Supplement Feature - February 2011
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Catching the Wave

Staying Current With the Latest Aquatic Designs

By Kelli Anderson

Energy Efficiency

If there's one design trend that has everyone talking, it's the innovation in energy efficiency. For facilities desperate to close the gap between overhead costs and revenue, this is one area that can make a dramatic difference.

"We're seeing a shift toward energy efficiency, and the best way with pools is with heating systems," Redenius said. "The traditional systems are only 65 percent efficient and not flexible. They're either totally on or totally off. Now we have a system using a series of off-the-shelf boilers that are 90 percent to 95 percent efficient and that ramp up. You heat water in a surge tank and with a series of high-efficiency boilers and small pumps—like a hydronic heating system for a building—it works amazingly well."

Boasting a drop of $15,000 in heating costs, Redenius insists that those who've switched to the more efficient heating systems have had no reason to regret the initial investment. "Lots of folks can do this and instead of spending $20,000, they'll spend $5,000," Redenius said about energy savings. "They'll pay for the system in one to two years. West Des Moines proved that. They abandoned their one-year-old heater and paid for the new one in two years."

Newer energy-efficient heaters with a range of 95 percent to 97 percent thermal efficiency are a quantum leap from previous generations, thanks to such innovations as microprocessors and designs that recirculate heat, rather than wastefully venting it out of the building.

Another economical heating option is solar heating. "We're seeing people consider solar heating," said Bill Rowley, president of Rowley International Aquatic Consultants Inc. "We're presently doing this for the University of Southern California, where they're in the process of doing solar for their pools. If we can make these things economical, we'll use them. Parks aren't supposed to make money, but with the economic situation, they have to rethink costs to exist."

While thermal solar was once too costly a system for most to consider, today's higher prices for natural gas and the improved life spans and warranties on many solar products of 10 to 15 years, now make solar a more affordable consideration (assuming a facility has enough square footage to install the panels).

Paying for themselves in just three to five years, those using thermal solar can save upwards of an estimated 30 percent to 40 percent on gas costs, depending on the location around the country. Combining efficiency heaters, solar heaters and thermal blankets can save 80 percent of natural gas heating costs. What was once considered a pricey luxury has now become a significant contributor to the bottom line.