By Kevin Losee
Automatic safety covers are gaining popularity, largely due to the many options which allow them to be installed on pools of various shapes, sizes, and designs, but also because of the great benefits they provide the homeowner, including safety, savings, and convenience.
Automatic covers that have been tested and comply with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) safety standard are considered to be safety covers. They are manufactured to incorporate just enough slack so the cover not only fits the pool’s width—from track to track—but also so it sits right on top of the water as it travels across the pool. The water supports the cover from underneath, providing the cover with its strength and safety.
In addition to safety, automatic covers offer significant savings in the operational costs of the pool. By covering the pool when it is not in use, the amount of water lost through evaporation is dramatically reduced. This also reduces heat and chemical loss, providing substantial savings for the pool owner.
Automatic safety covers also provide convenience to the pool owner. By covering the pool when it is not in use, the water is kept much cleaner. This allows the pool owner to spend more time enjoying the pool and less time cleaning it.
Installing a reliable pool cover
When designing a pool that will include an automatic cover, there are several things that can be done in the beginning to ensure it is installed properly; these tips will also help in the reliable operation of the automatic cover system.
Drop to water
Drop to water is the distance from the cover guide to the water level in the pool. For optimal automatic cover operation, it is important to keep the cover track as close to the water level as possible—preferably within 102 mm (4 in.). Generally, this puts the water level partway up the opening of the skimmer. If the pool is overfilled, water can flow over the pool’s end wall and flood the cover housing, potentially causing damage to the system.
If the water level is too low, the cover will have too much sag during operation, which adds more wear and tear to the cover system; therefore, it is critical to maintain the correct water level in the pool. This is particularly true if the automatic safety cover is also being used as a winter cover. In this case, if the water level is too low over the course of the winter, the cover may not be able to support heavy snow loads and significant damage can occur to the pool and automatic safety cover. By simply maintaining the water at the proper level, the automatic cover system will operate more smoothly.
Drag (or resistance)
It takes almost no effort to push or pull the cover across the pool water. However, when pulling the same cover over a deck surface, there will be additional drag or resistance on the pool cover. This often occurs on wide and/or freeform shape pools.
One way to handle this is to limit any deck drag areas to 10 per cent of the overall cover size. This can be accomplished by positioning the cover track as close to the edge of the pool as possible to minimize the amount of deck the cover is pulled across. Another way to handle this challenge is by using blowers. When a blower is installed, the automatic safety cover rides on a cushion of air, rather than being pulled across the pool deck. Not only does the blower decrease the amount of drag on the cover system, it also extends the life of the cover fabric.