By Sean Miner
Over the past decade, the popularity of swim spas has increased immensely. Once seen as a novelty item reserved for the wealthy, this product has become a legitimate option for homeowners who are contemplating a pool and/or hot tub for their home. For those who desire a pool for exercise, but also covet a hot tub for its relaxation and hydrotherapy benefits, a swim spa is the perfect compromise. And with multiple manufacturers and options available, homeowners can select from many types and designs to fit their budget and needs.
One item that must be considered when choosing a swim spa is the cover. Just like a regular pool or hot tub, a proper cover is essential for providing safety, savings, and convenience.
Keeping children and pets out of harm’s way is critical for every pool type and no product provides better security than an automatic or manual roll-up safety cover. These covers prevent accidental entry into the water and should be at the top of every homeowner’s accessory list.
The next most important aspect of a swim spa cover is its ability to control evaporation. This is especially important for heated swim spas as evaporation pulls heat from the water, which requires additional energy to replace. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 70 per cent of heat loss (indoor and outdoor units) is from evaporation. Therefore, a properly designed automatic or manual cover will reduce evaporation by 90 per cent and total heat-energy loss by 50 to 70 per cent. For an indoor swim spa, controlling humidity is also important. A covered swim spa will cost a fraction of the amount it would take to heat if it was uncovered. As a result, the cover will pay for itself in a few years.
Lastly, one cannot ignore the convenience offered by covering a swim spa, especially outdoors. A cover eliminates the time it would take to clean debris out of the water. Further, chemical usage is also decreased. For homeowners, less time cleaning and adding chemicals equals more time swimming or relaxing in their swim spa.
Now that the homeowner is sold on a cover, what are their options? What cover works best for swim spas and how are they installed? To answer these questions, it is important to know exactly what type of swim spa is being covered.
Options for custom inground swim spas
One installation method that is gaining steam in the market is the custom inground swim spa. These are built like a pool, but are smaller in size and have a swim current machine installed on one end. That said, existing pools can also be renovated and transformed into a swim spa. For homeowners who choose to have a custom inground swim spa installed, a traditional automatic safety cover can be used. These systems use tracks that are installed beneath the coping or on top of the deck. The motor mechanism and cover can be installed under or on top of the deck depending on the application.
Some manufacturers also offer cover systems that are specially designed for smaller applications, which take up less space on the motor side of the swim spa. A standard automatic safety cover requires up to 0.91 m (3 ft) of space on the motor side of a custom swim spa design, which is not always available—especially with indoor models. A specially designed cover requires only 355.6 mm (14 in.) of space on the motor side of the unit, which allows the cover to be installed in tighter spaces and/or small deck applications.
These covers offer the same features full-size systems provide, including touch-pad operation and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) safety ratings—just in a much smaller package. These automatic cover systems, both traditional and swim spa-sized, are the most durable and convenient to use, but come with a higher price tag than those operated manually.