Is your pool ready to swim?

Spring is here and, as the warmer weather coaxes us into the outdoors more, it’s time to get your pool ready to swim.

Is your pool too cold? Green and neglected? Full of leaves and debris? Or, all of the above? The solution is easy…

A cold pool is easily transformed into an oasis with a solar pool blanket. They raise your pool water temperature by up to 8 degrees C and can extend your swimming season by up to 3 months a year, so you can start swimming sooner.

A green pool usually means algae has started to grow in the water, due to lack of maintenance. Super chlorination is the quick fix, backed up with regular testing and adjusting to get the chemical balance just right for swimming again. Remember to remove your pool cover when super chlorinating!

If a pool full of leaves is getting you down, simply cover up with a fitted pool cover. There are many different styles available for both inground and above ground pools, salt water and chlorinated, specifically for keeping your pool leaf-free. They are cost effective and can pay for themselves in the first year, due to how much money you’ll save on chemicals and water. Plus, you’ll have more free time to swim in your crystal clear pool.

 

True or False? Uncovering the myths about pool covers…

1. “You don’t need a pool cover with a heated pool.”
A. False. Yes, you do. More than one third of the heat you put into your pool can be wasted if you don’t cover it up. We as a society can’t afford to waste that much energy these days, particularly if your pool is heated using fossil fuels like electricity or gas.

2. “Pool covers don’t work that well anyway” 
A. False. Yes, they do. It is a scientific fact that a waterproof cover stops evaporation and reduces chemical usage.

3. Just use “floating rings” or this “new miracle chemical” that you cannot see, but somehow magically eliminates evaporation from your pool.
A. False, false, false. The simple fact is, if the cover is fully waterproof, it will stop nearly 100% of water evaporating out of your pool. Floating rings and invisible chemicals just don’t do the same job. Don’t be fooled by bogus claims. If it seems too good to be true, it very often is.

4. Do I really need a pool cover in the winter time?
A. True if you want to save water and pool chemicals. With a cover you can reduce the pool filter running cycle to save electricity too. Otherwise you will still spend the same on electricity running the filter and cleaning time keeping leaves and debris out of the pool.

5. Pool covers look ugly, don’t they?
A. False. Not at all, a properly fitting and maintained pool cover will complement any pool surround.

6. Pool Covers really save a lot of chemicals?
A. True. By keeping the Sun off the pool water and reducing the light entering the pool or sealing the top of the pool, they substantially reduce the chemicals needed. A pool covered with a floating cover will use around 2/3 less chlorine.

7. I have read that some Pool Covers save over 99% evaporation?
A. True. A Pool Cover made from a fully waterproof fabric (like a floating bubble cover) will stop almost 100% of vapour transferring through the fabric.

 

Fact #5a: How often we fail, in our cover-up plan

When building a new pool or renovating an old one, there are two key accessories you need to consider during the planning stage.

They are often overlooked… What are they? Your pool cover and shade sail.

Pool covers and shade sails function best when they’ve been incorporated into your plans for the pool surround, from the beginning.

Planning for these upfront, allows you more choice for the type of cover which suits your lifestyle, as opposed to what fits your pool surround.

What I mean is, pool owners often limit their choices because they fail to plan for the necessary space to install the type of pool cover and shade sail which best suits their needs.

Let’s start with shade. In your planning, consider these common questions…

Q. How do I know where to put the shade sail over my pool?
A. As the sun (and therefore shade) moves throughout the day, start by deciding on the time of day and time of year you want shade over your pool. Then, at the time you’ve identified, use a broom handle or pool telescopic pole to create a shadow where you want it to shade. This helps you to identify where the perimeter of the shade sail needs to be located, to provide the shade where and when you need it. Often you’ll be surprised by the position of a shade sail to achieve your desired shaded area. Another good option is to talk to your Shade Sail supplier, who can advise the best shade sail position to achieve your shade needs too.

Q. I have young children who just wade on the pool steps, do I really need to shade my pool?
A. Yes, with young children you will want to shade the shallow area of the pool as well as the steps. These are the areas of the pool most young children play, so to protect them from the harsh Sun, make sure these
areas of the pool are shaded at the times they are most likely to swim.

Q. I need somewhere shaded to sit and supervise the kids, can I do this too?
A. Yes, you can shade parts of the pool itself and your pool surround. When you supervise your children while they are swimming, you may have a favourite lounge or chair position and this should be included in the shade footprint as well. Choose an area where you can sit and relax poolside.

