You Had Me At Eco
As Australia’s focus towards preventing climate change rises, everyday homeowners are becoming more and more conscious of the impact that our lifestyles can have on the environment. While often accused of being wasteful and resource consuming, a backyard swimming pool doesn’t have to cost the planet. Here, Katie Livingston, of Sydney Pool + Outdoor Design, chats with four industry experts about the latest technology that’s reducing your pool’s energy consumption, and how these companies are incorporating sustainable practices and renewable energy into their day-to-day operations.
MEET THE GREEN TEAM
Our first expert, Steve Lothian owner of Aussie UnderCover has been in the industry for decades, finding success in 2008 when he first developed the Aussie UnderCover hidden pool cover system for his local swimming pool customers. Through much trial and error, the current semi-remote system has become an iconic staple for pool owners Australia-wide, and the company is working towards adding further automation in future models.
Aussie UnderCover has always had a strong awareness towards preserving our planet, and the company makes great effort to partner with businesses who are good environmental citizens. For example, “We are Daisy Pool Cover dealers, and Daisy has introduced a program to recycle used pool covers, which minimises products going to landfill,” Lothian explains. Aussie UnderCover also makes a point of using recycled materials in their manufacturing processes and opts for recycled packaging wherever possible. Aside from maintaining a sleek aesthetic, the Aussie UnderCover also protects your pool cover from harsh UV light, significantly increasing the life of your pool cover and reducing wastage. “We are currently developing a new ‘in-ground’ kit system, which will use boards made from recycled plastic and sustainably farmed timber,” Lothian says. “This system will replace the need to use a concrete pit during installation in many situations, which will not only save time and money, but will also reduce concrete use and waste,” he explains.
At the forefront of sustainable practise, Daisy Pool Covers’ managing director, Derek Prince, explains that the company is “constantly looking for ways to improve”, alongside products and processes to be more environmentally conscious. “We believe we need to be as eco-friendly as our product is,” he says. Founded in 1983, Daisy Pool Covers is the “largest supplier of swimming pool covers and roller systems in Australia”, and offers an extensive range of covers for both commercial and domestic pools. Eco-friendly to the very core of its design, a pool cover’s first and foremost purpose is to save both water and energy, but Daisy Pool Covers takes this one step further. “We believe it is best to flow the environmental philosophy from the manufacturing process through to the end consumer benefit,” Prince says. “All our solar covers are made with at least 30 percent post-industrial content – we recycle our off-cuts into new roll stock – and in WA we have embarked on a post-consumer program whereby we recycle end of life pool covers into other products,” he explains. Daisy Pool Covers prides itself on being a full recycler for all post-industrial waste and the team are constantly taking steps towards a more eco-friendly business model, including installing solar panels and providing all of its representatives with hybrid cars.
Sunbather’s national sales and marketing manager, Anthony Lestani, explains that first and foremost, the company’s priority has always been sustainable pool heating solutions. Sunbather’s founder, Simon Boadle, established the company in 1974 after “witnessing first-hand the debilitating impact the fossil fuel shortage was having in Europe” and identifying a need for renewable swimming pool heating solutions in Australia. Decades later, Sunbather has become one of Australia’s leading manufacturers of pool heating and covers and is now owned by the largest pool equipment manufacturer and supplier in the world, Fluidra. Lestani himself has decades of experience with Sunbather, first by researching and recommending the products to his customers before joining the team 12 years ago. As a core aspect of the company’s philosophy, Sunbather is “always looking at ways to be more efficient in processes, waste management and energy consumption”, something that has only been strengthened since becoming part of Fluidra. “Fluidra’s ESG program is the perfect opportunity to greatly reduce our environmental impact. It is a key focal point of all of Fluidra’s manufacturing facilities globally, so we are very excited to be a part of incorporating those initiatives,” Lestani says.
Last, but in no way the least, Supreme Heating has specialised in innovative and sustainable swimming pool heating solutions since 1990, and the company’s director, Colin Mauger, states that Supreme Heating’s core objective is to focus on the development of “products that progressively reduce energy consumption and the associated carbon footprint”. “We recognise the importance of educating the pool owner and pool industry in ‘best practice’ with product selection and this article is a great example of this process,” Mauger explains.
Sustainability is not a milestone to be achieved, but rather a constant work in progress, and since Supreme Heating first opened its doors, Mauger flags that “significant development has taken place with the enhancement of pool heating systems”. The team at Supreme Heating are constantly taking these advancements into account, and Mauger notes that “today’s systems are more efficient through design and sizing”, which “enables them to be installed onto alternative roof areas and make way for solar photovoltaic panels that typically need to be installed on the north roof for year-round performance.” But the advancements don’t end there. “Heat pump technology has become popular and there needs to be continual development to ensure that the operating costs of the pool are lowered to meet government carbon reduction targets,” he says.
