as this to your pool, depending on the
availability of a fresh water supply to feed the valve with.
Most automatic water fill valves will also have the option to install an overflow standpipe that will prevent your pool from overfilling. You do not need to have this option in order to use the fill feature, as the addition of the overflow pipe and subsequent drainage pipes might be a significant cost increase to this optional upgrade. If your pool installation and budget does not allow for the overflow drainage option you should still consider just connecting the fill line, but not using the overflow feature of this product.
One of the only concerns with having an auto-fill valve on your pool is that you will not likely notice if your pool develops a leak in the future. Since the water level in the pool is one of the only early signs of a potential leak, you would need to periodically turn off the valve and monitor the rate of water loss in your pool. The other option would be to monitor your water use bill for any signs of an increase in usage.
A sacrificial anode
would be a great addition to every swimming pool system, and one that is extremely affordable on any pool. As explained in this article about salt water in swimming pools, swimming pools will experience a damaging process called galvanic corrosion. A sacrificial anode is the only solution to
this problem that every pool has, however most pools still do not have one of these.
Salt water swimming pools have stormed the residential pool market over the past 15 years and as such there has been an increase in awareness to the damage that these can cause to your pool. It is important to note however that all swimming pools that use chlorine have elevated salt levels from the chlorine itself, and will all experience damage from galvanic corrosion, albeit slower than with salt water pools. This means that all pools would benefit from having this simple device installed in the pool plumbing system and connected to the bonding grid of the pool. As a bonus of requesting that your builder install one of these anodes is that it will help to ensure that the rest of your pool equipment gets properly bonded as it will need to connect into the bonding grid. Many pool builders neglect to bond the pool equipment or even bring the bonding grid out to the pump and filter location and most areas do not include equipment bonding within the scope of inspections to be done on a new pool installation. Request a sacrificial anode to be installed and be sure that both it, and the pool equipment, is all included in the equipotential bonding grid.
A Verified Pressure Test
This is not exactly an item that you add to your pool so much as it is a level of protection that you request from your builder. As discussed in this article on pool pressure testing there is a total lack of congruency in the pool and spa industry as to what a pressure test is, and should include.
As a new pool owner one of the biggest concerns that you have for the long term health of your pool is underground leaks. The reality is that there is absolutely
zero industry standard for pressure testing, and the vast majority of pool companies do inadequate or no pressure testing at all.
To protect your investment you need to be discussing pressure testing with your pool builder during the interview process. Inquiring about pressure test standards from your prospective builder will give you ample opportunity to gauge the professionalism and experience of your installer. By demanding to adhere to established plumbing industry pressure test standards you will drastically reduce the potential for leaks long term in your pool. Even as I write this I can almost hear the feathers ruffling from pool builders reading this who all think that "their glue joints don't leak". The harsh reality is that most people active in the pool industry today are not pressure testing to a standard that would be acceptable in any application outside of the pool industry.
It is not enough to simply ask your pool builder to pressure test. You need to establish the standard that you expect to see used, and you should request to have the builder bring you out and have you sign off on the pressure testing times and values. Of course, during the pool construction everyone is busy and nobody wants to make time to bring the homeowner out to sign off on the pressure test. This is why you must establish all of this in advance to avoid last minute changes in the program. Knowing and verifying pressure test values and test time length should be required to get your business and you can bet that most sub-par builders will balk at your request for this information.
Isolated Plumbing Lines
Isolated plumbing lines is the type of thing that a new pool owner would almost never think to ask about. A swimming pool does not typically have isolated plumbing
lines and instead the pipes are connected to multiple points in the pool. For example, while your pool has multiple return jets, those jets will all get fed from a
single pipe that exits your pump room. In the case of isolated pool lines you would have a return manifold in the pump room, and a separate return pipe going to each
return port in the pool.
There are a host of reasons why it would be an advantage for you to have isolated plumbing lines. Going with the above example of the return pipes, by having a return manifold and individual ball valves on each line you would be able to direct the exact amount of flow that you need to each return. Usually a pool will have some returns with more flow than others and the only way to adjust for this would be to install restricting eyelets to attempt to force more water to the return further down the line. In addition to the total control over the flow rates in each line, you would also have the ability to isolate each line in the event that a leak developed in the future. Isolated plumbing lines are a dream situation for the leak detection process and a great way to have better control over your plumbing system. There is however going to be a fairly significant cost involved since this upgrade would involve three or four times as much pipe to be run for your pool. Still, running pipe is actually fairly inexpensive when you consider that you are already paying for the trenching and the pipe work - you will just need to pay a surcharge for the additional work and this is well worth the investment in most cases.
