Choosing the right pool equipment for your pool can be confusing for the novice with so many different choices available. Whether its for a new or existing pool there are various types of pumps, filters, chlorinators (other sanitising units), dosing units, heating and cleaning equipment on the market. Whilst many factors, which will be discussed in this article, should be considered for each item, it is very important to stick with well known brands in the pool industry. Avoid the internet or superstore bargains which most often, don’t include guaruntees, or any follow up service. A trusted brand from a local dealer and installed by a pool professional is highly recommended. Lesser known brands of pool equipment are usually of poor quality, offering lower performance and functionality, shorter lifetimes and replacement parts far more expensive than more common quality brands. Ok then, which brands? … you ask. In no particular order, below are pool product brands we recommend people choose from, most of which come with economy versions through to top of the line versions for each particular pool requirement and budget.
ONGA/PENTAIR/STA-RITE, POOL CONTROLS/CHEMIGEM, PURAFLO, ZODIAC, AUSTRAL/HURLCON, DAVEY/MONARCH, WATERCO, CSN, MAYTRIONICS, SR SMITH, ANDERSON, HAYWARD, SPA ELECTRICS, MAGNOR, BIONISER, LOCHLOR, LEISURE CLEAN, ABGAL, AQUASPA, TAYLOR TESTING, HELIOCOL, HEAT PUMP SYSTEMS, KAWANA CHLORINATORS.
Important Notes for suitability of pool operating/service equipment include: Manufacturer Specifications and Recommendations, Building Design and Functionality, Pool Size/Volume/Type, Pool Surfacing, Flow Rates (Turnover Rate), Maximum Working Pressures (including existing equip.), Pool Plumbing Size/Type, Suitability to Existing Operating & Cleaning Equipment, Service Requirements, Pool Equipment Positioning & Space, Climate & Environment, Bather Loads, Pool Safety, Energy Tarriffs and Power Supply.
Pool Pumps – Variable speed pumps (sometimes referred to as Eco-pumps) are recommended where possible. The major advantage over single speed pumps being far lower energy costs (check the Rated Currents in Technical Information of Owner’s Manuals). This is possible through the lower amps being drawn from the pumps during operation combined with the capability of adjusting and setting the speed of pump operation to most suit the size and functionality of each pool, thus limiting runtimes and providing efficiency of performance. Using these lower speeds takes advantage of a fundamental pump law, which equates to energy consumption costs being one eighth of the total consumption when a pump speed is halved. The variable speeds also allow for greater service, maintenance and cleaning functions together with providing much wider adaptability to different sizes/types of pools and specific design features and cleaning equipment as well as quieter operation. Single-speed pumps are often more viable in smaller applications or in solar systems or features where specifically designed pumps are required or where existing equipment may not be compatible with a variable speed pump. Accuracy in calculating a pools required turn-over rate and suitability to all existing operating equipment and pool design becomes more critical when adapting single speed pumps. Bigger is not always better and all too often a pool’s Filtering System and/or Sanitising Unit’s manufacturer’s recommendations are compromised by oversized or in-effective pumping equipment.
Pool Filters – A Media Filter or Sand Filter is the most commonly recommended filter for domestic sized pools and offers far more effective filtering and maintenance features than Cartridge Filters, which are more suitable to small pool applications. Media/Sand Filters include a Multi-Port Valve (top mount or side mount) which allows for simple filter servicing and cleaning (Backwash & Rinse) together with further service functions (Filter, Closed, Waste, Recirculate & Winterise). Filter Sand Media or Silica Sand is generally effective for 5 – 7 years, and is most common, though Glass Media is only a little more expensive and boasts a much longer lifetime (up to 3 times more than sand), with increased filtration effectiveness and shorter backwash and rinse cycle times required, thus achieving water savings. When the condition of filter media dictates replacement, it is important that the cost of replacing media be compared to full filter replacement, bearing in mind condition of filter components and risks of further replacement items required. New Filter installation is often more advisable due to the expense of replacement components and labour. Particularly for aged equipment, given that whilst filter tanks generally have a 10 year manufacturer warranty, the components and multiport valves carry only 1 to 2 years – internals and fittings are easily cracked during or following media replacement. A quality brand replacement filter will provide new warranties whilst ensuring effective performance and efficiency. Cartridge Filters are easily replaced with new cartridges, though require the regular removal of cartridges for cleaning. They are more suited to smaller water volumes or filtration areas where both functionality and service requirements can be achieved. D.E. (Diatomaceous Earth) Filters are another type of pool filter available that can trap particles down to 3 – 5 microns (similar to glass media’s effectiveness) via a coating of D.E. powder on filter grids inside the tank and usually include a side-mounted multiport valve. These are less common largely due to the D.E. powder requiring replacement following each backwash cycle and filter grids recommended to be thoroughly cleaned via an annual filter breakdown.
