The Swimming Pool -    

Keeping it Warm,

Keeping it Clear 

Keeping the Water Safe to swim in.

 

 

Keeping it Warm.

I spent months deciding on the best way of heating the pool.

However - before you read on, I am not a professional in the field, so by all means disagree with what follows.

 

My plan was to be prepared to spend more up front, but save more in the long term.

I ran a number of spreadsheet models over five and ten year periods. Of course the results were only as accurate as the data I put in.

I changed my mind more than once during my research, but now we've had three seasons swimming I recon we got it right.

 

Electric Heating - A non-starter for us.

 

This was dismissed as it came out very badly in running costs and a sufficiently high output unit would overload our home's electricity supply - we are talking serious current from these heaters - beware!

 

Heat Pump - Front runner until the last minute.

 

My favourite until near the end was a Heat Pump. On the spreadsheet modelling this would match other heating in about five years (total costs) and from then on get cheaper and cheaper (in relative terms). 

Long life expectancy, low running costs and minimal service costs are all on the Heat Pump's side. I budgeted about 3500 to buy and install - all DIY.

 

Solar Heating - Good idea, but...

 

You need to be able to sacrifice a huge (and I mean huge) surface area if it's the only heating and you want warm water.

The capital spend is also high if if you are to get more than a token "green" heat output.

Running costs would be very low indeed, but I simply didn't have the space or the cash to invest in a system which would give sufficient output.

I will watch the development of this technology with interest, however, as in time I would still like to be able to consider it as a future alternative/addition.

 

Gas Heating - Probably the cheapest - see why later.

 

However, in our village there is no gas - so that was ruled out.

Beware - bottled or tanked gas comes from oil (unlike "natural gas"), is affected by the oil market price, but costs more than oil. Don't go there.

 

Oil heating - Benefits as for Gas.

 

Just that the boilers cost more as does the fuel - even more so recently!

Mind you, running a fuel line down the garden is far easier than a safely installed gas pipe!

 

The bottom line

 

There is no best method that is best for all. You need to look at how you use your pool and judge for yourself.

This is how it worked out for us.

 

The Heat Pump is brilliant if you want the water to be warm for the whole swimming season. Nothing can touch it for this. 

The heat output is small compared to a large oil/gas heater, so it needs to run 24/7 (or at least for a fair percentage of each day) to keep the temperature up, whether you want to swim or not, cloudy days, wet days, cold days. 

If you want to swim in all weathers at a moments notice - the heat pump is for you.

 

However, we are "fair weather" swimmers, literally, and don't get the urge on dull ,cool, damp days. 

We like swimming on hot sunny days. With a large output boiler/heat exchanger you can watch the forecast, if it looks promising, wack it on and overnight it's warm.

If the weather doesn't tempt you, leave it off. 

By using the fuel this way the running costs overall suddenly dive below that of the heat pump, because you aren't trying to keep it warm 24/7.

 

Basically the pool sits at 19-23 degrees under the cover by itself (even warmer if the weather gets really hot) and we zap it up to 27 degrees when we anticipate a swim. Only takes a few hours.

Temperature is regulated by a commercial (non-swimming pool so it was cheap) thermostat with a stainless steel probe in the incoming pool water pipe and a host of sophisticated adjustable parameters to keep full control of the heating system.

 

Don't fall for buying a dedicated all in one gas or oil pool heater, they are a total rip-off (it's the word "pool" that instantly piles on the mark-up). Buy a high output boiler and a proper heat exchanger (Look at the Bowman website).

Set up a small pressurised heating system for under 1000 (I did - and that's an oil system - gas is cheaper still!).

 

What about Heating costs?

Well, because we only heat as we need to the costs are surprisingly low.

I haven't done an exact comparison, but we haven't ordered much more oil than we used to so it must be well under 100 per season. 

 

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It all happens in this small building, hidden out of site at the bottom of the garden.

 

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Keeping it Clear 

Keeping the Water Safe to swim in.

 

From the outset I wasn't keen to manage our pool's sanitization using chlorine.

It is a well tried and tested pool sanitization method, but I wanted to swim in a low (or even no) chlorine environment.

I looked at a whole range of options and at a whole range of prices.

Many systems cost a fortune, yet really don't do that much.

I won't bore you with the long list of products I considered and rejected, but happily I eventually came across the Eclear system.

 

Try and ignore the hype and technospeak - the market sector in which they operate expects this. The only important factors are 

 

    a. Does it work? and 

    b. What does it cost to buy? and 

    c. What does it cost to run?

 

The answer to a. is Yes. 

The answer to b. is You'll need to contact them as I bought my bits and pieces over a couple of years and was in at the start. 

The answer to c. Very little.

 

The pump and system is run mostly at night using cheap rate electricity.

If we use the pool more, we run the system more.

Our electricity usage since installing the pool hasn't increased as much as expected.

Recon we spend about 75 a season (excluding heating oil).

This doesn't include pool liner cleaner, flocculant tablets, or budgeting for eventual electrode replacements. 

 

This first picture shows the "cleaning" part of the system.

You can see that behind the sand filter on the wall are the Eclear additions.

The control panel includes the Eclear panel, as well as my own controls for pumping/heating, etc.

 

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Below you can see more clearly the business end of the sanitizing kit. The mountings have been modified as I installed and upgraded it over a period of time. Newer versions are now available.

The water passes over "Oxygen"  generating electrodes (actually more complex than it sounds, producing a variety of sanitizing effects both locally and residually in the pool), then the Copper electrodes (I have used a copper based system for many years to eliminate algae - including blanket weed - in my Koi pond) and then comes the powerful UVc lamp to finish things off.

 

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I personally still use a shock chlorine dose every few weeks or so - with the cover off the chlorine is undetectable/unmeasurable after a couple of hours. Probably me being over cautious - but doesn't do any harm.

When we swim, it is in clear, chlorine free water and it is wonderful!

Other than a "Jolly Gel" to flocculate the finest particles, I add no other chemicals (I may have to adjust the pH occasionally - but that's it).

 

We're really rather spoilt now and only fully appreciate how good our water is to swim in when we use other more conventionally sanitized pools.

Being the eternal sceptic I still occasionally take water samples to work to see if there are bacteria in the water and remain very impressed.

 

It's really a matter of choice. Viewed over several years, the reduced running costs will mean the system will not cost much more overall than simply using lots of standard chemicals. If you use a more fancy chemical regime, it may even cost you less. Either way, the water quality is what matters to us.

 

I also tend to vacuum the pool every other day that we use it and back wash regularly.

 

By doing things for myself, by careful planning and budgeting we are able to own and run a swimming pool on a normal income. We may feel rich on a hot Summer's day - but trust me, we're a normal family with a normal income.

I suppose it depends if you think of a secondary school science teacher as being normal!