Swimming pools are a blessing during hot South African summers. It’s difficult to imagine getting through temperatures in excess of 35°C without a nice refreshing dip. But pools can also be a curse. There are two reasons for this: 1) they require a lot of maintenance, which requires effort on the part of home owners, and 2) they cost a lot of money.
You can’t do much about the maintenance-side of things (unless you hire a pool cleaning company), but you can save money, if you follow these handy tips:
1) Use a pool cover.
Evaporation is a major problem with both indoor and outdoor pools. According to the US Department of Energy, evaporation accounts for 70% of a pool’s energy loss, regardless of whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Various factors affect the evaporation rate, including the size of the pool, the temperature of the water, the air temperature, humidity and wind. Indoor pools are affected by the home’s ventilation and air conditioning system. Pool covers can drastically cut down on evaporation and save you up to 70% on your swimming pool’s energy costs.
Now, any old sheet of plastic will do as a pool cover – temporarily. But any old sheet of plastic will probably leak and it will deteriorate in the sun, so it won’t last. The best material to use, according to the US Department of Energy, is UV-stabilised polyethylene, polypropylene or vinyl. Bubble covers are quite popular because they are effective and quite cheap. They essentially look like bubble wrap, but they’re stronger and more durable, especially in sunshine. Insulated vinyl covers are highly recommended for their durability.
Remember that a cover will affect your pool’s ability to absorb solar heat, so if you like your swimming water just this side of bath-temperature then you will want a transparent cover that doesn’t block as much solar energy absorption as an opaque cover. On the other hand, a cover will help your pool retain heat, so it’s never likely to get truly icy cold, especially if you also have a solar heater.
Pool covers save swimming pool costs by reducing the amount of evaporation, which reduces the amount of water required to top-up your pool on a daily or weekly basis. This also reduces the pool’s chemical consumption, so you save money on chlorine, acid and other pH balancing goodies. Finally, they keep your pool clean, so you don’t have to use your Kreepy Krauly as often.
2) Upgrade your pump.
How old is your swimming pool pump? Be honest. There are people who count themselves lucky because they’re still using the same pump as when they moved into their house 30 years ago. And they are lucky to have a piece of machinery last that long. But just how effective is that old pump, really? Modern pool pumps are smaller but more efficient than their clunky old counterparts. This means that you don’t have to use them for as many hours a day to achieve the same results. According to Swimmingpool.com, a new energy-efficient pump uses up to 45% less energy than a standard pump, let alone a creaking antique.
You can take even more control over your pool’s energy use by upgrading to a pump with variable speed settings and by putting your pump on a timer. You can then set your pump to run for regular short bursts throughout the day, rather than leave it on for hours at a time.
3) Use a solar pool heater.
If you’re not content with the regular heat of the sun to get your water up to swimming temperature, or you want to prolong your swimming season, then a solar pool heater is the way to go. Solar water heaters can give you about an extra four months of swimming a year, but, depending on where you live in the country, you may still not be able to swim all year round. Sutherland, for example, is unlikely to support 12-months of swimming outdoors.
The type of solar pool heater you get will depend on your geographic location and the prevailing climate, as well as the size of the pool. You can buy a ready-made solar pool heater and have it installed or you can try your hand at making a DIY version (the internet is full of tips and instructions on how to make your own). Remember you’ll need to come up with all the basic components, which include a solar collector (which collects solar heat and transfers it to the pool water which circulates through it), a filter (to get rid of debris before water heads on up to the collector), a pump (to circulate the water) and a flow-control valve.
Some more quick-fire energy-saving tips for your pool:
- Keep the filter clean to maximise its efficiency.
- Only run the filter during off-peak electricity hours.
- Backwash sparingly.
- Provide shelter from the wind with a fence or hedge.
- Harvest rain water to top up your pool.
- Check regularly for leaks and fix leaks as soon as they appear.
- Use the pump’s lowest speed setting.
Pools are expensive to maintain, there’s no doubt about it, but you don’t have to consider turning yours into a vegetable patch to avoid rising electricity and water costs. Follow these simple tips and your pool will deliver more value for less money.
Image credit: Dave Dugdale , CC BY 2.0, Via Flickr