Pool Salt Water Chlorinators, Dosing Systems & Ionisers – Salt Water Chlorinators are the most popular choice for pool sanitising and as with any pool operating equipment, require balanced pool water to be effective. Low Salt and Standard Salt Water Chlorinators & Cells require the crucial added ingredient of salt. It is this presence of salt which through electrolysis produces chlorine to be made available for pool sanitising. We recommend the Low Salt version of chlorinator, as this saves money in salt addition expenses, particularly in climates of high rainfall or in applications with high dilution rates. It is important to note that most Low Salt Chlorinators can be damaged and will not be effective with high salt readings present. pH control units are incorporated in the more advanced chlorinating and dosing equipment though can also be purchased and installed separately. A pH control unit will typically operate by automatically adding diluted hydrochloric acid to pool during operation thus maintaining pH level to a pre-determined desirable reading. A pH controller negates the need for regular manual addition of acid, insuring the pH of pool water remains at optimum levels (7.0 – 7.4), a critical parameter of pool chemistry for pool equipment, surfacing and swimmer protection. The more advanced chlorinating and auto dosing units will monitor pool chemistry and deliver chemical doses as required. Typically the more advanced and self automated any sanitising unit is, the more expensive initial purchase and installation becomes. Conversely following this, these units will deliver the most economical running costs through efficiency of performance. For pool owners with little time for pool maintenance, an automatic sanitiser unit is a must, and the more advanced the technology incorporated, the more self-automated they become with further bonuses such as increased operating lifetimes, extra features, increased capabilities and the insurance that you are providing further protection against costly pool clean-ups or repairs.
Alternative non-chlorine pool sanitising method’s have taken some huge strides forward in recent years, in particular ionising systems which have been proven to be effective, even in more tropical climates, though chlorine is still required for pool water requiring shocking. An Ioniser (or Ionizer) works by passing a safe electrical charge through copper and silver anodes which creates natural mineral ions, these ions are then swept into the pool becoming available to guard against harmful impurities and bacteria. Most pool Ionisers require Sand to be used as filtering media to be fully effective and are not recommended to be used in conjunction with auto-suction cleaners or water features, resulting in a reduction of their all round adaptability. The addition of a pH control unit with an Ioniser is highly recommended for effective ionising performance with extra optional equipment such as a Pool Oxidizer which will eliminate further impurities. A quality ioniser unit, together with required extras will be more expensive than a salt water system for initial set-up though it can be argued that it requires a lower amount of chemical addition and maintenance. This really can only be judged on a case by case basis as each pool has it’s own particular factors for which to be accounted. Despite the sales pitches, savings on chemicals is only restricted to the non-requirement of salt addition and with the additional equipment advised, so increases the maintenance needed. Ionised pools still require all other parameters to be correctly balanced and use their own specifically designed Ion Stabiliser. Ionisers are a great alternative to chlorinators for individuals with skin irritations or conditions specifically affected by chloramines. Such conditions though are quite rare and there are many misconceptions about chlorine and it’s potential harmfulness. More harmful to people and pools alike are the bacteria, algae and contaminants which chloramines defeat, with skin and eye irritations often caused by high or low pH levels, and not the chlorine present. In the end, equipment choices are dictated by personal preference and most often, budgets. When comparing price, running costs (including replacement parts), maintenance, adaptability, performance and suitability of a sanitising units, a quality salt water chlorinator will usually win out over any other option. Purchasing a quality brand from a local dealer will come with warranty care, as well as important back up service and advice. Pricing of perishable items, in particular Cells and Anodes is also key in equipment choice as these will eventually require replacement, and ensuring units are installed and maintained by a professional will deliver economy of performance, extension of lifetimes together with ensuring warranties remain valid.
