Return on investment
As the cost of energy continues to increase, pool covers are more important than ever. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) notes, 70 per cent of heat loss in a pool is from evaporation. Homeowners who use a cover will not only eliminate heat loss, but also reduce water consumption and pool operating costs by an estimated 75 per cent. Not having to retreat and reheat the replenished water provides further savings. Therefore, by using an automatic cover, there is a quantifiable return on investment (ROI). Another byproduct of a covered pool is less wear and tear on the supporting pool equipment (e.g. pumps and filters, etc.) as it does not have to run as often. Also, a covered pool is used more often, as it is always clean and warm. Homeowners spend less time skimming and more time swimming.
Commercial pool market
A growing segment of the cover market comprises commercial pools. These facilities are usually too large (typically in width) for track-type automatic covers. A slatted cover, however, can easily run a combination of systems in a side-by-side configuration. For new construction, these pool cover systems can be designed into the aforementioned recessed application. When dealing with an existing pool, then the likely installation method for these covers is a deck-mounted drive. In some rare cases, the cover mechanism can even be mounted to, and deployed from the ceiling of a commercial pool facility. Due to the fact some aquatic facilities are operated much longer than a residential pool (some 24-7), the ROI occurs much quicker, often within a year or two.
For some designers, builders, and homeowners, when comparing the different pool cover products available, the choice of which cover to specify becomes a decision made solely on the esthetic value, and how the cover will impact the visual aspect. After all, the pool will always be covered, unless people are swimming, otherwise, what is the point of the cover? While traditional vinyl automatic covers are a great product with many attributes, they simply do not compare to slatted covers when it comes to visual appeal.
A security blanket
In addition to energy savings, safety and security concerns are often other reasons as to why homeowners install pool covers. While traditional track-type automatic pool covers are considered a safety product by virtue of meeting ASTM standard F1346-91(2010) for safety and closure, slatted covers do not meet this standard.
In Europe, however, slatted covers are considered a security device. That said, should someone fall on top of a slatted cover, it will not envelope them like a bubble cover would. Instead, it will keep them above water, albeit somewhat wet.
What a number of builders do is build a security ledge 51-mm (2-in.) below the waterline that will support the end of the cover should someone walk or fall on top of it. The ledge acts as a de facto track per se.
The manufacturing of all automatic covers is similar insomuch as they are all custom made to fit the pool and or spa/hot tub. These slats are capped and sealed at the factory prior to delivery. The drive units and cover take-up reels are also made specific to each project. Installation of the standard mount can be completed after the pool is built, whereas installation of the in-floor system requires a two-step install. First, all of the hardware has to be installed inside the vessel prior to applying the pool finish and second, floating the slats (laying the slats on the water surface to connect them for the final installation) once the pool is filled with water and is up and running.
Tom Dankel has been with Aquamatic Covers Systems, a manufacturer of automatic pool covers and safety covers in Gilroy, Calif., for 31 years. He has grown with Aquamatic—from a three-person company to a firm of 50 employees, serving more than 60 countries worldwide. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.