Increasing energy efficiency

January 1, 2011

DSCN0557[1]By Connie Sue Centrella

Domestically and internationally, exhibitors at the winter pool and spa trade shows have embraced environmentally friendly technology. Worldwide trends toward energy conservation are pushing the development of technologies that meet a new ‘green’ standard for the pool industry.

During a recent visit to the Piscine 2010 show in France, it was apparent that eco-friendly products are gaining momentum internationally. Change is underway and the pool and spa industry must educate itself to promote and market these innovations to the consumer. No longer can we rest on old technologies.

This is even more important as the cost of energy continues to rise. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), electricity prices were expected to increase 4.7 per cent in total annual consumption during 2010, with little change to come in 2011[2]. At the same time, Canadian provinces are initiating Heat Smart plans designed to encourage consumers to retrofit their homes for energy-efficiency incentives[3]. The task for pool and spa professionals throughout North America will be to offer new technologies, to the swimming consumer that are affordable and deliver a payback in energy savings over a reasonable period of time, like those outlined below.

Filtration and circulation

The vast majority of pump and filter manufacturers have made great strides, meeting new energy-efficiency standards implemented by regulatory agencies. Dual- and multi-speed pumps are mandated over 1.0 total horsepower in many U.S. states. Because of these changes, time clocks and controllers are being adapted to regulate time on high speed, and then default back to low speed after a set number of hours. To lower the total dynamic head (TDH), larger filters are being specified and/or suggested. To eliminate friction losses, larger pipe diameters are being installed along with larger multi-port values.

Hydraulics is also a key factor; some technologies now require lower velocities. Some say using these hydraulic factors to lower resistance is a new approach; actually, the new part of this equation is that pool and spa professionals are just beginning to engage in understanding the science of hydraulics and are adapting their construction and renovation procedures accordingly.


A big emphasis is now being placed on automation, which improves efficiency and eases use. All facets of pool equipment—from pumps to filters to lighting—can be now be customized to meet an individual consumer’s needs. Giving the pump room a ‘voice’ by relaying efficiency messages to mobile phones has become an attractive development for technology-savvy professionals and consumers.


A major inroad moving pool lighting to light-emitting diode (LED) technology was apparent at recent trade shows. Lighting is not only becoming an attractive architectural design element, but also a necessary, energy-efficient way to provide safety in and around the pool area. A traditional 500-watt halogen bulb can now be replaced with a 70-watt LED light and achieve the same level of illumination. Light-emitting diodes for swimming pool applications also have the ability to change colours, as well as generate lower watt hour/cost while still achieving the same bright light produced by traditional fixtures.


The pool heating industry has committed to a reduction in its carbon footprint by changing fossil fuel efficiency ratings. Recent trends in heat pump installation show consumers are becoming more aware of viable alternatives to gas heaters. For example, the ability to retrieve and convert the heat in ambient air around the pool to warm the water is an appealing, environmentally friendly application. Along with the air source methods, geothermal heating—taking heat from aquifers, ponds and water towers—has also been accepted as a viable energy-reduction science. While solar heating is not a new technology, partnering solar heat with other heating appliances reduces the overall energy costs.

The environment plays an important role in any heating technology, as relative humidity and air temperature have a direct effect on evaporation and heat loss. Evaporation accounts for 50 per cent of heat loss. New automated cover technologies are marketed to reduce evaporation, thus lowering energy loss.

New solar and photovoltaic technologies are used to run the pool pump/filter system. In addition, solar lighting, often found in landscaping, has forged its way into the pool lighting industry. Creating a solar grid to energize equipment may seem ambitious and futuristic, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Education is empowerment

While all these new technologies are interesting, pool professionals must be mindful of the initial costs required to retrofit installations. Consumers are willing to pay more for energy efficiency, but they are looking to recoup those costs within two to five years. Professionals must be equipped with energy calculators, as well as audits, to prove energy savings to the consumer.

Advanced technologies also require a resurgence of education energy for pool and spa professionals. It is evident that a strong training in hydraulics, electricity, filtration and heating will be important for the future. As an educator, I encourage all professionals to attend trade show seminars, carefully examine new regulations and become fully engaged in the sustainability movement. Pool and spa technicians can easily become energy efficiency professionals, helping customers map out strong plans for energy reduction. This is not only good for the planet, it is simply good business.

Readers are invited to submit their comments and suggestions on how the pool and spa industry can embrace the sustainable, energy-efficient movement, and offer suggestions on how professionals can adopt these new sciences to improve their businesses. Sharing ideas is the best way to raise awareness and educate the industry about ongoing energy-efficient technological trends. Send responses to[4]. Comments will be shared via a threaded online discussion.



Centrella_Headshot_edited-1Connie Gibson Centrella, MBA, is professor and program director for the online Aquatic Engineering Degree Program at Keiser University eCampus, director of education for Team Horner and a sustainability officer, having been certified in the principles of green and sustainable business practices. Centrella, an industry veteran with more than 40 years in the pool and spa industry, is also the five-time recipient of the Evelyn C. Keiser Teaching Excellence Award Instructor of Distinction. She can be reached via e-mail at[4].

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