In Perspective / AQUATICS: Grant Opportunities Make Secondary Sanitation Affordable
Chlorine alone cannot protect aquatic facilities from chlorine-resistant waterborne diseases, like Cryptosporidium, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged facilities to adopt secondary or supplemental sanitation.
In order to encourage better practices, utility providers offer grants that incentivize aquatic facilities to switch from inadequate sanitation methods to better solutions. In general, utility providers want to help aquatic facilities use energy in the most efficient way possible and protect the air we breathe. If qualifying aquatic facilities aren't meeting energy-efficiency or air quality standards, some utility providers will incentivize them for executing one of the following changes:
1. Replacing Energy-Inefficient Technologies
The first and most straightforward way to receive grant money is by upgrading an aquatic facility's secondary or supplemental sanitation method from medium-pressure UV (MPUV) to an advanced oxidation process (AOP) technology. Since AOP systems tend to be more energy-efficient, the energy saved by switching technologies is enough to qualify for grant money in most cases.
Compared to commonly used sanitation technologies, like MPUV, AOP technologies can provide huge savings in energy costs. AOP systems use 80 to 90 percent less electricity than standard MPUV systems, which could save thousands of dollars annually on electric bills and significantly reduce the environmental impact for aquatic facilities. For example, a YMCA received $10,000 in grant money, and saved a similar amount in annual electrical costs, for replacing its MPUV sanitation.
It's in every aquatics operators' best interest to reduce chloramines, or combined chlorine, as much as possible in order to maintain clean, clear and healthy water. In addition to causing red eyes, irritated skin and unpleasant pool odor, exposure to chloramines can result in swimming-related health issues, including respiratory ailments.
A simple cost comparison would likely be enough to qualify an aquatic facility for thousands of dollars in grant money for each body of water.
2. Improving Indoor Pool Air Quality
The second grant option offers greater savings and more grant money, but strictly applies to indoor pools. Because AOP systems can significantly lower chloramine levels, thereby improving air quality, they also allow indoor facilities to reduce the amount of fresh air supply they use. This results in a considerable amount of savings on heating and cooling costs.
For example, one basic six-lane facility in Iowa added supplemental treatment to lower chloramine levels and was able to reduce supply air by 17 percent. This improvement alone brought the facility's annual natural gas bill down by $14,000, and the local utility provider granted $17,000 to cover the costs associated with adding the equipment.
Most indoor pools add more outside air than the required levels in the ASHRAE Standard 62.1 international building code for acceptable indoor air quality ventilation. Additionally, heating and cooling this outside air can be expensive and requires a significant amount of energy consumption. By controlling chloramine levels and maintaining healthy indoor air quality, facilities can reduce the amount of outside fresh air required, bringing it closer to ASHRAE Standard levels.
Even a small reduction in fresh make-up air can result in significant energy savings and grant money opportunities. This will mean huge savings for many indoor commercial pool facilities that currently circulate more outside air than required due to high chloramine levels in their pools. It will also mean healthier, more pleasant air inside the building, providing a better overall experience for swimmers.
How to Take Advantage of Incentive Programs
The first step an aquatic facility can take to receive grant money is to search online or call the utility company to determine if such a custom incentive program is available. You can also check for grants on your provider's programs by searching the utility company's name along with the term "custom incentive" to find out if one exists. There may be multiple grant programs available, especially if the utility providers are different for natural gas and electricity.
For grants that incentivize facilities for switching to AOP systems, simply contact your electrical provider and let them know you want to upgrade from MPUV to a more energy-efficient AOP system. They will be able to guide you through the grant proposal process.
For a grant based on improved air quality, measure the volume of fresh air supplied to your facility. Your facility can measure its fresh air volume with a simple test from an HVAC company. If this volume of air is more than ASHRAE Standard requirements, apply for the relevant grant online. You will need to provide the desired room temperature of the facility, as well as the target volume of air supply reduction in order to determine the amount of expected savings. If this amount complies with the program requirements, it will likely be approved. Typically, the application must be approved before installing the equipment, and the incentive money is only paid after proof of installation is provided.
Aquatic facility incentive programs often require return on investment (ROI) results within one to five years, so be sure to check the grant requirements before applying. If a facility uses 100 percent outside fresh air, its ROI could reflect in just a few months. A rapid ROI would invalidate the need for an incentive program—if the savings are so great, there is no need for an incentive. Even if you expect rapid energy savings, make sure the grant application's qualifications include more modest reductions.
Since grant program money is often funded each calendar year and is granted on a first-come, first-served basis, make sure to file early in the year while it's still available.
The review of your application may indicate that corrections need to be made in order for it to get approved. If this is the case, fix the issues that need to be addressed and re-apply. It may take multiple applications to be approved, so it is important to be persistent and apply as many times as necessary.
There are various incentive programs available, and it might be possible to get multiple grants for the same project. In the case of the Iowa facility mentioned previously, the entire project was funded through multiple grants.
Make sure to be thorough in researching all potential grant opportunities, and apply for as many as possible that will fit with your project. After checking your facility's qualifications with your electrical and natural gas providers, use the key search term "custom energy incentive" on sites like Energy.gov.
Customer incentive programs often go unnoticed and have long been underutilized by aquatics facilities, but the opportunities are out there and waiting to be taken advantage of. By upgrading to AOP sanitation technology, you can greatly improve your facility's air and water quality while significantly reducing energy costs and consumption.
The best part is, when you make the most of the available programs offered by your local utility company, you may not even need to invest a dime of your own budget into the project, and the ongoing energy savings is like adding money to your budget. RM