Pools "Go Green," Save Green Without Turning Green
Somerset, PA. — Swimming pools are notorious for aquatic activity during the summer, but large public pools and small backyard bodies of water can increase energy costs and be environmentally hazardous if not properly maintained.
"A lot of home pools use heating sources and you can try to look for efficient heating sources with Energy Star," said Tom Summerson, the pool manager at the Windber Pool. "It's also recommended you get new pumps to circulate the water every so many years. Upgrading from older to newer (mechanisms) really does cut down on energy use."
Summerson said newer systems always reduce the amount of electricity being used - no matter what size pool.
"We do send our pumps in every year to get serviced, so they're like new every year," he said.
There are two pools in Windber, a town of over 4,000 people about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh - a larger 225,000-gallon pool and a smaller 15,000-gallon pool. There is a budget of $15,000 budget for materials and supplies.
Rich Stoner, owner of S&S Pools in Rockwood, about 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, does not necessarily agree that new systems are always needed. Rather, he thinks the amount of time they are used will determine costs.
"Most of the time I would say that people run their filters too much," he said. "Three to four hours a day is enough."
Solar covers help to reduce the amount of water that is evaporated, thus also reducing the number of times it needs refilled with water and chemicals.
"Solar covers help control evaporation at night and during the day," Stoner said.
"Through evaporation you can lose chemicals. I've seen evaporation on a pool be as
much as an inch or an inch and a half in 24 hours. That could be a couple hundred gallons."
Thomas Lachocki, chief executive of the National Swimming Pool Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colo., agreed that pool covers help prevent evaporation that causes water loss and cooling.
"Keeping your water balanced helps your heater work more efficiently by preventing scale formation on the heating elements," he said.
Controlling the speed of pumps and the time a filter is used is also important.
"Putting your filter on a timer is a good way to get consistent circulation for eight to 14 hours per day. More circulation in the warmest months and during times of heavy use helps keep the water clean," he said. "There are new pumps that have variable speeds that help conserve energy and still circulate the water. When evaluating heaters, solar heaters and heat pumps are two environmentally friendly options."
There are nearly 9 million back yard pools and 6 million hot tubs in the U.S., according to the National Swimming Pool Foundation. The foundation along with the American Red Cross started a program called Home Pool Essentials. The online program offers tips for residential pool owners in regards to costs, maintenance and safety. Officials with the foundation say many pool owners do not realize how much work and money goes into maintaining the water structures.
"Think about the complex systems in our lives like computers, cell phones and swimming pools," Lachocki said. "Caring for pools and spas involves some chemistry, microbiology, engineering, public health and math. We can't be experts in every technology that touches our lives. It is a certainty that there is uncertainty about swimming pool maintenance."
Pool users and owners can visit www.homepoolessentials.org for more information about the program.
While swimming pools are a means of recreation, improper pH levels, use of chemicals and water discharge are all factors that could impact the environment negatively.
"People probably use too many chemicals," Stoner said. "Everybody worries about the chlorine when the pH is the biggest concern."
"Chlorine is what's the expensive part. It's just a disinfectant," he said. "You might spend more money than you need to on chemicals, that's for sure."
Summerson said the Windber Pool uses a computer automated system that measures chemicals, which cuts down on costs and the amount of chemicals being used.
Public pools are required to follow strict federal regulations regarding chemicals and pH levels.
"If I don't have the right pH I could be forced to close down the pool," said Bill Aldom, business manager of the Somerset Country Club, just over 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The club has a 55,000-gallon pool. Summerson said the Department of Health inspects public pools each year and pool employees should test water in public pools weekly.
Benedict G. Vinzani Jr., manager of the Somerset Borough Municipal Authority, said it is imperative residents properly dispose of their pool waste water.
"You should not discharge your pool water, which could be highly chlorinated, into the storm sewer because that could result in fish kills," he said.
Chlorinated water that is drained in storm sewers, and not a local sanitary sewer system, will directly enter streams or other bodies of water and contaminate or kill aquatic life, according to Ken Bowman, regional director for the state Department of Environmental Protection. Properly disposing of old pool water will neutralize waste water that contains harmful chemicals.
Vinzani said pool owners have to have permission to discharge into the borough's sewer system, and as far as he is aware, nobody has.
Robin Gates, administrative assistant for Windber Borough, said the Windber Pool takes steps as to not make a negative environmental impact.
"We have ducks in our pool sometimes," she said with a laugh. "If anything that's helping the environment, don't you think?"
Somerset Borough residents who own pools must still abide by water conservation levels. During periods of conservation, homeowners still have to comply with the state mandated regulations, Vinzani said. During that time, all restrictions on nonessential water use must be recognized.
By TIFFANY WRIGHT- (Somerset) Daily American
Information from: www.homepoolessentials.org
Pool Maintenance Program
National Swimming Pool Foundation
Information from: www.dailyamerican.com
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