Q. My pool will be heated, how will a shade sail affect this?
A. Shade sails do a great job of keeping the Sun and heat off the areas they protect. This means that there is less heat from the Sun to increase the water temperature, so you may need to have external heating like a solar pool cover and/or solar heating, to counter the shade affect and maintain your desired water temperature. A fully shaded pool can be 4° – 6° cooler in water temperature than an unshaded pool.

Q. Do you have overhanging trees that will drop leaves into the pool?
A. If so, you can adjust the shape of your shade sail to assist with protecting the pool from falling leaves. But you also need to ensure there is enough slope on the shade sail to stop leaves accumulating on top of it.

Q. I want more privacy when bathing, can a shade sail help?
A. Yes, a shade sail can absolutely give you extra privacy in your pool area. A shade sail normally has two opposing high fixing points and two low fixing points. You may be able to use these variable fixing heights to provide additional privacy for overlooking properties, so consider this too as part of your overall shade design.

Now you know where your shade sail needs to be located, the next stage of planning is to look at the surround and decide how it can be secured. A shade cover requires fixing points, some of which can attach to the house, but most are fixed to posts in the ground. Imagine if the posts you need could be integrated as part of the pool fence or pergola? What if the fixtures were discreetly located as part of the house? These now become options by planning the shade cover before the pool or the landscaping is completed.

Next week I will talk about planning for your pool cover.

 

Fact #2: Pool covers save water – but how much?

One of the questions I am often asked is, “How much water does a pool cover save”? We all know that pool covers save water by virtually eliminating evaporation when they’re on the pool, but how much evaporation does your pool have? It’s a valid question, and the answers can vary quite dramatically, depending on several different factors.

It would be perfectly normal for an ‘average’ sized pool to lose anywhere between 2mm and 10mm of water to evaporation every day.  Location, wind speed, humidity, shade, sunlight, air temperature and water temperature all have an impact on evaporation rates, and so does the size of your pool, so there really is no ‘average’ answer.

If you’re really keen, you can look at statistical averages on the government weather bureau website (BOM) to see rates of evaporation in your area, and then make some sort of calculation from there. It’s a complicated process though – I’ve been through the exercise with my own pool and estimate that without a cover, I’d experience evaporative water loss of over 73,000 litres per year! Isn’t that a staggering amount?
This means it’s really easy to justify why all pool owners should use a pool cover and just how much precious water they will save. to see how much we can contribute to sustainable water usage for Australia’s future, today!

Fact #1: what you must know about Salt Chlorinators and pool covers

One of the best inventions for pool owners is the salt chlorinator. When these were invented, they reduced the weekly cost of adding chemicals to the pool and, most importantly, they were an automatic dosing system which meant less time spent maintaining the pool.

Fact #1: These units are not fully automatic. When running, they are constantly dosing your pool, so you still need to monitor the chlorine level yourself. Most pool owners think that these automatic chlorinators are “set and forget”, but they are wrong! Checking the correct level of chlorine in the pool is critical for the health of your family.

It’s also important for the life of pool accessories too. For example, a pool cover is so efficient at reducing the amount of chlorine needed, that the chlorine production on the chlorinator should be turned down by two thirds, so it is only producing around one third as much chlorine as when the pool is uncovered. If the chlorinator is not adjusted, the level of chlorine in the pool gradually increases to a point where it starts to attack the pool cover and pool cleaner and is not healthy for swimming.Obvious signs of an over-chlorinated pool are:

  • The underside of the pool cover looks bleached.
  • Pieces of the pool cover start to flake off and you find them in the pool skimmer.
  • The automatic pool cleaner skirt and parts get sticky and discoloured.
  • Pool accessories that are in the water start to perish (like the cord attached to a thermometer).

How can you fix this? Unfortunately, once a high chlorine level has damaged your pool cover or pool cleaner, the damage cannot be reversed. But, you can easily check the chlorine level yourself with a standard test kit — or even easier, by using testing (dip) strips, then adjust the chlorine output to suit.

The good news for the future is that self-adjusting, salt chlorinators are being developed and released into the swimming pool market. These innovations check the chlorine level at regular intervals and automatically adjust the chlorine output to maintain an ideal, continuous level. Look for these in your pool shop or online, if you want the convenience of not having to check chlorine levels yourself, and to avoid damage to your pool cover and pool cleaner.

