by Rob Cox April 22, 2015
Today is Earth Day, as it is every April 22nd - and in honor of the occasion, I have assembled a list of ways to make any swimming pool more environmentally friendly.
We've covered the topic before on this blog, but technology marches on, bringing us new products, and lower costs for existing green pool products.
Just as there are many ways that you can reduce, reuse and recycle around the house, there are multiple ways to reduce your swimming pool carbon footprint.
- Variable Speed pool pumps are now available in several models at half the cost of first generation VS pumps. Hayward specifically, has reconfigured popular pumps like the SuperPump, MaxFlo and TriStar into VS pumps in the $750 range and currently has a $50 rebate. VS pumps allow you to reduce pump energy use by up to 80%, and for many energy poor states have enacted legislation requiring a multispeed pump, when replacing any pump over 1 hp.
- LED Pool Lights are another big energy saver, which cuts watts and amp usage to over 70% less than incandescent 500W flood type bulbs. In addition, LED lamps can change color or produce programmed light shows. As if that wasn't enough, LED bulbs nearly last forever - you may never change another pool light bulb again! (more energy savings)
- Vacuum your pool manually, without using booster pump driven or robotic pool cleaners, saves electricity, and uses very little of your own energy. In fact, one could say that vacuuming a pool is somewhat relaxing, at least I think so! So ditch your old pool cleaner and buy a nice vac hose and head, and a good pool brush.
- Cover your pool to reduce heat loss during the night and when the pool is not being used. Automatic covers or safety covers can be used for heat retention, and solar covers can add over 10° to a sunny pool. A covered pool also stays cleaner, and can block the sun, reducing the filtering and chemical needed to keep the pool clear and sanitary.
- Solar Pool Heaters and pool heat pumps are both considered green pool heaters because they don't emit any exhaust like a pool heater, and they are both much more efficient, using less energy than a gas heater. Solar heat uses only the energy to run your pool pump, which you do anyway. Heat pumps operate on electricity and can raise your electrical bill by $100-200 per month.
- Indoor pools need to be concerned with indoor air quality to avoid formation of trihalomethane gas which can be irritating to swimmers and pool workers, and corrosive to metals around the pool area and structure of the pool enclosure. This emission from the water can be controlled with proper water balance and chlorination practices.
- Gas pool heaters produce carbon monoxide, and should never be installed indoors, without qualified installation and annual maintenance to the heater and exhaust. If you have a natural gas heater, you at least are paying less these days for fuel, but if your gas heater runs on LPG or propane, I'm sorry.
- WATER LOSS
- Cartridge pool filters are the only filter type that doesn't need backwashing. A sand or DE filter can use over 500 gallons each time it's backwashed. If you backwash monthly, that adds up quickly. To clean a cartridge filter, one uses the garden hose, which will use only 50 gallons or so to spray the cartridges clean.
- Pool Covers are another way to reduce water loss, by controlling evaporation from sun and wind. On a hot day, a pool can easily lose 500 gallons of water to evaporation - every day! Covering a pool when not in use, with a winter cover or a solar blanket - immediately and noticeably reduces water loss.
- Fix your Leaks. I've seen a few pools that don't leak, but eventually, just about every pool will begin to leak water at some point in time. Skimmer leaks are common, as are pool light leaks or leaks out the backwash line. Visit our leak detection section for tools and tips.
- Reduce the pool temperature. Cutting back on the thermostat just 1° can save 5-10% of your heating cost, unless of course you have a solar heater, then by all means crank up the dial! If you only use your pool on weekends, cut back the temperature during the weekdays, and turn it back up on Friday.
- Reduce the pump run times. At temperatures of under 70 degrees, most pools can run the filter 8-10 hrs per day. As the water warms up, and swimmers begin to use the pool, 12-14 hours per day may be more appropriate. It depends on your water balance and the size and efficiency of your pool filtration system, but you may be able to reduce daily run times, during certain times of the year.
- Buy only what you need. It's a fallacy that buying in Bulk is Green. If you overbuy on something you only need occasionally, or something that has a short shelf life, or something that you fall out of love with - then it just goes to waste. Resist the urge to overbuy pool chemicals or supplies.
- Big filters and small pumps. A bigger filter uses less energy by overfiltering your pool water and requiring less backwashing. A smaller horsepower motor, on a high head pump can reduce energy use. For example, did you know that a 3/4 hp Whisperflo pump is equivalent in flow rate to a 1.5 hp SuperPump? Never oversize your pool pump, it results in poor filtration, stressed pipes and excessive energy use.
- Old pool covers can be used to cover the wood pile, or that old rambler on blocks. Cut them up for smaller uses, they make great tarpaulins for camping trips or can be used for construction uses.
- Chlorine buckets, algaecide bottles, even the boxes that they were shipped in can be given a new purpose once empty. Just be sure to rinse out any chemical residue fully, and they can be used around your home or donated for organizations in need. Of course, containers and boxes can also be easily recycled.
- BACKWASH WATER
- You can reuse backwash water - if you have a separation tank. A separation tank filters the waste water so that backwash water can be returned to the pool, clean and clear. Saves thousands of gallons per year for sand or DE filters.
- If your pool water has become brackish or swampish, before you drain the pool consider hiring a mobile pool water recycling company, now popping up in drought stricken areas. They pump all your pool water through a reverse osmosis filter a few times, purifying and cleaning the water. If you need to drain the pool to make repairs or clean the surface, consider renting large water bladders that hold up to 5000 gallons each. Fill the bladders with a pump and when ready, drain them back into the pool.
- Pool covers, solar blankets, mesh covers, all can be recycled at your local recycling station. These materials are made of PE or LDPE and are easily recycled by most municipal recycling centers or with your single stream recycling items you set curbside.
- I wrote a whole post on recycling pool equipment and pool materials. Pool filters, pumps, heaters can all be recycled, and some scrap metal is worth money. Some equipment like filter tanks, can be repurposed for water storage or planter bases.
- VINYL LINERS
- Vinyl, rubber, plastics - all very much recyclable. But you may have to take old vinyl liners and vinyl reinforced covers to the recycling station yourself, unless it's wrapped up very tightly, your curbside pickup crew may leave it behind.