A Variable Speed Pump
A variable speed pool pump should be considered a must for all new pool installations. The amount of energy that you save by having control over the speed that the motor operates
is significant enough that many areas are now requiring variable speed pumps by law for all new pool installations. Just because the area that you live does not
require this yet does not mean that you should not benefit from lower operating costs.
The reason why variable speed pumps are so important is because traditional single speed pumps are able to pump far more water than what the average pool needs for circulation. This is why many pool owners turn off their pump for part of the day without experiencing any problems with their pool clarity or chemistry. Still, for the time that the single speed pump does operate, it is doing so in an inefficient fashion. The important factor at work here is that reducing the speed of a pump motor by half will not simply reduce the power it needs to run by half. Pump affinity laws state that the electrical demand for a motor is only 1/8 full value when the motor RPM is 1/2 of full value. This is because electrical demand reduces by the cube of the motor speed - reduce the motor speed by half and you reduce the power needed to 1/8th. A single speed pump will simply never be able to compete with this law of power consumption versus motor speed. Even a two speed pump, which is much better than a single speed pump, is still limited to 1750 RPM. A variable speed pump running at 875 RPM would only use 1/8 the power of a two speed pump running on low speed.
Surprisingly many pool technicians are slow to adopt to variable speed technology despite the massive gains in energy efficiency. Many are not convinced that the pumps are as efficient as they claim, or, that the pumps are too expensive to fix if they break. I would be willing to bet that most of the people who say this do not understand the affinity laws for pumps. Variable speed pumps are the best technology upgrade the pool and spa industry has seen in decades. If you are ready to buy a variable speed pump but need more information about how they work and how to choose one for your pool then you should read this article about variable speed pool pump reviews.
Pipe Chase Conduits
One day in the future you might want to add a surround sound stereo system to your yard. Or perhaps you want to add some mood lighting to strategic locations in your
yard - even if you don't have the budget to take on these luxuries right now, you can plan for them in the future with only minimal costs now. Having the presence of
mind to add electrical conduits to different areas in your backyard before all the concrete and landscaping is done can pay dividends in the future for you.
Installing basic electrical conduits should not cost very much but you need to have an idea of where you need to have them.
Pump Room / Equipment Shed - This is probably the most important conduit to have installed when you are laying out your backyard pool plans. You should install a large electrical conduit from the basement (or service area) of your home directly to the pool shed. This will give you easy options in the future if you want to run new circuits. Having limited electrical service available at the pump location is a very common problem that many pool owners share. Solve this completely by installing a one inch, or larger, electrical conduit that you can run a new circuit through in the future should you need, or perhaps even a whole new electrical service for a larger sub-panel in the shed.
Back Door Light Switch - If you have pool lights being installed into your pool then you might have already considered the importance of having a switch at your back door to control them. While not required, and something that you can bypass with technology upgrades like automation panels and WIFI controlled pool features, having a conduit that connects from your back door pool access directly to the pump room location is a smart idea. If you ever install an automatic safety cover in the future you will be happy that you installed that conduit as you will be able to control the cover operation from the comfort of your back door.
Four Pool Corners - If you want the option to add lighting or sound systems in the future then it would be a good idea to run 1/2" electrical conduits to four locations evenly around your pool. This will give you the most flexibility in the future in terms of lighting and sound orientation in the backyard. Just be sure that the conduits terminate at outdoor rated PVC boxes so that you do not need to worry about bugs, dirt, water or ice in the conduits while they sit dormant. If you have a larger than normal backyard then instead of bringing the conduits to the four sides of the pool you could also bring them out to the outer edges of the pool area at four different locations.
There are, of course, many more options that your pool should come with but this list is some of the less common items that a new pool owner might not think of until well after the pool has been built. Of course any new pool installation should come with a complete set of pool safety equipment such as signage, rescue poles, floatation devices and other rescue equipment. If you want more information about what safety equipment you should have for your pool you can read this article on essential pool safety equipment that every pool should have.
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