The Big Cover Up

Water is our most precious resource. Using a pool cover helps conserve water as it can almost eliminate evaporative water loss. I’ve noticed in the past year, many pool covers being sold online through eBay and other web pages. I guess pool owners are attracted to this method of purchase due to convenience and price! This makes me wonder, how important is product quality to pool owners these days? Perhaps it’s no longer the driving factor behind many peoples’ purchasing decisions?

You see, the quality of a bubble type pool cover is not easy to determine at all. Even for an expert, the formulation of the plastic cannot be confirmed without sending it to a laboratory for some very expensive and specialised tests. Now, thickness is a measure that is pretty straight forward to check, but in most cases you would need a measuring tool like a micrometer to be sure the thickness is what has been stated. The final factor is the reputation of the company you are buying from, and their stated product warranty (including the fine print!) and how easily you can make a claim. So how does a pool owner decide all this when buying online?

I believe a pool owner will “take a punt” in many cases when buying online, if the price looks low enough. But do they know what this could cost them in the long run? If the brand they choose is a brand they have seen in their local pool shop, then this makes it a little easier. They may feel reassured that if their local pool shop sells this brand of product then it’s probably a good quality product – and this is a fair assumption. But if they don’t know the origin of the blanket material (ie; not Australia) and they don’t know the brand or have no rapport with the company selling it, then the only reasoning they can use to purchase is price. The statistics on pool cover evaporation performance can look good no matter what the quality of the cover. For example, you could cover your pool with “Cling Wrap” and this would stop evaporation, just like it stops food drying out in the refrigerator! It would not last too long as a pool cover, but on paper, “Cling Wrap” would rate very well on evaporation performance.

I’ve been around a long time and there is a saying that goes back as far as I can remember which is “you only get what you pay for”. When you consider this, then buying an unknown brand of pool cover, online, from a company you don’t know, is very risky in my view. I know there are pool covers coming into Australia from overseas that are very low in price, but the quality of the plastic for our climate is not good enough to make them last a reasonable amount of time. “Seven months before it started to fall apart” was mentioned to me about a pool cover that was made in China. If you do the sums, a $200 pool cover that lasts less than a year, will cost you at least five times the price of an Australian made cover, over the time the locally made cover will last. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great products made in China, but so long as they are branded and sold through known companies, you have some assurance the goods will perform. If not, you have a reputable avenue to make a warranty claim. So for my money, the choice is clear. Save money and buy an Australian made pool cover, one that has been formulated specifically for our harsh Australian climate, and is a well recognised brand. You’ll be glad you did your homework and be rewarded by years of hassle-free service.

My backyard, is it indoors or outdoors?

The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) annual trade show in Las Vegas last month was focused on Swimming Pools, Spas and Backyard Living. It was obvious to me, when looking through the exhibitors’ booths, that the line between the backyard and the house is not as defined as it used to be. We are now seeing outdoor kitchens as part of our BBQ areas and back doors have been replaced with folding walls in many new home designs so the outdoor entertainment area becomes part of the house. The question this raises for me is, how too will the Australian Pool & Spa industry bridge this line between the house and backyard?

Some innovators have already started…. One thing I noticed was the number of pool and spa accessories that were available, to make the time a pool owner spends in and around their pool more pleasurable. Some of these items included light shows – not just for the pool, but for other water features. Even illuminated floating lights as part of your outdoor table display, fountain or pond. There were Plasma TV units that were in waterproof housings so they could be installed adjacent to the pool without the worry of getting splashed and damaged. Designer spa covers in fabrics that would match patio awnings and outdoor furniture cushions also caught my eye. One top of the range Spa was set up like a “home theatre” with six reclined moulded seats that were covered with jets to pamper you while you listened to music through waterproof surround sound speakers that extended from the spa deck – all this while watching a large screen plasma TV that magically elevated from within the Spa at one end. How great does that sound? The challenge for our industry is to ensure that all these accessories are functional, so they become more widely used and therefore more affordable.

I will admit upfront that I am not a great fan of automated pool covers, due to the fact that the most successful of these covers need to be incorporated into the pool design before the pool is built. I find that new pool owners often don’t plan that far ahead and therefore many of these automated covers are not an option once the pool is built, without major construction work on the pool surround. However, I did see one cover at the show which I thought was fantastic. It was a load-bearing aluminium cover in sections sized between 1200mm and 2400 mm wide. It looked like timber decking and it automatically rolled off the pool using a remote control and stacked the panels below or above the ground. The example shown had a pool with a false wall at one end and the cover magically slid underneath the wall while the pool was in use. When the pool was covered, you had a great deck area that could be used for all types of activities. How fantastic is that?