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GYR Tips for Swimming Pools

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Being able to use a swimming pool all year round is one of the joys of South Florida living. Many Fort Lauderdale homes, apartment buildings, condominium communities, schools, religious organizations and clubs have swimming pools, and there are hundreds of retail outlets and service companies dedicated to their construction and maintenance. But swimming pools require three things that are not necessarily environmentally friendly: they almost always are filled with potable water, they tend to be big users of energy (meaning huge generators of greenhouse gas emissions), and keeping them clean often involves using chemicals that can produce harmful run-off. The City of Fort Lauderdale encourages you to do an evaluation of your swimming pool. Ensuring that pumps, heaters and filtration systems are Energy Star rated and run efficiently can save your work and money—over $400 per year just in energy costs. Shading them with trees and bushes helps them to run more efficiently. Checking for leaks and switching to bio-friendly chemicals is critical. Considering pervious paving for the deck will make it more comfortable on your feet and can cool the surrounding air. And, finally, using the power of the sun instead of electricity to warm your pool for winter use is easy to do in sunny Fort Lauderdale.

Pool   Fill swimming pools only to the appropriate and necessary level.
Watching your pool’s water level is essential to ensuring that filtration and pumping equipment runs efficiently. Too little water can overwork your system and spike energy usage, while too much water is a waste. In Fort Lauderdale, during rainy season, chances are that you will not need to top-off your pool’s water level at all. Just keep an eye on its bacteria and chemical levels to ensure swimming safety. During drier stretches, evaporation will occur, but if you are filling your pool more than two inches per week, then you might have a leak. Call a professional to check and assist with repairs.
 H2ouse  Keep your pool’s structure maintained properly to prevent costly and damaging leaks, and stick to a maintenance schedule.
Maintaining your pool properly is good for the environment and will save you money—as much as $100 per year! Pool parts will deteriorate and wear out over time. Not only can leaks damage the pool itself, but they also can wash away foundation fill dirt and leach toxic substances into the groundwater. Professional leak detection is recommended, but a quick way to check if you might have a leak is as follows. Place a water bucket in a shallow part of the pool, making sure that it is filled to the exact level as the pool water. Or, place the bucket just next to the pool. Mark the water level for both. Wait 24 hours. If there is no leak, then both will have evaporated the same amount (number of inches). If the pool water is lower than the water in the bucket, or has lost more inches, then you may have a leak.

As part of regular maintenance, keep your pool clean and free of debris, check clarity and keep chemicals at appropriate levels. Never overuse chemicals as doing so could degrade your pool’s machinery and finish. Clean the filter when recommended by the manufacturer, and upgrade the filter when possible. Remember never to let chemical laden backwash run-off into storm drains. The California Urban Water Conservation Council, through its H20 House website offers helpful advice for environmentally conscious pool ownership.
 Energy Star  Run your pool pump only when you need it. It’s not as long as you think! Upgrade to energy-efficient pool pump when you can.
In Florida, we use our pools all the time, and so a lot of people think we need to run our pool pumps continuously. The fact is that you can maintain your pool well on limited pump time. In the summer, in a residential setting, you can run your pump six hours per day and still clear your water effectively. In the winter, four hours per day is enough. Install a timer if you don’t already have one to make following the guidelines easy. For every two hours more that you run a conventional pump per day, you are adding $10/month to your bill. Use this Monthly Pool Pump Cost Calculator from FPL to see what your savings would be from reducing pump run time. For multi-family or commercial settings, please check with your energy provider and pool contractor.

Also, check to be sure that your pool pump is an energy efficient model. As of 2011, by Florida law, all newly installed pool pumps of one or more horsepower must be multi-speed. An Energy Star pump can save the average pool owner $300 per year over a less efficient model.  Run automatic cleaners and lights, but minimally and at the right times.
An automatic pool vacuum or cleaner can help reduce energy usage because it runs on a lower voltage and using one can reduce the amount of time you need to run your pool pumps. However, it needs to be run correctly. If you have an automatic pool vacuum or cleaner be sure not to run it when your pool pumps are working. This is like utilizing two appliances when one will do. For maximum efficiency, turn the cleaner on at least 15 minutes after your pumps go off, and run the cleaner no more than a few hours per day. Be sure it is off at least 15 minutes prior to your pumps turning on. Help it along by doing skimming and brushing by hand daily in the summer and every few days in the winter.

Lights should be on a timer to be sure that they are off during the day, and over night. If possible, put a single pool light on a separate switch so that you have one on for safety.
 CDC  Handle pool chemicals correctly, and try eco-friendly pool treatments.
Pool chemicals should be used strictly according to manufacturer instructions. More is not necessarily better. Chemicals should be measured based on the volume of water in your swimming pool, and should be used only after routine testing to determine existing levels. They should be stored in a cool, dry place—never outside on the lawn. Chemicals which get wet before they are in the pool can be an environmental hazard. Wet chemicals inside can produce dangerous fumes, and wet chemicals outside can produce toxic runoff. Commercial pool operators and pool facility managers are required to follow safe storage methods and to train aquatic staff in proper use of chemicals. An option is to consider is a pool treatment which is gentler for humans and the environment.  Save money with solar pool heating and pool blankets.
A lot of South Florida pools are not heated, allowing the natural power of the sun to warm the water. But some of our neighbors do enjoy being able to use their pools or hot tubs on cool evenings or winter days. If you do have a heater, check to see that it is an Energy Star rated product, or upgrade to one as soon as feasible. Only run a heater when the pool will be used, and after using your heater cover your pool with a pool blanket to keep the heat in the water where you want it. Pool blankets can halve your energy costs from a gas or heat pump. Use this Monthly Pool Heating Cost calculator from FPL to see how much you would save depending upon the temperature you prefer. Several types of non-electric heaters are available, but in Fort Lauderdale we can really take advantage of solar heating. Solar pool heaters cost about the same as gas and heat pump technologies, and they have very low annual maintenance costs. They also tend to last longer than other technologies and they are comparatively easy to install, even on a pool that never had a heater. For all heaters, be sure to delime the heat exchanger, which will likely be needed on an annual basis.

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