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Explaining the benefits of swimming pool covers to consumers

blanket installed
Below deck solar roller systems give new pool owners another option when it comes to conserving energy with the use of solar blankets.

By Ornella Bertoni Liburdi

In this age of energy and water conservation, the effort to go ‘green’ should begin at home. Many homeowners are conscious of the energy they are using inside the house, making sure lights are not left on in vacated rooms and ensuring that all recyclables make their way to the blue bin. They strive to save the environment from unnecessary waste, but do those who own swimming pools know how to make their pool more energy efficient?

Consumers spend hours researching their new backyard pool project from an esthetic perspective. Pool shape, accessories, and landscaping are their foremost concerns. Operational decisions regarding sanitizing, heating, and maintenance are usually secondary.

Energy conservation is a lofty pursuit that many homeowners give lip service, but rarely apply the savings measures to their backyard swimming pool.

Does appearance matter?

Many new pool owners forego the purchase of a solar blanket and roller system because of its unsightly appearance in their newly renovated yard, while many existing pool owners who have had difficulties using standard on-deck solar blanket roller systems stop using them.

If 95 per cent of consumers are concerned about the impacts of their energy consumption, and 59 per cent are changing their consumption patterns to reduce their impact on the environment, the backyard swimming pool is a great place to start.

A homeowner would never turn on their furnace and then open all of the windows before leaving for work; however, most pool owners think nothing of turning on the pool heater for their weekend party and wonder why they have lost 50 mm (2 in.) of water come Monday morning. An uncovered heated swimming pool can drop 10 degrees by morning if the outside temperature drops 20 degrees overnight.

Educate pool owners

The industry needs to educate pool owners before they purchase their pool. One of the first questions a pool dealer should ask their customer is how they intend to cover the pool.

North America seems to be lagging behind the rest of the world as the answer to this question has been addressed by other countries that have regulated mandatory swimming pool covers. For example, in a proactive move to conserve water, Australian regional governments have mandatory regulations, which require every new outdoor pool installation to have a cover (barrier protection to cover 80 per cent of water surface) to reduce water evaporation. The motivation for this regulation was not heat loss prevention, but rather water conservation.

Swimming pools lose energy in a variety of ways, but evaporation is by far the largest culprit. Evaporating water requires tremendous amounts of energy. It only takes one British thermal unit (Btu) to raise 0.45 kg (1 lbs) of water by one degree; however, each pound of 26.6-C (80-F) water that evaporates takes a whopping 1,048 Btus of heat out of the pool.

The evaporation rate from an outdoor pool varies depending on the pool’s water temperature, surrounding air temperature and humidity, and the wind speed at the pool surface. The higher the pool temperature and wind speed, and the lower the humidity, the greater the evaporation rate.

In addition to offering energy savings, solar pool covers also provide the following:

  • Conserve water by reducing the amount of make-up water needed by 30 to 50 per cent; and
  • Reduce the pool’s chemical consumption by 35 to 60 per cent.

If the new pool owner knew they could save upwards of 90 per cent on their heating costs by covering their pool every evening, their decision would be an easy one. Without the barrier protection of a blanket, a pool owner is spending hundreds of dollars in heating and chemical costs that could be mitigated by consistent solar blanket use.

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