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Sustainability in Swimming Pool Systems

OC Watershed

Almost every planned residential community and resort includes a swim facility as one of their amenities. Swim facilities include high power needs for pumping and heating, but opportunities to reduce energy and apply sustainable design practices are traditionally overlooked. There are several ways to lower power use, gas use, operations cost, and maintenance cost with the proper design techniques.

Design of a swim facility is typically left in the landscape architect or architect’s hands, and the design is focused on layout, size, shape, materials to be used, access locations, etc. The functionality of the swim facility is left to the pool designer who determines the equipment required to provide a safe facility that can be permitted by the local health department. Pool codes only determine the minimum requirements of a design.  The pool designer can provide valuable input with regard to options that provide cost effective and sustainable solutions for the operation of the pool equipment.

In recent years, better technology has become available for the design of swimming pool equipment.  One example is the use of intelligent pump controls for the pool filters.  These pump controllers can be used to vary the flow without going below the minimum turnover requirements for a pool.  A filter pump’s flow rate is directly related to how “dirty” the filter is.  The more debris that gets trapped in the filter media, the less flow goes through the filter.  The design of the pump is to provide the minimum turnover flowrate with a dirty filter condition.  When the filters are clean, the flow rates increase since there is no resistance in the filter.  Higher flows result in higher power usage.  By varying the flow with intelligent pump controls, it can reduce the flow rate to the required minimum and reduce power usage.  These same controller can also turn down the flow when the pools are not operational (during the middle of the night), further reducing the power used.   Intelligent pump controls increase the cost of equipment slightly, but the reduced power savings make the investment well worth it. Typical energy savings over traditional pumping equipment can be up to 40%.


There are similar controls for gas usage that monitor gas consumption and optimize system performance.  Gas controllers and indirect outboard heat exchangers (IOHE) are two technologies available but not widely used in the industry for heating pools. Gas controllers function very similarly to pump controllers. IOHEs utilize a boiler and a heat exchanger to heat the water.  This compares to traditional gas fired pool heaters that have lower efficiencies and require a more complicated and costly ventilation system for combustion and venting.  IOHEs require very simple venting and reduce operational costs over time.  These technologies come with a higher capital cost.  However, the amount of money saved in operations results in a payback of initial capital cost of less than 2 years in some systems.  It also results in less maintenance over time. The Irvine Company Portola Springs development’s pool systems were designed utilizing IOHEs.

There are several viable technologies available that reduce energy consumption compared to conventional pool equipment.  The application of technologies requires additional coordination between a project’s designers and utility coordinator, but the savings in operational costs and the benefits realized from a more environmentally sustainable approach make it very worth the added effort.

 


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