Swimming Pool Blog

5 ways to operate your pool in an Eco Friendly manner ~ without spending a dime!

by Rob Cox, March 21, 2010

I was looking over my blog post of March 13 this weekend, the one with the same name "5 ways to operate your pool in an Eco Friendly manner ..." and I realized that most of my 5 ways involved the expenditure of dollars from your pocket. New equipment is fine if you can afford it, but there are easy ways to reduce and reuse resources around the pool, without spending.

Adding new equipment, and junking your old, is also not exactly earth friendly per se, so try to sell your used pool equipment on craigslist.org or look up freecycle.org.

Here's  5 ways to operate your pool with less of an impact on the environment (without spending a dime!)


1. Save pool water

Water is never really "wasted", right? I mean, it goes out of the pool and evaporates into the air, or is pumped and splashed back into the local watershed, where eventually, the cycle could theoretically return the same drop of water to the same pool years later. The waste is in the treatment and transport of the water. Pool water is treated and filtered, and so is tap water, thus we have duplication of effort and wasted expense.

Secondly, and in the case of more drought prone areas, water rationing can be a reality, and political trade-offs in water distribution push the need for many U.S. cities (and homeowners) to save pool water. Water prices have increased in many arid regions, California and Texas especially.

  So How can you save pool water, without spending money?

  • Backwash for only the amount of time necessary.
  • Hose DE grids clean instead of backwashing.
  • Strict "NO Splashing" rule (good luck with that).
  • Clean your pool more often; keeps filter cleaner longer.
  • If you have a cover, use it to reduce evaporation.
  • Do the Bucket-Test to determine if your pool is leaking.
  • Keep pool heat levels low and if you have a pool cover, use it.

2. Save pool electricity

The pool pump is the biggest energy hog on the equipment pad. 500 watt pool lightbulbs may be second. Most folks use both of these more than they need to. Properly sized pool pumps and filter systems are designed to filter all of the water in the pool in an 8-10 hour period. One of these "Turnovers" as they're called, per day, is usually sufficient for clean and clear pool water. But to be sure, I usually like to run 10-12 hours per day. Now to be able to do this successfully, you need to keep the pool clean of debris, and have proper sanitation and circulation. Brush the pool thoroughly as well, at least weekly. Make sure the filters are clean and clear as well.

With experimenting each day on the number of hours you run the pool pump, you'll find the magic number for your pool pump and filter system. When you get too low, usually around 8-10 hours of filter run time, you will notice "turbidity" or the water becoming cloudy or hazy. When you see this you have found the floor minimum - increase the filter run time by 1-2 hours. Seasonality definitely affects your filter run time, you will need to filter more as it gets warmer, and usage increases - but you can filter much less in the shoulder seasons. If temperatures are in the 40's & 50's, you may be able to filter as little as 4-6 hours per day, but once mid-60 outside temperatures are reached, full filtration and sanitation is needed.

  • Experiment with your timeclock to see if you can operate as low as 10-12 hours per day.
  • Keep the pool light turned off at the breaker, to prevent leaving the pool lights on all night.
  • Run pool cleaner booster pumps only long enough to clean the pool, usually 2-3 hrs daily.
  • Run your pool pump during off peak hours, Spend less at the Pump!


3. Save Pool Heat

If you have a pool cover, use it. Pool heating costs money, unless you have a solar system, but even then, you want to conserve the heat that you collect. Most heat is lost from a pool at night, and most of that is lost straight up into the air. Very little heat escapes the sides of a pool, especially inground pools. High winds accelerate heat loss, so park the RV next to the pool, or plant some bamboo on the windy side.

Turn down the pool heater. According to an old Teledyne Laars publication we have on our website called Facts about Pool Heating, each 1 degree warmer a gas heater makes a pool can raise your gas bill 10% in some cases. Maybe we could be polar bears this summer? Reducing your comfort threshold just a bit can save big money in your pocket, while reducing gas fired pool heater emissions.

Another huge way to reduce high pool heating bills is to prevent access to the pool heater. I can't tell you how many times I have been to pools where the someone cranked up the thermostat to high (thinking it was going to heat faster) and forgot they left it on. I show up days later and the pool has been 95 degrees since Sunday night! Usually the kids get blamed - and then the kid blames their friends. Sometimes it the adults to blame, and it's the spa that's 100 degrees - and I find plastic champagne flutes in the bottom, lol.

Use the thermostat wisely, and if you can - install a lock box on the front, or pull the knob off the thermostat, and stash some pliers nearby. Or reach inside and unplug a wire from the fusible link or pressure switch, so it won't come on (unless you come and "magically" fix it again - like a hero).

4. Save Pool Chemicals

Most people use far too much chlorine, and other accessory chemicals. Not that they are not needed, but a Cl2 residual of over 1.0ppm is just wasted money. Shocking when the chloramine level is under .3ppm is also wasted money. Adding algaecide just because the pool store told you to creates more transport, packaging and chemical waste. In fact, if you are taking your water to the pool store to be tested, keep in mind that their program is designed to sell you chemicals. Again, not that chemicals are not important, but you can and should use only what you need.

Chlorine is usually the biggest expense, and reducing your chlorine consumption is good for the environment on many levels. If you have installed a Nature2 system or a Salt Chlorine Generator, or an ozone system - good for you, you should be able to substantially reduce your chlorine usage. If not, there are some things you can do to reduce your chlorine consumption:

  • Balance your pH weekly, adjusting to the low side 7.2-7.4.
  • Total Alkalinity and Calcium Hardness levels should be checked / adjusted monthly.
  • Keeping proper filtration and circulation will reduce your pool's chemical demand.
  • Cleaning and Brushing your pool regularly will reduce chemical demand.
  • Use algaecide only if you have had a history of algae blooms.
  • Keep pool heat levels low and if you have a pool cover, use it.

5. Use Chemical Alternatives

Diatomaceous Earth (D.E. filter powder) has gotten a bad name in recent years. It has been classified a mild carcinogen, and has been known to choke the life out of small streams / ponds, when directly pumped into as backwash waste water. High chlorine levels, use of pool algaecides that are actually classified as herbicides, or using peroxide based Biguanides can do some harm when pumped out of the pool. Nasty, Green pool water? That's usually great fertilizer, but super shocked or highly treated pool water pumped into your local watershed can do harm.

  • Instead of DE powder, use alternative filter media, such a Purfiber or Zeofiber.
  • Instead of algaecide, use Enzyme water treatment, to reduce chlorine demand. 
  • Use caution when discharging water, make sure not to pollute the watershed.


Do you have other ways? Tell us below!