THE MAIN OFFENDER
On that note, our experts unanimously agree that a heat pump is one of the most expensive pool components to operate, and Lestani points out that heat pumps and gas heaters consume more energy than any other pool product. “It costs a lot more energy to heat water than it does to circulate it, filter it, chlorinate it and light it combined,” he says. “[However] the good news is that this pool heating expense can be significantly reduced. The use of a pool cover is essential in ensuring that the heat pump inverter technology can function correctly and will typically reduce operating costs by 60 to 70 percent,” Mauger explains.
Lothian also affirms this: “Ensuring that you have your pool covered with a good quality pool cover will reduce your power consumption, saving the money that you spend on pool heating and minimise chemical use,” he says.
As Prince sums up nicely, “by simply using a pool cover the energy costs from pool heating can be dramatically reduced”. But the solutions don’t stop there, either. The incorporation of a traditional solar heating system in conjunction with the heat pump further reduces expenses and size requirements for the heat pump itself. For seasonal use of the pool, solar heating should be the first consideration,” Mauger says. “Modern day systems have the efficiencies and capacity to heat the pool and meet customer expectations for six to nine months of the year depending on location,” he further adds.
TAKE THE PLUNGE
For pool owners-to-be looking to make sustainable choices for their new pool, Lothian’s first piece of advice is to ensure that your designer or pool builder factors in a pool cover from the very beginning. “Don’t make the mistake of leaving this to the last minute,” Lothian warns. “Many of our customers lament some of their design choices as they can limit the location and viability of a good pool cover,” he says. Lestani supports this, advising readers to understand your pool’s needs, such as your ideal swimming season and preferred water temperature before they build. Then “understand your pool heating and cover choices including energy costs, that will best deliver these needs,” Lestani says. Lothian also stresses that “the position of your pool can also greatly affect its running costs”, which is something else homeowners will need to consider. “Ensuring that itis placed in the best position to take advantage of the sunlight available in your yard is a good start. Removing overhanging trees or ensuring that you have deciduous trees will also increase the available sunlight while still providing summer shade,” he says.
Mauger adds that waterfall and infinity-edge pools increase the demand placed on heating systems and often result in greater water loss. This can be mitigated by opting for variable speed pumps and renewable solar pool heating solutions wherever possible. “Run times can be kept to a minimum with the use of smart pool controls to minimise the expense of heating,” he explains.
If you’re the proud owner of an existing pool, then don’t fret, Mauger attests that there are plenty of solutions to reduce the carbon footprint of your swimming pool. For example, “If [your] existing pool pump is an older, single-speed type, then [you can] upgrade to a variable speed pump, or upgrade to a newer, more efficient heat pump,” he suggests. Prince agrees, adding that investing in a pool cover is an excellent way to reduce water loss and heating costs in an existing pool. “Get some advice from a trusted pool shop,” Prince says. “There are energy-saving options available, take the time to ask your pool sales guy for all the energy and water saving options. They generally are in a great position to assist,” he explains.
DON’T PAY THE PRICE
Opting for sustainable or renewable solutions for your pool doesn’t just save the planet, it can also lighten the burden on your wallet. As Prince explains, “Renewable and sustainable solutions, like pool covers, pay for themselves and save money over the life of the product. If you buy quality that lasts you get your pay back, and
then some,” he says.
Building on this, Lothian reiterates that “Water is one of our most valuable resources and everyone needs to reduce water usage,” he says. “It’s not just leaks or excess splashing that cause a drop in your swimming pool water level. Evaporation from the sun and wind is a substantial contributor to water loss, and if not controlled this can lead to damage to your skimmers and pump system. Installing a pool cover will reduce the water loss that occurs when the pool isn’t in use and minimise the need to repair or replace equipment,” Lothian explains.
“Collecting the sun’s natural heat through a solar heat exchanger and conserving it with a pool cover is the only sustainable pool heating solution,” Lestani affirms. Another way to reduce your carbon footprint, is to minimise your pool’s operations during the offseason. To achieve this, Mauger suggests “reducing the operating times of the filter system by 50 percent” as the demand on chlorine reduces with cooler temperatures. Lothian backs this up, explaining that pool equipment often has a ‘winter mode’ that will reduce its running time, and by default, its power consumption.
Thanks to the ingenuity of modern pool cover and heating systems, a backyard swimming pool doesn’t have to live up to its wasteful stereotype. With clever planning and regular maintenance, you can save time, money and our beautiful planet without compromising on your luxury retreat. To achieve this, the resounding advice from all our experts is to talk to a professional, and research companies that integrate sustainable and renewable practises not just into their products, but into their business philosophy.