Automatic Pool Cleaners ( Suction & Robotic) – An automatic pool cleaner is generally a requirement for a pools receiving high amounts of debris & litter which normal operation does not filter from the pool. An auto cleaner also provides convenience of cleaning and further all-round protection of pool surfacing and equipment. An auto-suction cleaner is often the choice of pool owners due to its lower price and ability to remain in pool water in between cleaning cycles. It must be understood that an auto-suction cleaner is operated by, and reliant on the pools existing circulation equipment with lifetimes often reduced of such equipment though the restriction of suction or water flow, an when installed incorrectly will almost certainly damage pool equipment. Despite this they can be essential for the regular removal of harmful litter in a lot of environments, and so the labour involved in manually removing litter make them absolutely viable. There are various auto-suction cleaners and each quality model is designed for specific pool surface types, wall structure and litter required for removal. Ensure you have the appropriate pool cleaner for your needs and existing attachment and operating equipment requirements. It is the incorrect installation arrangement in skimmer boxes of auto-suction cleaners, or faulty operating equipment which is normally the cause of insufficient performance and so this is an important consideration when choosing an auto cleaner. Equally important is the pool’s structural design, in particular sharp angles of walls and steps, coupled with pool returns and their directional flow which can restrict cleaner coverage causing heads to become stuck in pool corners. Another factor often forgotten when choosing an auto-cleaner is existing skimmer basket and pump basket sizing, as it is these that require regular cleaning to remove the debris an auto cleaner has picked up from the pool. Other auto cleaning equipment such as an attachable leaf canister or products such as inline skimmer or pool skim (attaches to a pool return), may be viable options in a pool receiving constant leaf litter though these also require regular emptying. The cost of a Robotic Auto Cleaner may be 2 0r 3 times more than that of an auto-suction cleaner but the advantages are plentiful. A Robotic pool cleaner operates via it’s own power source and is not attached or reliant on existing operational equipment whilst offering far more effective cleaning performance. There are no hose attachments required and with electronic scanning technology and brush attachments they allow extended cleaning coverage of the pool. A built in filtration system results in improved water clarity though it must be remembered that these units are not designed to be left in the pool between cleaning cycles and filter removal for cleaning is needed to allow continued effectiveness. All pools require a certain amount of manual cleaning included in maintenance regimes and while a pool cleaner installed can reduce the manual labour required, there is no auto-pool cleaner that can absolutely clean, brush and remove all litter with the guarantee an expert manual cleaning service can provide.
Pool Heating – When all year round swimming is desired a pool heating system is a must for most swimmer’s comfort. Solar heating can fall short of providing this in larger pools as these systems are reliant on the heat of the sun warming up the water whilst be circulated through a network of pipe/tubing most often fixed roofing and is therefore also reliant on available roof space. There simply is often not enough heat or sun exposure available to increase or maintain desirable swimming temperatures, particularly during winter months and periods of cold or cloudy weather. The introduction of a solar or pool blanket will greatly reduce the amount of water temperature loss (as well as evaporation loss) and assist all pool heating systems in achieving desired temperature. Again though, this is another expense to account for and also an addition to the pool maintenance regime. The main advantage of a solar system is definitely in energy consumption costs, keeping in mind maintenance will be increased due to the nature of the heating networks and sensors attached to roofing and the risk of water damage they introduce. A Pool Heater or Pool Heat Pump is more reliant for gaining acceptable water temperatures for bathers via their increased heating performance and can be fitted via simple re-arrangement to existing pool return plumbing diverted to pass through heating unit. Most situations allow for the non-inclusion of extra plumbing and pumping equipment, such as solar systems require, and so installation and maintenance costs can normally be reduced. The drawback of course is energy consumption costs. Given that pool heat pumps are still most efficient and economical to be electrically power sourced, related energy costs will depend on runtimes required for achieving desired water temperature increases along with specific energy tariffs. A heated pool is also more expensive to maintain than a non-heated pool due to the amount of chemicals required to maintain balanced and safe water driven by the scientifically proven fact that chemical reactions increase as temperatures are increased. A heated pool also invites more bathers, again increasing balancing additives required and maintenance regimes.
Pool Chemicals & Products – Always use a trusted brand of pool chemicals and purchase any related pool products from a pool professional. Such products purchased online or at hardware stores are almost always of poor quality and in some instances can actually cause more harm than good. The old adage of “you get what you pay for” is very often the case when it comes to big bargains on pool products. By entrusting a pool professional you will receive the right products and advice for your pool needs, with all the guarantees and back up service that quality brands provide. Ultimately it is by introducing and implementing all the correct and efficient products that will deliver the most time and money savings possible in pool maintenance.